1 comment on “Veterans Series: Community is key to attracting veterans: Conversation with Chad Sowash.”

Veterans Series: Community is key to attracting veterans: Conversation with Chad Sowash.


This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:
Chad Sowash retired from the Military after 20 combined years of service. He started in the online recruitment industry in 1998 working in sales at Online Career Center before it was rebranded as Monster.com in January of ‘99. After leaving Monster Chad took a leadership role as a Vice President at DirectEmployers Association for ten years. During his that time he led the collaboration between Corporate America and State Workforce in the creation of the National Labor Exchange.   
Chad enjoyed a short stint with RecruitMilitary as their Chief Experience Officer and exited shortly after the company’s acquisition. Chad has since teamed up with a colleague to start a firm, Catch 22 Consulting, whose purpose is to provide expert resource for companies which want to build meaningful hiring programs for veterans and individuals with disabilities and ultimately help companies better understand attraction, engagement and building of communities, as opposed to merely building resume databases.
Tell me about your history, what you did in the military?
I actually started my career in the military only six days after graduating high school. I knew I wasn’t ready to jump right into college, wanted to see the world and felt the military was a great option. I soon found that being stationed in the tropical paradise of Panama was wonderful just as long as I wasn’t receiving mortar and AK47 fire, which is what happened within the first few months of my tour during Operation Just Cause.  That’s right I started the first four years my 20-year stint with Uncle Sam in active duty Army and found myself carved into a hillside on the parameter of Fort Clayton ducking, covering and returning fire.
Fast-forward four years to 1993 where I found myself transitioning back into civilian life and in search of the same type of brotherhood, camaraderie and true community that I missed from the Army. That’s where I found and joined the Army Reserves. I finished up my twenty as a reservist where I was deployed back to active duty a couple times as an Infantry Drill Sergeant on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, GA. That’s right, Round Brown, push-ups, cadence, the whole deal as a full-time Infantry Drill for 2 ½ years, HOOAH.
Why did you transition out of active duty?
Back in ‘93 I was only an E-4 and you have to remember back then we were faced with major military budget cuts from the Clinton administration, so the likelihood of promotion was very bleak. Heck we were using the original Nintendo game systems for M16 weapons qualification instead of real weapons and live rounds, talk about scary. At that point it really didn’t make any sense for me to stay in the active military, so I made my move and chose to transition back into the civilian world. Fast forward to today, that’s pretty much what we’re going to be seeing with this huge drawdown: many aren’t going to want to stay in, and others are going to be pushed out for a myriad of reasons not due to bad conduct.
How was the transition to a civilian job from being an E-4 Specialist?
It was fairly easy. On active duty, my first job was as a quartermaster and chemical equipment repair, and luckily my new employer knew to look deeper or I would have easily been overlooked. Luckily I had an “inside scoop” to land a sales gig and once I started working in the job, the skills I learned in the military translated easily. My new boss knew that military teaches you much more — leadership, working within a team – those types of things that were very important in my transition. Over the years, I’ve presented to many groups about military and veteran hiring and I always ask how many people (in the audience) ever went through standardized leadership training to keep the job that they were promoted into? Usually you can hear a pin drop after that question, because in general, there are no leadership courses organic to organizational career pathing, like in the military. Most promotions above E-3, in the Army, come with leadership course “strings attached”. This means you must complete the prescribed leadership course to retain or achieve the next promotion. Not to mention, you must keep up with all of your certifications, new schools etc. That’s right the military has standardized leadership courses that are organic to the entire environment, because the military builds leaders and most organizations promote their achievers, which unfortunately in most cases are not leaders.
Would you have gotten your first job without having the “inside scoop”?
That’s a great question and to be honest, if I actually made it to the interview I would have been confident, but I’m not sure that I would’ve made it through the resume screen. As I said, my first job after transitioning into the civilian sector was in sales, where you obviously have to work with people on a daily basis and you have to be very detail-oriented. I was lucky because my “inside scoop” was my Dad who was the Regional Sales Manager and also an Army veteran. But if I didn’t have that “inside scoop” or connection would I have gotten hired into that position? Did my resume say that I had the necessary skill sets? Would a newfangled Military Occupation Code (MOC) translator say the job was right for me? Not in a million years. But I did have the skills, learned and honed from the military and was fortunate enough to be afforded the chance to prove myself.
Did the military teach you to adjust to new circumstances?
Absolutely! Flexibility is a necessity in the military, because you never know what’s going to come at you, literally. You have a mission, but you have the autonomy within that mission to get it completed, and you have to map out all of the different contingency plans, visualize outcomes, alternate opportunities and anticipate problems. You can’t just go into a mission thinking there’s one way to achieve the goal. So when I transitioned back into civilian life the entire thought-process and mindset was perfect for business.
What else did the military teach you?
The military taught me many things, but I believe leadership and the “driver” instinct was important, which for me was a perfect match for the business development and sales world. I also knew that I wanted to work with people, which is ingrained in us on Day One in Army Basic Training where you are issued a Battle Buddy, even before your toilet paper, a bunk or even wall locker. This sets a precedent that teamwork is paramount and starts the wheel of camaraderie and community in motion. I firmly believe that specific mindset translates very well into the civilian workforce, yes we might be a tad more direct than our civilian counterparts at first, but everything can become copasetic after acclimating to our new environment.
So what are some recommendations you would give to hiring companies?
I could go on for days, but here are a few that I think every company should think about deeply.
1) Get an expert to provide a fresh set of eyes
It takes a very specialized skill-set to build a successful veteran hiring program and you cannot fathom how many gaps you’re missing. So bring in an expert who can provide a fresh set of eyes and the expertise you desperately need. Over the past 10 years I’ve seen many companies fail when trying to build a DIY veteran hiring program because they feltthey knew what they were doing. They didn’t…
2) Focus heavily on community
Much like I did when transitioning out of the active duty, other veterans will look for the same military-like community. Can your organization provide it? Are you using community to retain your current veteran population? Do you even know who your current veterans are? If so, how are you engaging them and using them as a business asset?
3) Ask the right questions
Civilianized questions won’t work well with prior service, especially newly transitioning military.  It’s incredibly important for organizations to understand who we (Veterans)are so they may ask the right questions allowing them to truly tap into the most relevant responses.
4) Focus on outcomes, not just compliance
The OFCCP is pushing very hard on federal contractors to have a better understanding of military talent and how it relates to their open positions. I have watched the same organizations drop the “veteran hiring ball” many times over the years because they are focused on checking the box and not actual hiring outcomes. Organizations may someday get veteran hiring right IF they focus on building sustainable veteran hiring pipelines that are graded against outcomes, not audits. Compliance should be an advisor at the table and NOT the driver.   

1 comment on “Veterans Series: If you don’t find a job, create one! Conversation with Fred Wellman”

Veterans Series: If you don’t find a job, create one! Conversation with Fred Wellman


This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:
Fred Wellman is the founder-CEO of ScoutComms, a social enterprise communications, advocacy and philanthropic strategy firm supporting veterans, military families and organizations committed to their well-being.
How did you get into the military? What did you do and for how long?
I “rebelled” as a teenager and instead of going to the University of Missouri like the rest of my family I got crazy and went to the United States Military Academy at West Point. I graduated in 1987 and was commissioned as an Aviation officer and eventually found myself as a Scout helicopter pilot in various units around the world and in Operation Desert Storm. I served 13 years before leaving the Regular Army for the Reserves only to be mobilized on 9/11 and return again to the active force. I deployed with the 101st Airborne Division for opening year of Operation Iraqi Freedom and while in Iraq found myself supporting the local population and eventually in the news. The division commander was then Major General David Petraeus and he decided to make me the division public affairs officer when we returned. I later served as his spokesman in Iraq as well as then Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey who is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I attended grad school at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was assigned to the Pentagon. After my third Iraq tour in 2008 I decided to retire after 22 total years of service.
If you don’t find a job, create one! Right?    
Yes! After leaving the military, I joined a small firm but soon found out that it wasn’t a good fit. Then I interviewed for jobs, but no one was hiring me in November of 2010; so I struck out on my own.  I saw there was a niche for someone who understood the military, defense and veterans’ worlds at larger PR firms. So, I started my own firm essentially as a professional sub-contractor to larger PR firms. Gradually we just grew on our own merits and kept picking up unique opportunities and partners. Our big break came when The Home Depot Foundation decided to focus on veterans housing issues and brought us on to their team for the launch and program three years ago and since then more and more of our work has focused exclusively on veteran’s issues. For the last year or so, a significant part of our work has focused on veteran family issues, on military caregivers for our wounded and disabled veterans, and on supporting the Get Skills to Workprogram bringing veterans to work in the advanced manufacturing industry. We also got involved in supporting the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, which does a lot of the thinking on these issues and focuses on entrepreneurship and job training. So really, that’s our thing.
ScoutComms, my company, which is based in Virginia, has now been around for three years and at the beginning of this year we turned it into a social enterprise ‘Benefit Corporation’. So we now have a structure as a benefit corporation with social mission focused on veterans and military families.
We’re really a weird little company. It’s foundation are communications-based initiatives; advocacy, being experts in our field; helping craft philanthropic strategies and reach veterans and military families. It’s just sort of a unique niche, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. A lot of people first hire us as PR, but also look to us as a military expert, if you will, even though I hate that term – “expert.” Then, when we grew, since all we did was veterans and military families, we thought we would go out and meet non-profits for them, we’d vet them for the client, we would look for opportunities for them to apply their mission to new ways, sniffing out fakes or poorly run non-profits. I think we’ve done it all, as far as being people who understand the veteran’s space and help our clients navigate this unusual sector.
As a PR firm, what do you exactly do?
We are specialists in focusing on the military and veteran’s media and target audiences. Take The Home Depot for example. On the corporate side we’ve quite a bit and won awards for our work with them. Our biggest project was the Mission: Transition campaign last year. We partnered with the MSLGroupon that one and we were brought in by The Home Depot to serve as the military focused extension to the campaign. We handled the military focused media, government media, and outreach to the military transition programs to reach potential attendees. We did a lot of outreach to the Army, for example the Army’s Soldier for Life campaign and the Army’s community relations program to get as many soldiers as possible to attend the workshops with postings in every Army transition office around the world. We also leveraged our extensive relationships with the veteran’s service organizations and non-profits to get the word to their members and reach more of the veteran population. In the end every workshop at over 100 locations were filled and the campaign won several awards including two Silver Anvils from PRSA.
Tell me more about the Get Skills to Work program
We have been very fortunate to be part of supporting GE’s leadership of the Get Skills to Workprogram. Just over a year and a half ago, GE recognized they faced a skills gap of employees in the manufacturing industry. To address it they decided to focus on bringing veterans into the industry, but they wanted to go beyond just a hiring program – they had that already. So they partnered with the Manufacturing Institute, which is a part of the National Manufacturing Association here in Washington and several other companies and non-profits.  Now they’ve built a coalition of now over five hundred companies, ranging in size from twelve-man operations here in Fredericksburg, VA to GE, Alcoa, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, the founding partners. And they’ve also built a coalition of over fifty schools, where veterans can go Get Skills to Work training, at community colleges and technical schools, to get advanced manufacturing certifications and qualifications. We’re talking CNC Machine Operator, Machinist, Welder, Logistics Analyst’s there’s some eleven specific career fields, and then these guy and girls find jobs in the manufacturing industry. The program is growing every day and is really just getting its legs and making a difference in the community.
What are your top recommendations to organizations?
I apply the “kitchen sink” approach to working with the veterans and military family communities. In other words the challenges for these communities is that they don’t have just one solution so we need to throw everything and the kitchen sink to solve the problems. I tell organizations to look for areas that aren’t being addressed. For example, while young veteran unemployment is finally coming down to manageable levels we continue to see our military spouses struggle to find work and it impacts the military community. I believe organizations should seek opportunities for impact giving instead of throwing out “cardboard checks” where possible. In other words, find quality non-profits that are making a difference in the communities and ensure your money is making as big an impact as possible. I believe giving should align with a companies core principals and priorities. If your company is oriented on the health and wellness of its employees then seek out organizations like Team Red, White & Blue which use physical fitness activities to bring veterans and their communities together. Don’t believe the hype about veteran’s challenges fitting in companies and especially all of us having PTSD or other problems. The overwhelming majority of veterans in poll after poll are well adjusted and better for their service. There are clearly those in our community struggling but don’t assume all veterans are in that place.

1 comment on “Veterans Series: Ten recommendations to veterans. A conversation with Max Dubroff”

Veterans Series: Ten recommendations to veterans. A conversation with Max Dubroff


This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:
Max Dubroff is the”HR MAXimizer” of Buy for Le$$, a leading grocery provider of fresh, diverse, unique and economical food products in Oklahoma which he joined in 2009 after over 20 years in the military. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy and selected the Security Police career field, which he says was “a fantastic decision.  I learned tremendous amounts about leadership and had many opportunities to have positive impacts on the mission and people.  For one-fourth of my career, I was entrusted with command of two squadrons, the most rewarding role in my life.”  If I had to summarize Max’s approach, I would say that he never left hislife entirely up to chance and instead deliberately created his own luck with amazing focus and determination.
What did you do to transition from the Military to a civilian position?
I got educated.  I earned a degree in human resource management 17 years prior to retirement, because I thought I might like that field; it was a key differentiator and helped me earn more.
I was mentally prepared.  Although I was never impacted by a RIF (Reduction-in-Force), I realized that everyone needs to be prepared at all times. My professional readings included books and magazines that helped me get an understanding of the culture outside the military, particularly in business. I went to transition assistance twice, once prior to retirement in Germany and then while on terminal leave in Oklahoma. Both were a little out of touch with what companies really want, but they helped me figure out my own path.
I networked.  I found a great mentor in the HR field who specializes in networking. I joined Toastmasters; I went to Rotary meetings; I joined the local HR professionals organization… None of it got me a job.  But, I was learning more about the community. I got certified.  I studied for professional certification and earned it.  Military certifications do not mean much to civilian employers. I looked everywhere.  I had to get over the idea of working for the #1 company in the area and look at industries I had not considered.  I accepted every interview opportunity and saw it as a chance to hone my skills; that is how I found my job … I wasn’t looking at them, but I was ready for when I met them. I accepted a challenging position in a company that was strong and growing, that I knew I could have a great impact on.  I didn’t get paid as much as I wanted, but I knew I would earn more as I proved my value.
What are your top ten recommendations to veterans?
 1. You’re not the only ones who work hard.  Small and medium businesses (i.e. the majority of businesses that exist) have a level of ‘do more with less’ that exceeds what most veterans can fathom.  Sure, there are some nice, laid-back companies out there; but, many of them are getting passed by the smart, hard-working ones.
 2. It is competitive.  Don’t presume that ‘qualified’ is enough … There are plenty of people who are qualified.  Know yourself and have a focus on what you want. Note that as a hiring manager, I am turned off by someone who says, “I’ll do anything” because it won’t be a good marriage.”
 3. Look for entry points to organizations you want.  It might not be the dream job at first, but it will give you the opportunity to prove your value and progress to that dream job after a long time. The military culture typically thinks in shorter ‘tours’ than civilian businesses, so be ready to persist.
 4. Be realistic.  Picture yourself in the military, having numerous years of experience … and then they announce that they are bringing in a person who has extensive experience in leading businesses … to be your commander!  How absurd, right?  Well, the same logic applies to you.  Don’t expect to enter the business world at (or near) the top after having no experience in their industry [see #2 above].
 5. Learn the civilian jargon.  I met a retired E-8 who wrote on his resume that he was the chief operations officer for his organizations.  He had no idea what that meant and his rationalization exposed his weaknesses.  Yes, we hope they will accommodate us and try to figure out what our jargon means; but, they are looking at piles of resumes and you want yours to stand out.
 6. A good resume takes lots of work; but a good resume won’t get you a job.  You need a great resume to even get noticed, and that will take tons of work.  Buy or borrow some books and get advice from others.  Trim it down and make it focused on the key points.  Leave white space and make it readable.
 7. Interview a lot.  Every interview is different and you will learn about yourself and be better prepared for the most important interview when the opportunity comes.
 8. Do not pay for assistance right away.  Resume writing services are most helpful if you have been working on your resume for months and can’t see the next rendition.  There are also agencies that will help prep, network and place you for a mere $3k-$4k. I haven’t seen a good one yet, but I am sure they are out there.  Make sure you do your homework and check their results carefully before you open your wallet.
 9. Volunteer.  It’s a great way to network and develop some experience.  During my employment, I have continued to volunteer, which has resulted in more great leadership opportunities, including a position as a board chair and nomination to be a commissioner.
 10. Be real and positive.  The interview is not just about them deciding if they like you; it is also about you deciding if you like them!  Use this as the opportunity to prevent getting into a bad relationship.  Look at non-selection as a chance to re-evaluate what you are and what you want.  If you come into the interview exhausted and beaten by repeated rejection, I will not be interested.

1 comment on “Veterans Series: Veterans will help your company succeed: Conversation with Brenda Bell”

Veterans Series: Veterans will help your company succeed: Conversation with Brenda Bell


By Sophie Delphis


This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:

My mother (Marylene Delbourg-Delphis) hired Brenda Bellin the late eighties to work for her company at the time, ACIUS, the maker of 4thDimension. Back then, Brenda was barely out of her teens, with two children, a limited college education, little job experience and a place in the Army Reserve (Military Police670 MP Company California Army National Guard), but my mother was interested in this young woman in spite of her less-than-perfect corporate package. During and after her time at ACIUS, Brenda was called in to First Gulf War, earned two college degrees and worked her way through a series of high tech jobs that eventually landed her in her current position at IBM. I grew up hearing her interesting and inspiring story, and I was excited to learn that my mother was interviewing her as part of her ongoing series on hiring veterans. 
Brenda was very young, and not necessarily an obvious hire… In fact, both women laugh at the memory of my mother teaching Brenda how to put on make-up, how to talk to a diverse group of people, etc.
Brenda Bell: I was twenty years old. You took a chance on me, and you taught me a lot. It really helped, because you deal with a lot of people. And I’m comfortable to be dealing with lots of different people on a day-to-day basis.
Brenda was the first veteran my mother hired. Since then, she has been able to experience first-hand how flexible and versatile veterans can be when given a chance.
She did not see it as a problem that Brenda was in the Reserve, nor that she ended up taking some time off because of the first Gulf War – ultimately accommodating an employee was worth a bit of restructuring. And Brenda’s choice to enter the military made sense.
Brenda Bell: I had gone to college, and I wasn’t successful. I didn’t have parent financial support, so I had a lot of student loans. The military paid off all of my loans, and they provided me educational benefits: for staying in the Reserve after I got out of the military, they paid for further college. That’s really why I went into the military: I had a lot of student loan debt, and I didn’t have a lot of job skills, and it was a good way for me to start paying back my college debt and then gain some skills and allow me to go back to school.
After initially earning her two-year Associate’s Degree in Management, she returned to school after the military to earn two Bachelor’s Degrees in Organizational Management and Computer Science.
Brenda Bell: After I left ACIUS, I went to work for Sybase. And, you know, just being immersed in that environment, working with development tools, I really had to understand software development and design, so having this degree in organizational management wasn’t enough. I had to continue to grow. And that’s another thing you learn in the military, because they keep having you take leadership courses to grow and learn, so that helped me to be willing to go out and get that second degree, to learn more.
So I went back to school, part-time in the evenings, out here in New England, and I got a second degree and continued to work for some software companies and a couple of start-ups. One of the start-ups I was working for was going out of business and sold their code to Rational, which was then acquired by IBM and so I was able to branch out to other divisions within IBM.
Brenda’s background in the military has proved immensely useful.
Brenda Bell: The relationships I formed in the military and my understanding of military structure help me pretty much everyday. In my particular environment, I sell to federal customers on a daily basis, so being able to understand what their needs and their challenges are is very helpful. Being able to speak the same language that they speak puts you in a better rapport with them. And also the relationships: I don’t think anybody can discount the value of the relationships that you build in the military, and that a lot of military veterans, once they go out, are willing to help other veterans. So you can use those relationships, too, to help improve your career and help your company to succeed.
This does not mean that veterans have an easy time transferring to civilian careers, however. This is particularly true in the current economic climate, in which employment is tough for young veterans, and tough for young adults in general.
Brenda Bell: My son just came back from a couple of tours, and he was going back to work, and I think one of the hard things, not just from my own experience, but from seeing his experience, is that they don’t know how to translate military skills to civilian skills. He had a very hard time with his resume: he was in the infantry and he was a team leader, but I had to help him translate “What does a team leader do?” into civilian terms.
Brenda is a fantastic example of a single mother who had to get through some rough patches in her life but eventually made it work. She is now a client executive in the Federal Business unit for the Americas at IBM. She lives in New England with her husband and has come a long way from the unfocused, insecure kid she was when she started working at ACIUS. My mother took an interest in seeing this ex-employee develop, and “will always be proud of the role that [she] played in [Brenda’s] career.”

5 comments on “Veterans Series: The service is a long version of University: Conversation with Lance Sapera”

Veterans Series: The service is a long version of University: Conversation with Lance Sapera


Learn more about best practices in recruiting veteran and military job seekers by joining a Talent Circles sponsored webinar on 2/13/14 at 9:00 PM PST. Click here to register & learn more. 
This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:
Conversation with Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

Lance Sapera started his civilian career at 24 Hour Fitness in early 2007. He first led multiple Lean/Six Sigma-based Business Process Excellence initiatives, then became the Director of Equipment Standards and was responsible for all fitness equipment purchases, and after that, he led staffing/recruiting efforts across 400 locations in 18 states between 2010 and 2013. Think of it. These are three very different jobs. Where do you find people with a knack for excelling in multiple areas in record time? Your best bet is to look for them in the military, where the key for success is to continuously learn in order to continuously grow. Lance Sapera was from the Navy. He grew up in a Navy family and served in the Navy for 21 years…


Why did you choose the Navy?
Growing up in a Navy family, I already looked favorably upon the idea of public service and considered this option when I was in high school. One of the things that was exciting to me was the opportunity to earn a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship. I joined NROTC at the University of Virginia and over the course of four years received extensive leadership and military training while earning my degree.  At the same time I graduated from the University of Virginia, I was commissioned an Officer in the Navy and went to flight school right out of college. This was a very exciting and intense time for our nation.  It was the height of the Cold War as detailed in novels like Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy about a Third World War in Europe. Coming out of flight school, I selected for the P-3C Orion; the “Mighty Hunter” was the plane I flew.
How do you go from being a pilot to joining 24 Hour Fitness to now the Director of Program Delivery (Talent Acquisition) for ManpowerGroup Solutions supporting Intuit? I am sure that a MOS translator will not immediately reach this conclusion…
One of neatest things about the Navy was the dual requirement in every job.  Although I was a pilot and always training with my crew to be combat ready, I basically got a new job every two years – each with increased responsibility and leadership requirements.  It is important to note that while the new jobs and responsibilities came fast and frequently, I was fortunate to work for – and with – great leaders and mentors who helped me and the teams I led be successful. 
In my first aviation squadron in Brunswick, ME, I worked hard and earned qualifications as aP-3C Instructor Pilot & Mission Commander completing multiple operational deployments including Operation Desert Shield.  Three years later, I was at the Pentagon, first as a Joint Chiefs of Staff Action Officer and then as a White House Liaison Action Officer. My next opportunity came as the Flag Secretary for the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier battle group in Norfolk, VA. After only 18 months and earning qualification as a Battle Group Watch Officer, we were transferred to Jacksonville, FL where I served as an FRS Instructor Pilot training newly-winged naval aviators how to fight the P-3C and leading the Instructional Systems Development Division in developing curriculum for all P-3C aircrew.  In 1997, selected to become a squadron Maintenance Officer, I wasagain in Brunswick, ME flying combat missions in Operation Allied Force and leading 300+ Sailors operating forward deployed in Iceland and Sicily. Two years later I was stationed back in Norfolk, VA, this time as Assistant Chief of Staff, Tactics & New Technology where we crafted a new global operational strategy for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Community following the Attacks of 9/11. My last position was Commanding Officer, Navy Recruiting District San Francisco in Mountain View, CA where we recruited the best and brightest for naval service.
It was always part of my job to fly the airplane so having this physical piece to my job where you have to get it right every time was exciting, but the additional responsibilities of what the Navy calls “ground jobs” were every bit as challenging and rewarding.  I had the chance to grow from just being a Naval aviator to also being a leader and a mentor for Sailors in my charge.  The emphasis on investing in my own people and teams helped further develop my own “servant leader” philosophy that I first learned from my father.
In short, a MOS translator may provide useful indications, but may not necessarily capture the potential that service men and women have built up through the Military’s continuing education
That’s right. The service is a long version of University: every two years I was given a new job and they were not concerned whether I had a background in it. The rule is that you must learn quickly, become a subject matter expert and get the job done! Again, I want to emphasize how fortunate I was to have outstanding leaders and mentors supporting my development in each new role.  It is the “Navy Way.”  The Navy was 21 years of constant learning and personal and professional development. You would think I should have become an airline pilot after the Navy. Or that I would have moved immediately into Human Resources given that my last position as Commanding Officer of Navy Recruiting District San Francisco in charge of 300 recruiters. It’s not what happened. 24 Hour Fitness used my leadership ability as opposed to any specific skill set. I believe that leadership is a process that you develop over time through different occupations, and to use a quote by John F. Kennedy, Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” The training that the Navy provides is exceptional.
What was your selling point as Commanding Officer of Navy Recruiting District San Francisco?  It must have been very hard to recruit in this area…
Competing against the private sector in Northern California and Northwestern Nevada was a real challenge. But a big selling point was precisely the exceptional training offered by the Navy, and we were able to attract super smart young men and women who realized that the Navy could get them started in their career. It was equally important to them to be part of an organization that was greater than themselves; to be part of making the world safer for democracy; protecting and defending the constitution of the United States along with the fact that they would be able travel the world and make a difference any time there was a global crisis. We saw again recently in the Philippines with the devastating typhoon: a US Navy aircraft carrier,  ships, and aircraft were the first responders to the Philippine islands and the people bringing food, water, electricity and medical supplies. Yes, you attract bright people when you have a mission. Like the advertisement says, “The U.S. Navy, a global force for good!”
How did you approach your search for a civilian job?
I started my search with a couple of criteria. The first was joining an organization that had a mission that was larger than all of us, and one I could believe in. That’s why I chose 24 Hour Fitness. The idea of being part of an organization that helped people improve their lives through fitness was exciting, and being part of something like that was a mission I could commit to. The second was a company with great people and strong core values because that was one of my favorite things about the Navy. Really, just like in the Navy: the mission and the people I served with. Fortunately, I found the same things with ManpowerGroup Solutions and Intuit – great companies operating by strong core values with great people.
What is the biggest obstacle for Veterans to land a civilian job?
First, it’s the disconnect between society in general and those who have served because less than 1% of Americans have served in the military. So most people don’t have an understanding of what military service is about, nor do they really understand what military personnel are capable of (i.e., their skills and abilities).  Second, most veterans work hard in their military job until the day that they separate or they retire. And so for that reason, they don’t give proper thought to “How am I going to transition to the private sector?” It’s important to help veterans to do a better job at thinking about how they can take this long university in the service and apply that to some specific opportunities in the private sector. They must not count on just the MOS military translators and then applying for some random job, which only ends up being, as you and I both know, a résumé in a black hole. Those are the two big barriers. Ultimately, it’s always a good idea for veterans to target military-friendly companies!
Of course, as far as military-friendly companies, Lance does know what he is talking about. While developing an “employer of choice” talent attraction model for civilians at 24 Hour Fitness, Lance led the efforts that enabled 24 Hour Fitness to rank #74 among the Top 100 Military Friendly Employers and #4 among the Top 25 Military Spouse Friendly Employers in 2012 and 2013. I am certain that his personal leadership will make a difference at ManpowerGroup Solutions too!
Clearly, Lance’s years of service are dear to his heart, along with the immense and justified pride he takes from having lived through fascinating times of our history, when he was forward deployed when the Berlin Wall came down or to Desert Storm for example. But what was striking to me as we were talking for this interview, was how his strong emotional bond to the Navy allied with a deep personal kindness and courtesy drove him to help others meaningfully. 

1 comment on “Veterans Series: Embracing the Learn and Grow Veterans’ ethos to understand leadership: Conversation with Rhonda Stickley”

Veterans Series: Embracing the Learn and Grow Veterans’ ethos to understand leadership: Conversation with Rhonda Stickley


Learn more about best practices in recruiting veteran and military job seekers by joining a Talent Circles sponsored webinar on 2/13/14 at 9:00 PM PST. Click here to register & learn more. 
This post is part of a series that already includes conversations with:


Rhonda Stickley started her second term as President of the DirectEmployers Association (DE) in October 2013 and although focusing on technology, her heart is very close to an area where DE is extremely active: Military/Veterans-related initiatives. These initiatives are designed to help the Association’s members understand the importance of employing America’s veterans and provide them with the information and resources they need.
The extent of training and real-world experience of America’s Veterans is foreign to the vast majority of employers.  By meeting and talking to Veterans, or simply reading about their experiences you will better understand why Veterans’ skills are often far easier to translate into civilian jobs than commonly assumed.
Companies over the years have learned to embrace diversity. Building up your Military Circle could be part of your efforts. You will realize the value of hiring Veterans by taking full measure of the level of responsibility that the Military ends up giving to its recruits. Sometimes, it’s astounding — as is demonstrated profoundly in Rhonda’s case.
Why did you join the Military?
I volunteered during a time when there were not a lot of women entering the military. I had started college and was not enamored with working at minimum wage jobs to pay for College, so I went down to the recruiter’s office. I explored several opportunities in order to take advantage of a program offered at that time called VEAP(Veteran Educational Assistance Program) that would allow for both dollar matching and up to full payment for your education based on the number of years you committed. I had to take a number of exams and I tested very high, which provided me with the opportunity to have the pick of which career field(s) I would enter, and I chose to join the Military Police Corps (MP). I had some requirements however: I wanted a “guarantee” for education dollars, my chosen Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) – MP, and I also wanted to see the world.  They agreed, in writing, that I would be stationed somewhere in Europe, that I would be a Military Police Officer, and that my education would be paid for. They met all my requirements and I joined. When I graduated from Basic Training and my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course (that is Military Police School), I became an active-duty MP. I did my One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
What did you do?
In 1982 I was assigned to the 7th Army NATO and I spent 3 years in Central Europe, based in Miesau, Germany. I flew all over Europe as part of NATO and the initial deployment of the Pershing II missilesthroughout Europe.  While I was there our unit was repeatedly on alert for the high amount of terrorism at the time and we toggled between responding to those alerts and ensuring the safety of our NATO sites. I flew on hundreds of missions with NATO using Boeing equipment and though it did not seem like a big deal to me at the time, it was a lot of responsibility for a 20 year old.
During my off hours I focused my attention on taking classes at the local base through the University of Maryland. My education gave me points towards promotion, which combined with my weapons skills, being very active physically, and being very goal-oriented, allowed me to be identified as someone with leadership potential early in my career.  As a result, I moved quickly through the ranks and a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) or Sergeant/E-5 at the age of 21.  With that promotion to Sergeant, my responsibilities also increased and as a result, I was managing a platoon of 30 men and 3 women. While stationed in Europe, I competed for and won the US Army, Europe and 7thArmy Battalion Soldier of the Quarter and a Schutzenhaus Medal for a M-60 machine gun competition between the US and German military.  I attended advanced training in NATO Nuclear Surety Management and when I was reassigned to the United States at Fort Lewis, WA, I worked at the Battalion S-2 and Brigade G-2.  My responsibilities centered on managing a team responsible for the classified documents which directed the military operations of our unit. While stationed at Ft Lewis, I was awarded an Army Achievement Medal for meritorious service and selection as the 1986 Ft Lewis Non-Divisional, NCO of the Year.  This was the first time the award had ever been presented to a female NCO.  Because of my prior assignments with 7th Army and NATO, I also had a Top Secret/Special Background Investigation (TS/SBI) clearance.  I was assigned to the role in S-2/G-2 for approximate 18 months, then transferred within the Battalion to plain clothes investigator, investigating crimes on base while also performing the additional duty of Battalion Ethics Officer.  I held this last role for a little more than a year until I transitioned off active duty. I needed to make a decision to stay in or get out and ultimately chose to leave active service and finish my time in the reserves and Officer Candidate School.
How easy was it to get a civilian job?
For me, it ended up being quite easy. At the time Boeing was hiring and I applied for a position they were unable to tell me details about due to its classified nature, but I was ultimately hired. I worked on a program that was called Project WILO. Part of the reason I was hired was because I possessed the degree, skills and TS/SBI clearance level required to work there.   These clearances often take six months to a year to obtain and they needed help immediately.  At the time it was a classified program and it was widely unknown to the world what we were working on.   Ultimately the project I was working on became more commonly known as the B2 bomber program. Project WILO (What’s It Like Outside) was named so because you had to go through several levels of security to get in the building, and there were no windows. They were looking for someone with my background, skills and security credentials, so I was fortunate to have a level of responsibility in the workplace that aligned with what I had experienced in the military.  They say luck is merely preparation and timing coming together, and I felt very lucky to transition so quickly when many others did not.
Why do you think recruiters are so skittish about hiring veterans? Are they afraid that Veterans, especially young Veterans might be too difficult to manage because they had experienced a lot at a young age? Is it ignorance?
I think it may be more just ignorance of what veterans bring to the table because often times people don’t have any experience working directly with the military. They do not necessarily understand the translation of skills. Products like the Military Crosswalk may help, but it is truly a foreign experience for many recruiters. When you do not have and understanding, context or shared experience to draw on, it’s hard to imagine how even the core skills that are learned in the military translate to a civilian role. So when you don’t know, it may be easier to stick to stereotypes drawn from one bad experience or one story, or to the cliché that if you are in the military, you are inflexible, a rule follower or unable to think independently.  The truth is that the drills you go through in the military are not the same as the drills you go through in the work place. Soldier often have multiple responsibilities and many complex situations simply become autonomic. Based on my firsthand experience I think, of course, that a young military person has more ability to be flexible and adapt to changing situations than someone who hasn’t been in the military.
Corporations place a large value on what you’ve learned. The reality is that it’s not what you know; it’s what you need to know, which is always changing. It’s about the ability to acquire knowledge fast enough to move business forward and that’s a different skill set than checking a box saying “I went to ‘x’ university and got my 4-year degree in ‘y’.” In the military everyone has to continue to learn and adapt. You may not know something today, but you can and will learn it for whatever assignment is next and continuous learning is key.
Many of our countries most prestigious university and executive training programs come straight from the military.  Think of GE and their leadership development program. Much of it was based on some of the learning and development techniques used by the Military. For example, the GE Work-out is a form of the military’s After-Action Review (AAR) process! Don’t get frozen! Adapt and grow!

Thanks, Rhonda, and as we spoke about the GE Work-out, I recommend that you read a great book that was published over 10 years ago: The GE Work-out: How to Implement GE’s Revolutionary Method for Busting Bureaucracy and Attacking Organizational Problems-Fast!





1 comment on “How Google Glass is Changing the Candidate Experience and Job Search (Part 2)”

How Google Glass is Changing the Candidate Experience and Job Search (Part 2)

By Jessica Miller-Merrell

This is a three part series that evaluates how new consumer technologies like Google Glass are changing the expectations of the workplace particularly the job search into what the author calls the “Performance of Now.” Click here for part one.

Having been a beta tester of the controversial, Google Glass, it’s been exciting product testing one of the most loved, hated and feared new technologies of 2013. It’s the most talked about and transformative technology that you haven’t ever used because there are 12,000 individuals part of the Google Glass Explorer Program. How can a product that only a very small percentage of the population have access to be transforming how we engage and absorb information through technology?

While I’m not here to debate whether or not Google Glass will be adopted by the consumer mainstream, I see the future of how we engage and use technology to get what we want whether it’s news, information or access that’s customized, quick and available easily. I call this phenomenon the Performance of Now. It’s the expectation of having access to “things” like resources, products, services and information immediately. Google Glass demonstrates this expectation as I now have the world at my fingertips without lifting a finger literally.

As consumers, technology has afforded us access to products quicker through things like next day shipping or software downloads completed online. We don’t like want but now expect answers to the questions we seek in real time. And this new trend facilitated by technology like Glass makes 45 minutes to complete an online application to receive only confirmation response seem so 1999.

With the performance of now, the candidate experience starts weeks, months or even years before the interested job seeker applies for a job opening. Companies must anticipate the needs of job seekers by providing quality content, conversations, engagement and resources planning for the long-term job seeker in mind.

Real time conversations across platforms as candidates ask questions through social media, website chat boxes and company talent networks before as well as after the application process begins and ends.

Value based content and resources in the form of blog posts, eBooks, YouTube channels. Companies need to anticipate the questions candidates will ask to remain engaged and relevant like salary resource guides for ruby developers in San Francisco and realistic job preview interactive videos for hotel front desk clerks in New York City. The goal is to engage a specific and very targeted audiences through information as they go about their daily lives and before they become an active job seeker.

Ongoing follow up and relationships regardless of the job. Candidates are expecting experiences that mirror consumer ones meaning that companies who balance personality and resources with quality ongoing engagements, will make a lasting impression that can re-engage with alumni and boomerang employees.

Candidate experience in a pure form. Following a similar path of business to consumer companies like Applebee’s where they field customer questions asking for consumer Vines, videos and tweets to fuel future content topics, candidate experiences and company benefits. Your future candidate pool is your new focus group and suggestion box but for job seekers and not just exclusively customers or employees.

The Performance of Now channels engagement, experience and context all in one. Products like Google Glass create an experience for the user who is investing their valuable time and money in being part of something exciting. Even if the product doesn’t go beyond the explore program, Glass is providing businesses, recruiters and employers about the expectations of their future candidates from the perspective as a consumer combined with technology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

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3 comments on “You do social sourcing. Now start your social recruiting strategy! (Part 1)”

You do social sourcing. Now start your social recruiting strategy! (Part 1)

 This will be a series of 10 posts focuses on social recruiting.


In May 2013, the Aberdeen Group reported that “social networking sites have jumped up to the second most effective source of hire,” after employee referral. According to a study published by CareerArc, two out of three companies will implement social recruiting in 2014. Their June 2013 study surveyed 350 hiring employers and 2,117 job seekers and showed that:
  • 72% of companies use social media to advertise their jobs;
  • 59% of companies find they get more referrals and 50% get more applications by using social recruiting;
  • 1 in 3 job seekers use social media as their primary tool for job searching;
  • 50% of job seekers spend more than 6 hours per week using social media for their job search.

Today, social sourcing is a fact: 92 percent of U.S. companies are using social media networks to recruit talent. Are you able to make the most of it? Probably not: your “social” efforts likely hit a wall – because you drive “social” candidates to your career site and ask them to fill the same convoluted forms just as you did five years ago. So, despite significant investments in social sourcing, your company probably comes across just as antisocial as it did five years ago.
Can you stop relapsing into the old days? Yes, you can, and it’s easy. You need to go beyond social sourcing and have a social recruiting strategy. You need:
  • A destination within your corporate site that allows you to transform a follower or a connection into a contact and a link into a relationship. In short, you need to continue to engage.
  • A network to scale engagement capabilities. You already know, based on your experience with social networks, that engagement can only happen if parties share a common space where they can interact. Follow-through must also happen on a network. It’s not enough to store candidate information in a database.
TalentCircles is the talent engagement network that enables you to:
  • Expand on your social sourcing efforts.
  • Transform these efforts into a coherent and rewarding social recruiting strategy to offer an optimal social candidate experience. 
Social recruiting is the ability to better engage with candidates, engage with more of them, know them better, nurture a vibrant community and build up relevant talent pipelines for immediate or future positions in order to save time and money.
This series of posts will describe the nine “Cs” that drive a successful social recruiting strategy and leverage our Talent Engagement Index™ and our Candidate Engagement Index™ models to assess your progress and performance.
  • C#1 Continuity — Articulating social sourcing and social recruiting
  • C#2 Consistency  — Follow-through your branding strategy
  • C#3 Culture — Your core values and your credibility
  • C#4 Courtesy — Social recruiting means candidate centricity
  • C#5 Conversation — Live video screening and discussions
  • C#6 Curation — Pre-recorded interviews/questionnaires
  • C#7 Content Marketing — Addressing real people
  • C#8 Conversion — Social sourcing, social sharing and socializing past applicants
  • C#9 Compute — Mastering Talent and Candidate Engagement Indexes



2 comments on “Social Sign On Makes Applying Online Easier for Job Seekers”

Social Sign On Makes Applying Online Easier for Job Seekers


Join us for a HCI webinar sponsored by Talent Circles on 3/6 at 12 PM EST “How to Build a Strategic Candidate Pipeline.” Register here

If I have to remember one more password for yet another website or social network, I think I’m going to implode. Passwords and pin codes were created for our protection against theft but they prove to be an annoyance. Most people, once they are on Facebook or LinkedIn, don’t generally log out including myself which is why the social sign on as part of the hiring and job application process is so convenient.

The Social Sign On Improves Candidate Experience  

Job seekers who are registered on social networks have their details all ready to go, and now, recruiters are making it easy to find those people by allowing them to apply for jobs using their social log-in information. It’s a super-simple way to create accounts using your network by tying into their network. In fact, just yesterday, I used my Facebook account to access a client blog on Typepad, where I write.  No need to create or try to remember new complex passwords. This makes my life – and job seekers’ lives – a lot easier.
Job seekers already spend an average of 45 minutes completing an online application and employers who add the social sign on to their ATS can shave off 10-20 minutes.  When it comes to the candidate experience, I believe that is money well spent. 
Gigya, the makers of SaaS technology, did a study recently that showed that sites that incorporate Facebook Connect, LinkedIn and Twitter sign saw users spending 50 percent more time on that site when they logged in through a social network. Except for the candidate experience, this works in reverse. We want job seekers to apply online quickly and seamlessly especially since an application is a candidate buying decision.
We want job seekers to spend time not on the application but researching and learning about their prospective place of work. That means we encourage the casual Internet surfing of videos, joining our talent network, blogs, and our company culture page instead of spending copious amounts of time completing an application online. 
Is the social sign on mainstream just yet? Not quite, but it’s a trend I seen differentiating employers as job seekers weigh their employment options. Here’s the breakdown based on all websites that offer social sign on not just employers and their online applications.
  • ·      Facebook is the most popular origin of social logins with 61 percent
  • ·      Yahoo is 15 percent
  • ·      Google is 12 percent
  • ·      Twitter is 10 percent
  • ·      LinkedIn is 2 percent

While I see LinkedIn being higher for employment applications because it is a professional social network, employers will also offer several options when it comes to the social sign on as not everyone has a profile on every social network or uses them the same way. 

Mobile Job Search Lends to the Social Sign On

Imagine spending 45 minutes applying for a job posting on a company’s ATS or applicant tracking system. Yikes. Now, imagine doing the same thing from your mobile device. As screens get smaller, the social sign on becomes more important not just from a time stand point for the candidate but in the job seeker’s user experience.  We are relying on our mobile devices, tablets and smartphones more than ever before including the hiring and employment process. In January 2013, 6 million people searched for jobs using their mobile device, a figure that more than doubled from a year ago according to recent report from ComScore. I find that recruitment and workplace trends normally follow suit of how consumers are using tools and technology in their personal lives. 
The downside is that social media privacy issues involving employent may pop up. Giving a social network access to data and information like social security numbers and your job history is enough to give anyone the willies. Employers will have to work hard to communicate to their candidates, that the social sign in process is used to make the hiring and login process easier.  Given the recent media attention and legislation making it illegal for employers to request social network access and password, companies will have to make sure and communicate and educate how the social sign on process works.  And that using the sign on does not give employers access to candidate social network passwords and information.
Did you know that Talent Circles incorporates the social sign on into their talent network?  This features makes it easy for candidates to join instantly.  Click here to learn more


Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs.