The Benefits of Hiring Veterans

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Exploring the expertise military personnel can offer your business

by Mike Starich

Almost every United States city is witnessing growth in construction—both in commercial and residential building, as well as roads, bridges and other structures. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting the industry to increase from its current 6.9 million jobs to 7.2 million jobs by 2024—meeting the demand for quality talent is paramount for construction companies.

Companies looking to hire find that it goes beyond just filling the gap of supply and demand. The leadership, teams and specialized skills that an organization chooses to execute on projects will have a direct impact on its bottom line. To help ensure the right talent is in place, more construction companies find that adding veterans to their workforce is not just a good idea, but also good for business.

Benefits of Military Hiring

The military has thousands of enlisted individuals, officers and command staff that make for an ideal fit for the construction industry. In fact, many have experience on military construction teams helping to build or repair buildings, airfields, bridges and other structures. Veterans without direct military construction experience can also be exceptional candidates for construction positions in the civilian workforce. They already have the sought-after leadership qualities based on their ability to meet deadlines, supervise teams and work in extreme conditions.

Strong work ethic and dedication are just a few of the characteristics that veterans bring back to the civilian lifestyle. They are disciplined team players, organized and dependable, which are all talents that make it advantageous for construction companies to hire them for anything from leading and overseeing a project to being part of a team that helps design, build or repair construction jobs.

The Armed Forces see more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year. As of April 2017, the veteran unemployment rate continues to remain below the national average at 3.7 percent. This is in part due to government programs and initiatives that have focused on hiring veterans over the years, including Hiring our Heroes and Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW).

Many businesses in the private sector are also taking a leading role hiring veterans. Related Companies, a company headquartered in New York City with extensive industry experience in development and construction, has created a veteran hiring initiative that focuses on employing men and women coming out of the Armed Forces.

In discussing the benefits of hiring veterans, Related Companies Senior Vice President Frank J. Monterisi, Jr. said that veterans “are very valuable to our company and the overall construction industry. The men and women who come out of serving our country have dedication, a strong work ethic and are exceptional problem solvers—which are great attributes to have when working on construction projects.”

As a former Marine, Monterisi helps spearhead the veteran hiring program for Related. He said, “Construction projects are all about teams and working together. Veterans have great teamwork and can manage through demanding environments with efficient real-time, problem-solving skills. We are happy to bring them on, and will continue to keep this hiring initiative as a key priority for our organization.”

While there are other programs similar to what Related Companies has in place, not all businesses understand how to optimize their veteran hiring programs to effectively hire this skilled workforce.

Building a Veteran Hiring Program

From insights into the background and experience of military talent to the development of veteran outreach campaigns, there are options for construction companies interested in creating or improving their veteran hiring programs. There is no perfect approach to hiring veterans, and traditional recruiting methods often fall short in reaching the right military talent.

Understanding the uniqueness of a veteran’s job search situation and having programs in place to support him/her in the continuing transition into the civilian world go a long way in helping establish high-quality military candidate pipelines and filling positions faster. It is increasingly important for organizations to build a program, seek out advice and understand best practices within the industry. Key steps in helping build a program include:

  • Develop a plan with goals—Understand the backgrounds of the veterans that best fit with your open positions, how many candidates you are looking to hire and the ultimate, desired outcome. This can help define your program. Establish goals that align with your overall business strategy, and make sure you have buy-in from the top executives within the organization.
  • Skills translation—Frontline hiring managers often lack an understanding of a veteran’s unique job search situation. To have a successful veteran hiring program, skills translation is critical. Unless veterans are applying for defense contracting and construction jobs, they must translate their military skills into civilian terms. Hiring managers do not always understand military terminology on resumes. If possible, assign someone from inside your company that has a military background as the leader or champion of the program to help hiring managers translate skill sets.
  • Best fit—The best fits come from the junior officer or more senior, noncommissioned officer ranks, who also have a sincere desire and interest in the construction fields. They may have picked up their interest while growing up or from their experiences in the military. When that interest is combined with real leadership experience in demanding environments, an employer can hire some truly outstanding talent.
  • Onboard and transition appropriately—Military personnel are accustomed to having a highly structured environment with chain of command and expectations of structure and protocol. If you can, reach out to veteran candidates before they make the transition into your business and start cultivating a healthy change to this new environment. This includes talking through expectations and the organizational structure. This, in turn, will result in a positive effect, higher retention rates and happier employees.
  • Culture component—The companies that have the best records for retaining veterans also share certain cultural similarities with the military. The most important of these are camaraderie and teamwork, characteristics ingrained in the military culture. Many veterans are more successful at organizations that can help encourage this type of culture. If you have veterans on your team already, consider building a mentorship program to help positively impact this culture and teamwork.
  • Development—Continuing education and training is a benefit that most veterans desire. In fact, advanced training is a key component for the military. This makes continued educational and training programs a critical factor in civilian work—particularly with mid-level and upper-level candidates. Many veterans are looking for an opportunity that will allow them to continue with their education while working. The most successful programs often are tied to “Leadership Development Programs (LDPs). LDPs can be very effective for retention and satisfaction amongst veterans.
  • Market your program correctly—Employment branding is not always an area of focus for construction businesses. However, when it comes to military veterans, there are numerous organizations competing for them, so it is important to position your construction company as an attractive employer of choice. Seek outside assistance with this if you need it, in order to effectively reach and connect with military personnel.

While it is nice to hire veterans out of a sense of duty, the case is strong that the right veteran can have a powerful impact on your business. If you can build a solid program based on the previous points, you are well on your way to strengthening your company.

Source: Construction Business Owner

Guide to Veterans Affairs benefits and loans

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Smiling woman in camouflage holding cardboard box and looking at camera with blurred military man on background

In a nutshell…The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for eligible veterans, including VA loans, the GI Bill, job training, medical benefits and housing grants for disabled veterans.

After your time in military service, you may be eligible for numerous veteran benefits. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, offers a range of services and assistance for eligible U.S. veterans and qualifying family members to help transition into civilian life.

Read on to understand the different benefits and loans available through the VA.

VA housing and homebuying assistance

One of the most well-known veteran benefits is VA housing assistance. It is meant to help veterans, service members and surviving spouses buy or build a home, refinance a home or make home improvements. Below are some of the specific programs and insights into each one.

VA home loans

A VA home loan is a type of mortgage loan that is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Note that just because the loan is backed by the VA doesn’t mean it’s risk free. The VA backs the loan to protect the lender, not the borrower. If you miss payments, you still risk getting hit with late fees, decreased credit scores or — worse — possible home foreclosure. VA loans can be used to …

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Buy a home and fund improvements
  • Make energy-efficiency improvements to an existing home
  • Refinance an existing loan

Specific eligibility requirements can vary based on when you served. But veterans, surviving spouses and those joining the military today must generally meet one of the following eligibility criteria to qualify for a VA loan:

  • Served 90 total days of active service during wartime
  • Served 181 continuous days of active service during peacetime
  • Served six years of service in the National Guard or the Reserve
  • The applicant is a surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty or passed away from ­a disability that resulted while serving.

Additional eligibility requirements apply in some circumstances, so check with the VA for specifics.

The VA offers just one type of direct loan — through its Native American Direct Loan program for purchases on qualifying tribal lands. Otherwise it offers borrowers indirect, VA-backed loans from private lenders that participate in the VA loan program. Be sure to shop around and compare mortgage rates to choose the best mortgage for you. Ask friends and family for lender recommendations and be sure to look at online reviews.

VA loan programs specify that the home purchase being financed must be for a property used as a primary residence. Here are some other rules to keep in mind:

  • Property requirements: VA loans are for single-family residences with one to four family units and must be primarily residential in nature.
  • Qualifying income considerations: VA loan rules on using rental income as qualifying income for the loan include having cash reserves for at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments and providing the previous two years of tax returns showing the rental income.

There are some key differences between VA loans and other types of mortgages that make VA loans so appealing. These differences are:

  • No down payment may be required: Most types of home loans generally require some form of down payment. The VA loan typically requires nothing down — although you can make a down payment if you want to try to lower your total loan amount and monthly payment. If your home is appraised at a lower value than the listing or asking price — or if the lender needs it to meet secondary market requirements — you may have to make a down payment.
  • The VA has no minimum credit score requirement: There are no credit score requirements set by the VA — however, the specific lender you go through to apply for a VA loan may have their own credit requirements.
  • You may not be subject to loan limits: Unlike FHA loans, VA loans of more than $144,000 do not have a borrowing limit, as long as you have full VA loan entitlement — meaning you have not already taken out a VA home loan, or you have fully repaid a previous VA loan.
  • You do not need mortgage insurance: Unless you put 20% down, lenders typically require mortgage insurance to protect themselves in case you don’t pay your mortgage. Since a VA loan is backed by the VA, you are not required to pay for mortgage insurance.
  • VA loans have a funding fee: VA loans may require a one-time funding fee. This fee can range from 0.5% to 3.6% of your loan, depending on a number of factors, and can be wrapped up in your loan if you’re unable to pay it outright.

Types of VA home loans

There are several types of VA loans that are designed especially for the varying borrowing purposes listed above. These are:

  • VA purchase loans: A loan program that qualifying individuals use to buy, improve or build a home
  • VA cash-out refinance loans: A loan program that allows qualifying veterans, service members or surviving spouses to replace an existing loan with a new one, allowing them to borrow against equity in their home or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan
  • VA interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL): A program that allows qualifying individuals to refinance your VA loan under new terms, potentially allowing you to reduce your monthly mortgage payments or interest rate.

There are both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate VA mortgages. With fixed-rate mortgages, you lock in your interest rate for the life of the loan. With adjustable-rate mortgages, your interest rate fluctuates according to the index of interest rates. The VA no longer prescribes specific interest rates — adjustable-rate loan changes depend on whether the loan is a standard or hybrid adjustable rate mortgage. Be sure to talk with your lender about which option is best for you, and learn how often these rates are subject to adjustment.

Homeowners insurance for veterans

Like almost any type of mortgage, institutions offering VA loans will typically require the borrower to purchase homeowners insurance. Additionally, the VA requires borrowers to have a hazard insurance policy where appropriate (flood insurance, for example, in known flood zones), which may be included in the conventional homeowners policy required by your lender. It may be worth asking your insurer or agent about possible military discounts for these types of programs.

State-specific veterans benefits

If you do not qualify for a VA loan or you are simply looking for additional housing benefits, there are generally state-specific organizations and programs designed to help veterans and others with housing at the state level. Be sure to check with your local VA office to help point you in the right direction.

VA disability benefits and programs

If you became sick or injured while serving in the military, or have an existing condition that got worse as a result of military service, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. You can file a claim for VA disability compensation online or at your local VA regional office — or send the appropriate information via mail to the address below.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

P.O. Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You will need the following documentation to submit your claim:

  • Military discharge papers (DD214 or any other separation documents you may have)
  • Any service treatment records
  • Medical treatment records that show proof of disability (for example, doctor reports, X-rays, test results, doctor orders/recommendations for treatment, mental status examination or operative reports)

Be sure to apply for disability compensation as soon as possible since the claims process can take a while — generally in the neighborhood of four to five months. The VA site regularly updates the average time it takes to approve or deny a claim — it was 134.4 days as of June 2021 and 139.6 days as of July 2021.

VA benefits for disabled veterans

  • Disability compensation: This is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to disabled veterans who are considered 10% disabled or higher. The exact dollar amount you receive each month fluctuates based on the degree of your disability and if you have dependents.
  • Clothing allowance: This is an annual allowance for eligible veterans and service members whose clothing has been damaged by prosthetics/orthopedic devices or topical medication for a skin condition.
  • Service-disabled veterans’ life insurance (S-DVI): This insurance benefit is for eligible veterans who may have service-connected disabilities but are in good health otherwise. The amount of premium you pay depends on your age, the type of plan and the amount of coverage you need.

The eligibility requirements and application process for each benefit can change, so be sure to check with your local VA center to determine whether you qualify and how to access the benefit.

VA disability housing programs

  • Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA): The HISA program provides up to $6,800 in funding for home improvements and structural alterations to a disabled veteran’s primary residence. The intent behind the program is to improve home accessibility.
  • Specially Adapted Housing grants (SAH): The SAH grant helps certain veterans and service members with disabilities work toward independent living by creating barrier-free environments.
  • Temporary Residence Adaptation grant (TRA): The TRA grant may be available as part of the SAH program described and linked above. It is used to help veterans and service members make accommodations when living temporarily in a family member’s home that needs changes to meet their needs.

Automobile allowance for veterans

Although the VA does not offer specialized car loans for all veterans, it does provide an automobile allowance for veterans and service members with qualifying injuries. This is a one-time allowance for disabled veterans and service members to help them purchase a vehicle that better accommodates their needs.

Qualifying individuals can use this allowance to purchase a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with adaptive equipment, or they can purchase and install adaptive equipment to an existing vehicle.

VA education, training and employment benefits

The VA offers several education, training and employment benefits to veterans, service members and their qualified dependents to help with education costs, finding a training program or career guidance and counseling. Below are the different VA education and training benefits.

  • Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E): The VR&E program is designed to help veterans and service members with service-related disabilities with job training, employment accommodations, resume developments and job-search coaching. In some cases, these benefits may extend to dependents.
  • Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG): The PCPG program offers education/training, career, academic, resume and goal-planning counseling to eligible service members, veterans and dependents.
  • Dependents and Survivors Educational Assistance: This is a specialized program for spouses and children of veterans or service members who died or received permanent disabilities while serving. The program helps with tuition, housing, books and school supply costs.
  • Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC): The VET TEC program helps veterans with training and educational courses in high-demand areas of the tech industry. The training is for computer software, computer programming, data processing, information science and media applications.
  • VetSuccess on Campus: This program is designed to help veterans and service members transition from life in service to life on campus. Each school that is a part of the program has a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to help support veterans with assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals.
  • Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): The MGIB-SR program pays for up to 36 months of education or training benefits for qualifying reservists and members of the Army National Guard or Air National Guard.
  • The National Call to Service Program: This program offers a choice between a $5,000 cash bonus, up to $18,000 of student loan repayment, or educational assistance for eligible veterans who performed a period of national service.
  • Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP): The VRRAP is a temporary program that provides up to 12 months of tuition and schooling fees as well as a monthly housing allowance for qualified veterans who became unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for other unemployment and education benefits can impact eligibility for this program.

Next steps

To find out if you are eligible for VA home loan programs, visit the VA website or your local VA regional office to discuss the programs and your service record.

Continue to read the complete article on CreditKarma.com

4 Strategies for Rebounding from a Rejection Letter

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Hunting for a post-military job can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. There are some definite highs in the job search, like spotting the perfect position for you, landing an interview and receiving an offer.

But unfortunately, there are also some lows mixed in – including the dreaded rejection letter.

While it may be disappointing, getting a rejection letter can actually help you in your job search. It offers you an opportunity to learn from the process and improve upon certain areas for the next dream job that crosses your path.

But, while you’re looking for that next opportunity, how can you stay motivated for the next search? While everyone will have their own process, here are our four strategies for rebounding from a rejection letter:

  • Take a minute. There’s no denying it – rejection stings. It’s true in life, love and even work. Before you dive back into the job hunt, take some time to process your disappointment. Talk with friends or fellow service members, go for a walk, meditate, eat a whole bag of chips (okay, maybe not that last one). You might even need more than a minute. It’s okay to take a breather from your job hunt. Though it can be hard to step back when you’re facing the end of your military career, a pause may be the key to landing your first post-military job.
  • Keep perspective. Remember, there’s only so much you can control in a job search. Maybe you were a great candidate, but there was only one open position and a lot of great applicants. “Maintain healthy expectations about the process and don’t lose hope,” said James Marfield, associate director of VA’s National Recruitment Service. “It is not necessarily an indictment on your candidacy – it may just be that the hiring manager had better qualified candidates to choose from.” While it may look from the outside like some people have it easy and catch all the breaks, everyone gets a rejection letter at some point in their career. Transitioning to a post-military career can be an especially big leap, but there are plenty of people who have successfully made the transition. Have faith that you will, too.
  • Look in the rear view mirror. You got as far as an interview, so you know you’re doing a lot of things right. If you’re applying for a federal job like one at VA, you made it through the recruiter and were referred to the hiring manager, which is a big step. Your resume and cover letter are on point, and you’ve completed all the right federal forms to accompany your application. Before you dive back in to your job hunt, take some time to review your interview performance and see if there’s anything you could improve. Do you need to come up with better examples for VA’s performance-based interview format, or did you remember to send a thank you letter after your interview? Each interview is great preparation for the next one, but if you want even more practice, ask a friend or family member to rehearse with you.
  • Move forward. Once the feeling of rejection starts to fade and you’re feeling positive again, jump back in to your search with renewed energy and enthusiasm. As you continue to apply, look for ways you can continue to add to your skills and improve your candidacy for a civilian career, whether that’s through volunteering, additional training or part-time work experiences. Veterans can take advantage of a free year of LinkedIn premium, which includes access to training through LinkedIn Learning. The Department of Defense also offers transition assistance for Veterans, including training, apprenticeships and internships through SkillBridge.

No roller coaster lasts forever – even the job search coaster. While there may be more than one “no” along the way, all you need is one “yes” to land your dream post-military job.

Source: VAntage Point Blog and VA Careers (blogs.va.gov)

Kellie Pickler: On a Mission to Serve

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Collage of Kellie Pickler

Interview and Story by Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

Not everyone has been called to serve as a member of our Armed Forces, but country star, actress, television host and philanthropist Kellie Pickler feels it’s her duty to serve the called.

By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charities dedicated to members of the military and their families, Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her. “They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” she shared. “Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones.

We take a piece of home to them…when we do holiday tours, we take a professional athlete, a singer, comedian, actor, actress and just develop this show with them. We sign [autographs], laugh; we take pictures. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they’re stationed somewhere where their families are able to be with them, we have family day. We get to break bread together and laugh and share their stories…break up the monotony of what they do.”

And Pickler, a North Carolina native, was a great choice for this role because she is a wiz at putting on a show. The now 35-year-old got her start in the industry in 2005 on the fifth season of American Idol, finishing in sixth place.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 27: Kellie Pickler sings with the U.S. Army Chorus at the American Veterans Center’s “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes” Veterans Day special on October 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

Her debut album sold over 900,000 copies, was certified gold and produced three top 20 singles on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” charts. During her music career, Pickler has won or been nominated for numerous awards, such as the CMT Music Awards Breakthrough Video of the Year, Top New Female Vocalist of the Year, Female Video of the Year, Collaborative Video of the Year and Performance of The Year. She’s also won the prestigious Songwriter Award twice from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Later, after the release of her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am, Pickler went on to win the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, alongside professional dancer Derek Hough in 2013. She would also go on to star in two successful television programs, I Love Killie Pickler, a reality show about her life with husband Kyle Jacobs, as well as Pickler & Ben, a daytime talk show she hosted for two years alongside influencer Ben Aaron.

Pickler has also starred in television movies for Hallmark, Christmas at Graceland, Wedding at Graceland and The Mistletoe Secret. However, for Pickler, these achievements are not the hallmark of her career or representative of her purpose. “…accolades, awards, that don’t matter. People matter,” Pickler said. “You never wake up after doing the right thing and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done the right thing there.’ It’s easy to be kind; it’s easy to love your neighbor.”

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 29: (L-R) Kyle Jacobs, Recording Artist Kellie Pickler, Allison Baker, Andi Zack-Johnson and Ken Johnson attend the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ ROll Nashville Marathon on April 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for St. Jude)

For Pickler, her real job is about what happens offstage, “I know that I was not put on this Earth to just be a country singer, performer and entertainer. That’s just my vehicle to get me through the door. I know what my calling is. I know that my purpose in life is to be a voice for the broken, to be a sanctuary for people.

I’m not perfect by no means. I know my heart. I know my integrity. And that’s not for sale. I feel very blessed to be in a position where I can use my gifts and blessings…” As a USO Ambassador, Pickler is excited about taking the opportunity to give back to those who she knows are prepared to give everything for our citizens and our country.

According to her, “It’s imperative that they know (and that the families know) that we have their backs too. It takes a very selfless person to do what they do.” She is especially sensitive to the families of servicemembers, “The families serve. I’m very close with many Gold Star Families and Gold Star Wives. The USO is a community that’s very, very much needed.

When someone gets that folded flag at their front door, that dreaded conversation, it’s imperative that they have community around them, to love them, help them, be there for their children…The USO has kept so many families connected, and even connected me with these families, in a way that I can have a relationship with them and let them know that they aren’t alone.”

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Kellie Pickler signs autographs after performing for U.S. service members as part of USO’s holiday tour.
(Photo by /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The USO sponsors many programs with these goals in mind and works in over 250 locations. Their programs, predominately, fall into one of four categories: Unites, Delivers, Entertains or Transitions. Each category represents one part of the mission to keep servicemembers in touch with the places, people and positivity they need to keep going.

Programs include, but aren’t limited to: the Bob Hope Legacy Program, which helps servicemembers read to their children virtually; USO Coffee Connections, which gathers military spouses together at monthly gatherings in comfortable spaces where they can share and relate; USO Care Package Program, which delivers familiar snacks, toiletries and hygiene essentials to troops, predominately those overseas; and of course their many resources for those transitioning (or who have transitioned) out of military service.

Participating in the promotion of these programs, as well as having the chance to meet and link with servicemembers and their families, has been a dream for Pickler.

Though she and her immediate family did not come from a military background, she still feels as though she can serve, love on and relate to these families in her own way.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 07: Singer Kellie Pickler (L) and Staff Sgt. Baily Zimmerman perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for ACM)

“We all have so much more in common than we realize,” she said. “I do feel that in my line of work, the music business is all about putting truth in the form of a song. I believe that there’s several songs of mine that have been autobiographical where I was able to put a pinprick of my life into a song. But it’s helped people heal. I do believe in sharing parts of my story…” Pickler continued, saying that her time, her story and her music have “brought people together and helped people find closure in whatever it is that they’re going through.” And that’s where the fulfillment comes from for her.

“There are countless things that the USO has done [for our servicemembers], and, again, it’s been just very life changing for me to be a part of the USO family. I feel that’s the way that I can serve those who serve.”

Is a Lack of Soft Skills Keeping You from Opportunity?

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You may have heard that employers are interested in hiring people with good “soft skills.” But what exactly are good soft skills?

Soft skills are sometimes called people skills, or work-readiness skills. They are your personality, attitudes and manners. They can also include how you present yourself. So, the way you talk, the way you listen, the way you make eye contact and even the way you dress are part of your soft skills.

Employers look for soft skills to decide how someone may do at a job. This is important to employers when they hire. Soft skills are often the reason employers decide whether to keep or promote workers.

In fact, one of the best ways to demonstrate your soft skills occurs before you even have the job. During the interview process, employers are not only looking for your technical and educational background, but at the way you communicate. Conversation engagement, active listening and the ability to answer questions carefully and quickly are all traits that carryover no matter what line of work you are applying for.

Typical Soft Skills

Some soft skills can be taught in school. But most you learn in everyday life and can improve at any time. Here are some examples:

  • The ability to adapt to new situations or changes in plans swiftly and with ease
  • Friendliness and respectfulness, regardless of the situation
  • Follows instructions and asks questions, in order to get the job done correctly
  • The ability to work with varying personalities to accomplish a task
  • Responsibility, even when you make mistakes
  • Quick learning
  • Team Work
  • Accepting to criticism
  • Patience
  • Self-Motivation
  • Punctuality
  • Determination
  • Calmness
  • Practicing Your Soft Skills

As mentioned previously, soft skills are often learned from the daily interactions we have with others, whether it’s in a work setting or not. You might have these skills and not even realize they can help an employer or you might struggle with them. If so, it’s always a good idea to practice soft skills.

Here are some ways you can practice your soft skills today:

  • Role play with a friend or family member. Pretending you are in a certain situation with an employer or a customer can help prepare you for the proper response when the time comes.
  • Practice eye contact and active listening. Whether you are buying lunch, going to the grocery store or catching up with your neighbor, there are many opportunities to engage with other people every day. Concentrate on staying engaged in these short conversations as practice; it will make these skills stronger for the workforce.
  • Ask for feedback on your soft skills. Talking to trusted individuals such as family, friends or a counselor to give your insight to your communication can help you to gauge what you need to work on and what you excel at.

No matter where your career journey takes you or what obstacles you will encounter on the way, strengthening your soft skills will always increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Source: CareerOneStop

5 Things I Wish Service Members Knew Ahead of Their Civilian Transition

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young african american man wearing a flag draped across his shoulders standing outside with lake in background looking pensive

By Lawren Bradberry

I remember how confident and prepared I felt when I transitioned from active-duty service. But as soon as I put away my uniform, it hit me: I needed help navigating the difficult and oft-talked about transition to civilian life.

Connecting with other Veterans and Veteran service organizations helped me navigate life after military service. So much so, in fact, it motivated me to focus my career on transitioning service members and Veterans.

Unfortunately, many Veterans I wound up working with struggled to adjust to civilian life more than they expected. 

Many struggled to find their way, unaware of the many resources available to help them find their way after military service.

Each day, more than 500 service members will start their transition. To them and the thousands more who will eventually make the very same transition, I offer five pieces of proactive advice from my own personal experience:

  1. Make the most of your education benefits and career training opportunities. 

Veterans can use their education benefits to pay for training programs, so you should be sure to look into ways to maximize what you’re getting out of benefits. Keep in mind, however, that not all programs are covered in the same way, and not every program includes the same type of training or extra resources to aid you throughout your process. Since 2009, 773,000 Veterans and their family members have utilized these funds for programs ranging from technology to entrepreneurship to foreign affairs and so many more, so do your homework and research your options before making a decision.

  1. Remember that every transition story is different.

While there are certainly some commonalities, no Veteran goes through their transition in the same way – each person has their own strengths and faces their own unique challenges. There is no right way to execute your transition and there’s no need to rush, so take all the time you need to adjust and find your new routine. One thing that took me a while, as silly as it might seem to some, was figuring out what to wear! I wore a uniform every single day for years, so I never even stopped to consider the endless options of what I could wear to work as a civilian, and what message that might communicate.

  1. Take pride in what you bring to the table.

By the time you reach the end of your commitment, you may have led teams into life-or-death situations, made high-level decisions, or managed millions of dollars in equipment. Even though you may be starting your career later than your civilian peers, your experiences are unmatched in comparison. Learn to tell your story with confidence in a way that demonstrates the skills and experiences you gained in the military, and how they translate to future opportunities.

  1. Keep your personal values in mind.

Just like the different branches of the military, every organization has its own unique culture. As you search for employment, take the time to learn about the mission and values of the organizations you’re interested in. Veterans often return home with a very specific set of core values and ideals, and it’s hard enough to make the transition to a different industry with its own cultural norms, so make sure your future workplace stands for values and ethics that align with your own.

  1. Connect with your community and peers.

If you need help, ask! The process can be long, confusing and intimidating, but it’s important to know that there are people and organizations out there who want to help and have dedicated their own post-service careers to doing so. Just be careful to keep in mind what I mentioned earlier and to not measure yourself against others – everyone’s experience is different.

By doing each of these five things, I am confident that as service members work to close one door – at their own pace, of course – they will simultaneously open another full of security, opportunity and continued success.

Lawren Bradberry, MBA is a retired Army NCO and the Senior Manager of Military Programs at Galvanize, the nation’s leading provider of software engineering and data science training. More than 700 active-duty military and Veterans have used Galvanize training to get post-military tech jobs. For more information, visit Galvanize.com.

If Your Elevator Pitch Doesn’t Pack a Punch, You’re Doing it Wrong

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five job interviewees seated in chairs wating for job interview

By Amanda Huffman

No matter if you are an entrepreneur, looking for a job, or networking with others in your sphere of influence, you need to have a go-to elevator pitch that you can modify easily based on who you are talking to or what you hope to gain from the conversation.

The truth is, your moment to make a first impression needs to be short and sweet but have an impact. Your elevator pitch should be an open door to a conversation, not your one shot to get all the information out.

4 KEY PARTS OF A GREAT ELEVATOR PITCH

We will talk about the four things your intro needs to get the information to your audience in four to five short sentences. The best part is these tools are easy to customize based on where you are and who you are talking to. The problem with so many elevator pitches is they are not customizable. They are a one size fits all. It’s better to create a system that you can easily customize and change as you meet different people.

  1. What’s in a name?

It begins with the most important thing people need to know, your name.

You might want to blow right past your name. I mean you only have one name, right? But actually, you might have multiple names, and depending on where you are and who you are talking to will help you determine how to introduce yourself. If you are in a professional setting, you always want to use your full name and not a nickname. Depending on if you are meeting with others in your field and if you have specialized qualifications, you may want to add that too (ie Dr, military rank, etc.).

Deciding on how to introduce yourself is very important. It is the first impression of your intro, so pay attention to the clues around you. And when in doubt, just use your formal first and last name.

  1. Credentials

Depending on who you are talking to will help you determine what credentials you will list. But remember, you can only list up to three, and one may be all you need. For example, if you are meeting with a future employer, you will want to include the three qualifications that you have that make you the right candidate for the job. If you are networking at an event, you will want to use three qualifications relevant to the event you are attending.

The three things you mention are always based on the person or group of people you are talking to. They give you the credibility to talk about whatever you are going to talk about. And if you add in credentials that are not relevant to the topic of conversation, it may confuse the person you are talking to and be less likely to lead to a conversation.

  1. Your if…then statement

It is more an I help…to. But sometimes thinking about who or what you help isn’t easy. So instead, let’s think about it as if I do this then this will happen. You want the people to know who you are helping and what service you can provide to that group. Maybe it is a future employer and you are able to describe how you can help the company by using your technical skills from your experience. Or maybe you are an entrepreneur and your product or service has a direct impact on those in your target market. This statement is customizable based on where you are introducing yourself and the topic of conversation.

  1. Mic drop moment at the end.

This is the point where in the first minute of meeting someone or introducing yourself at an event that you want people to be blown away and ready to hear more or at a minimum to ask more about you. Don’t overthink it.

SAME PERSON BUT 3 ELEVATOR PITCHES

These four tools can help you as you move forward in the next step of your career. It is an easy way to have an elevator pitch that is customizable to your audience instead of focusing on you. It is focused on who you are talking to – because isn’t that who you are trying to impress anyways? Let’s walk through three examples.

  1. When I’m introduced to someone looking for a new career, with a technical degree…

Hi, I’m Amanda Huffman. I am an engineer turned freelance writer and podcaster. I help people realize that they can dream bigger in their future career than they ever thought possible. Because I did with my own life. I walked away from a career in engineering and the military to follow my passion, and I want others to feel fulfillment the way I do.

  1. When talking about my business to female veterans…

Hi, I’m Amanda Huffman. I am an Air Force combat veteran and the creator of the Women of the Military Podcast. I help empower veterans to share their stories, and I want veterans to know that their story matters.

  1. When I’m looking for a career in engineering…

Hi, I’m Amanda Huffman. I am a licensed Civil Engineer with experience in project management. I worked as a Civil Engineer in the Air Force on a number of different construction projects in both the US and overseas. My time in the military taught me to be innovative and work to get the job done. I would love to showcase how my skills can help XYZ business.

Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.

Source: Clearance Jobs

Tech Skills To Keep Your Resume Relevant

LinkedIn
Business man pointing finger towards computer screen with a flash of light surrounding screen and his hands on the keyboard

We know companies want to hire the most qualified candidate, but we often don’t take action to give ourselves the skills to make our resume stand out. Companies are incorporating more technology to streamline services and help workers accomplish more. To keep your resume relevant, you need to keep adding skills to your resume and demonstrate your understanding of computer programs.

The Internet is our number one source of information and has been for some time. We often forget how much we rely on the Internet, but it’s woven into the fabric of our lives. We check Google Maps for the fastest route to places we have been a hundred times and use digital coupons at the grocery store. Tech in the workplace is just as prevalent. Nearly every job requires proficiency in Google Workplace to be considered for a role, and that’s not before data analyst programs, customer management tools, or learning management systems.

Adding tech skills to your resume is the quickest way to upskill and gain favor with hiring managers.

Web Design: Because Every Company Has a Website

The information you depend on comes from the Internet. Internal sites at work and your child’s soccer team all have websites with relevant data that you need to make decisions. Some of these websites aren’t the most polished and could use some improvement. Learning web design isn’t always about making beautiful websites; its core function is to make them usable.

While WordPress and GoogleSite seem easy enough, you can really enhance your ability to make the website stand out if you have a solid grasp of web design. Without the proper knowledge, creating a site can take hours of frustrating work.

Data Analysis Is a Universal Skill

Another tech skill that spans across professions and hobbies is the ability to analyze data. Data analysis can help you impress your bosses at work and help your home brewed beer yield better results. Computer systems are constantly collecting data points, but the data isn’t useful in its original form; it has to be organized first.

Learning basic data science can help you earn more clients, improve efficiency, and determine customer trends. Nearly every company is looking for a data guru to improve data collection and analysis. Ironhack has a great data science program that can teach you all the skills you need to add data science to your resume.

Cybersecurity Will Always Be in Demand

Maintaining security online has never been more important. With the amount of data that companies have about their users, it’s vital that companies keep that information away from prying eyes. Since cybercriminals will always keep trying to hack websites, cybersecurity engineers won’t have to worry about job security.

Cybersecurity engineers do a variety of jobs to ensure there aren’t any weak points in a company’s computer systems. Ethical hackers try to break into the system to find any vulnerabilities. If they find any, engineers will fix the issues. This process will happen a lot as companies are frequently updating apps, sites, and algorithms. Cybersecurity engineers will have plenty of work keeping up with the new editions.

Working as a cybersecurity engineer doesn’t mean you are siloed into working exclusively for tech companies. The video games, banking, and business sectors need cybersecurity experts to help companies keep their clients safe. Cybersecurity can be a great way to gain access to an industry you have always wanted to work for but haven’t found an entry point.

Make the Time to Learn a Tech Skill

You don’t have to attend a coding bootcamp or return to school for another degree to learn tech skills. There are thousands of free ways to learn in-demand tech skills that will boost your resume and help you go further in the application process.

The excuse “I don’t have enough time” seems reasonable, but it’s inhibiting our self-improvement. The number of hours in a day doesn’t change, so in order to learn new tech skills, you need to make the time. It doesn’t have to be every day or two hour-long sessions. You merely need to schedule the time to learn the skill.

The world is only getting more technological, and every job is increasingly becoming a tech role. Even professions you wouldn’t associate with tech roles are starting to include more and more tech responsibilities. Teachers, administrators, and writers are beginning to incorporate coding, web design, and data analysis into their everyday work.

Moving? Make Sure Your Personal Property is Insured

LinkedIn
Close up of male hand packing property in cardboard box with spouse in the background

Military life is not without its moves, and you want to be sure your personal property is correctly insured. Standard homeowners and renter’s insurance policies provide coverage for a policyholder’s personal property while their belongings are at their residence, in transit or housed at a storage facility, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).

At the same time, standard homeowners and renter’s insurance policies will not pay for damage done to a policyholder’s personal property (e.g., furniture, beds and kitchen appliances) while the property is being handled by movers.

Before moving, the Triple-I advises homeowners and renters to ask themselves three questions:

Do My Current Insurance Policies Cover the Move?
Contact your insurance professional to make sure your current insurance policies offer the financial protection needed for your move and understand your other options.

What Types of Additional Insurance Coverages Are Available for A Move?
Trip transit insurance covers your personal property for perils including theft, disappearance or fire while the property is either in transit or storage. This type of insurance covers neither property breakage nor flood-caused damage. Special perils contents coverage will cover breakage for all but the most fragile items. A floater will fully protect valuables such as jewelry, collectibles and fine art. Moreover, if your personal property is going to be kept at a self-storage facility, you may want to explore purchasing separate storage coverage.

What Coverages Are Available Through Moving Companies?
Full value protection is a warranty plan under which your mover is liable for the replacement value of the personal property being moved. If any personal property is lost, destroyed or damaged while in the mover’s custody, the mover under the terms of the warranty will either repair or replace the item, or make a cash settlement for the cost of the repairs at the personal property’s current market value. Released value protection provides minimal coverage if your mover either loses or damages your personal property but separate liability coverage may be offered by your mover to supplement released value protection. Movers should provide to the owner written documentation of whatever coverage is purchased through them.

Source: III: Insurance Information Institute

It’s All About Service: 4 Tips for Finding the Right Entrepreneurial Fit

LinkedIn
man in army service attire standing in front of U.S. flag

By Matt Noe

A commonality among veterans is the entrepreneurial spirit that is cultivated through the discipline and skillset that comes with being in the military. These skills include determination, relationship-building, being process-oriented and having a passion for service, which can be easily be transferred into establishing and running a business.

When deciding what to do next after making the ultimate decision of returning home and departing from my active role in the military, I knew I had to be selective and had a laundry list of considerations to keep in mind. I relied heavily on my experience and skills to help find the best fit. Through a lot of my research, it became clear that franchising was the right route for me, and ultimately stumbled upon a drug testing franchise, Fastest Labs, which checked every box I was personally looking to fulfill in this venture.

While the transition back into a more traditional career after being in the military for over 4 years can be an adjustment, I want to share a handful of tips for recent veterans who are vetting opportunities and looking to take that next step, all of which served as a guiding light through this new, riveting venture.

Ask how you can give back to your community
When looking for the perfect business, there are a lot of options to consider, especially in franchising. Ranging from gyms, security companies, manufacturing businesses to restaurant concepts — the options can often be overwhelming at first. When in the first phases of narrowing down your options, I always kept my experiences in the military and deep-rooted appreciation for serving others. This was an aspect of my history with the military, I knew I had to carry into my new business — whatever it may be. Finding what motivates you can help in finding a business that provides a valuable, unique service to the community. One thing that drew me to Fastest Labs was how much it felt like a family. That support system and how well the business is run was a huge driving factor in why I decided to open a Fastest Labs in 2020. Local businesses play an integral role in one’s community, and asking how you can help support it is critical. It is important to look for values in not only the offerings of the concept, but the overall business model, reflect your own. These values play a major role in how you will be supported, which trickles down to the impact you will have on your community.

Search for an industry you have a baseline understanding of
Tapping into your past experience can assist you when considering your next industry for work. There is definitely room to grow and learn, but jumping head first into business ownership can be eased if you understand — or have some level of personal experience — with the industry, even if it’s from the consumer perspective. Coming from a military background, routine and surprise drug tests were part of the equation. When opening up a Fastest Labs, there was a comfort in having knowledge of how the business worked as well as a motivation to learn as much about the industry as possible. Look for an industry that you find interesting and build off of that in your search.

Focus on the skills required not the tasks you’ll complete
When starting a business, the lists of tasks can be intimidating. There were various classes and certifications that were needed before opening up Fastest Labs of Columbus, Ga. not to mention learning and instilling the best practices behind running a successful company. I knew that my military training and experiences — such as delegation, multitasking and problem-solving — would provide an impactful foundation for running and growing a successful business. When you’re looking for a next step in your career, try to not get hung up on the technical tasks required, rather, focus on the skills needed to be successful, and you’ll see the boxes being checked off naturally.

Have the hard discussions early
Money can be a sensitive topic, and it can be hard to factor it into the conversation when your heart is already sold on an idea, which is why your realistic budget should be top-of-mind from the very beginning. It is also important to do your research, because costs can differ depending on what franchises you are considering — think about every aspect of the business and what will be required for you to invest. Knowing that entrepreneurship was on the table, my fiancé and I began to save while I was still overseas, which allowed us to open our business in record time (six weeks) and hit the ground running, even amid the pandemic. Taking financials into consideration is key, and making a plan on how to spend and save early will surely be a pillar in your success story.

About the Author
Matt Noe is the Owner and Operator of Fastest Labs of Columbus, Ga. Noe started his career in the military and served multiple tours overseas with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as the 10th Mountain Division. After the military, Noe served as a government contractor. Noe greatly enjoyed serving his country but had dreams to pursue entrepreneurship. While oversees, Noe searched for the perfect franchisee opportunity for him and was drawn to the family-like atmosphere that he found in Fastest Labs. Noe opened the Columbus, Ga. location in 2020 and manages and operates the business with his fiancé, Rebecca.

Five Things I Wish Service Members Knew Ahead of Their Civilian Transition

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By Lawren Bradberry, MBA

I remember how confident and prepared I felt when I transitioned from active duty service. But as soon as I put away my uniform, it hit me: I needed help navigating the difficult and oft-talked-about transition to civilian life. Connecting with other Veterans and Veteran service organizations helped me navigate life after military service. So much so, in fact, it motivated me to focus my career on transitioning service members and Veterans.
Unfortunately, many Veterans I wound up working with struggled to adjust to civilian life more than they expected. Many struggled to find their way, unaware of the many resources available to help them find their way after military service.
Each day, more than 500 service members will start their transition. To them and the thousands more who will eventually make the very same transition, I offer five pieces of proactive advice from my own personal experience:

1. Make the most of your education benefits and career training opportunities.
Veterans can use their education benefits to pay for training programs, so you should be sure to look into ways to maximize what you’re getting out of benefits. Keep in mind, however, that not all programs are covered in the same way, and not every program includes the same type of training or extra resources to aid you throughout your process. Since 2009, 773,000 Veterans and their family members have utilized these funds for programs ranging from technology to entrepreneurship to foreign affairs and so many more, so do your homework and research your options before making a decision.

2. Remember that every transition story is different.
While there are certainly some commonalities, no Veteran goes through their transition in the same way – each person has their own strengths and faces their own unique challenges. There is no right way to execute your transition and there’s no need to rush, so take all the time you need to adjust and find your new routine. One thing that took me a while, as silly as it might seem to some, was figuring out what to wear! I wore a uniform every single day for years, so I never even stopped to consider the endless options of what I could wear to work as a civilian, and what message that might communicate.

3. Take pride in what you bring to the table.
By the time you reach the end of your commitment, you may have led teams into life-or-death situations, made high-level decisions, or managed millions of dollars in equipment. Even though you may be starting your career later than your civilian peers, your experiences are unmatched in comparison. Learn to tell your story with confidence in a way that demonstrates the skills and experiences you gained in the military, and how they translate to future opportunities.

4. Keep your personal values in mind.
Just like the different branches of the military, every organization has its own unique culture. As you search for employment, take the time to learn about the mission and values of the organizations you’re interested in. Veterans often return home with a very specific set of core values and ideals, and it’s hard enough to make the transition to a different industry with its own cultural norms, so make sure your future workplace stands for values and ethics that align with your own.

5. Connect with your community and peers.
If you need help, ask! The process can be long, confusing and intimidating, but it’s important to know that there are people and organizations out there who want to help and have dedicated their own post-service careers to doing so. Just be careful to keep in mind what I mentioned earlier and to not measure yourself against others – everyone’s experience is different.

By doing each of these five things, I am confident that as service members work to close one door – at their own pace, of course – they will simultaneously open another full of security, opportunity and continued success.

Lawren Bradberry, MBA is a retired Army NCO and the Senior Manager of Military Programs at Galvanize, the nation’s leading provider of software engineering and data science training. More than 700 active-duty military and Veterans have used Galvanize training to get post-military tech jobs. For more information, visit Galvanize.com.

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