StableStrides: Why Horses are Used for Therapy for Veterans

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A man wearing a camoflauge shirt, looking at a black horse

by April Phillips, StableStrides

Horses are not only “good for the inside of a man,” but uniquely suited for mental health therapy for veterans due to both instinct and behavior.

When paired with a human, a horse will intuitively react to behavioral patterns or body language from the human. This gives insight into how a person is being perceived. Because they are prey animals, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger and respond quickly with either confrontation or flight. This instinct allows for a deeper level of intervention with a therapist that surpasses any other mental health treatment.

StableStrides is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose primary focus is mental health therapy with horses. Situated in the large military community of Colorado Springs, CO, StableStrides is uniquely positioned to serve veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. On a mission to significantly improve the lives of people through a connection with horses, StableStrides exists because of horses and their ability to touch the lives of people.

Horses and humans share a history that goes back to ancient times and has continued to today. Their role in medicine was first prescribed by Hippocrates (460 BC-375 BC) as a form of natural movement that strengthened the body. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” believed in health that united body and mind and studied treatment for trauma and mental healthcare. Since then, relationships between horse and human has been studied and incorporated into modern medical practices, both physical and mental.

The physical aspects of horseback riding are used to develop physical strength, muscle development and other physical benefits, while the relationship between horse and human is known to strengthen both mind and spirit. Today, the term Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) defines the use of the horse in recreational and medical intervention. A large portion of EAAT is focused on veterans and their healing journeys during and after service. When partnered with a horse, a veteran is asking the horse to enter into a relationship with them that requires mutual trust and some degree of vulnerability.

One veteran reflects on his mental health sessions at StableStrides by asking:

“How could they go from resting and relaxed to full alert, with a first instinct to run, then to relax again, in seconds? How they could let go of that tension and anxiety and just “be?” As a herd animal, they entrust leadership to the strongest. That leader makes the decisions for the herd for as long as it’s capable or trusted. How can a prey animal, the horse, come to trust an apex predator, a human, with their safety? What a concept. This huge, powerful animal, easily capable of killing me, that fears me because I am a predator, could come to trust and work for me because it wants to.”

As prey animals, centuries of domestication have done little to lessen the horse’s response to danger. They understand that their best chance in escaping danger is to flee. As a result, the horse’s “fight-or-flight” instinct is used for decision making. In addition, horses are extremely perceptive and communicate with body language to convey fear, anger, calm or anxiety.

In a herd, each member relies on the leaders in the hierarchy to make decisions for the safety of the herd, if that leader can be trusted. When in the absence of a herd, the horse will determine if the human is to be trusted as the leader. If not, the horse will decide on his own what is safest.

Therapists have selected horses to incorporate into therapy due to these characteristics, including what many call “mirroring of emotions”. While horses aren’t mirrors, they will often reflect their leader’s emotions. If their leader senses danger and responds with fear, so will the horse. If the horse senses calm in their leader, the horse will likewise be calm, trusting their leader’s instinct. In mental health therapy, the therapist incorporates the horse and the relationship between veteran and horse for a dynamic and therapeutic environment. Through the horse’s reactivity, a veteran and therapist are able to examine and process behavioral reactions or emotional incongruencies. This requires the veteran to be present and mindful as to what is unfolding, and to be transparent about reactions.

Many organizations such as StableStrides exist for the horse-human connection and improve lives through EAAT. Through a connection with horses, mental health therapy strengthens families and individuals. Because of the horse’s unique qualities and instincts, incorporating horses into mental health allows for a therapeutic intervention that surpasses any other form of mental health therapy.

Photo Credit: Amy May Images 

 

 

 

4 Strategies for Rebounding from a Rejection Letter

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Young man with tablet computer checking his e-mail at home

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)

Serving the Called — Letter From the Editor

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Kellie Pickler featured cover story

Merriam-Webster defines military service as “time spent serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc…” A simple, literal definition whose meaning goes so much deeper.

Service is at the heart of every facet of the military, no matter which branch you serve.

You might hear servicemembers and veterans alike speak of being ‘called to serve,’ or inspired to be of service in any capacity to their fellow man, their country and the greater good.

It’s this devotion to serving others – and the sacrifice it requires – that puts us in awe of our veterans, military members, spouses and families. It’s why we can never thank them enough.

Our cover story, singer Kellie Pickler, is attempting to do just that by serving those who have been called. By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), 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,” Pickler shares.

“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.” Read more about Picker’s mission to serve on page 88.

If you’re preparing to transition from service, or have already started a new job, check out these 10 career tips on page 25 to keep you on a positive course.

Kat Castagnoli headshot
Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine

Looking for new career options? Consider putting your military experience to work in the electronics industry on page 28.

If you’re a recruiter, check out these 3 tips companies need to successfully attract and hire veterans on page 36.

Maybe offering a work-from-home option could be a draw, as most employees want to continue working from home on page 38 in these postpandemic times.

In honor of all of those who have served or are serving, we here at U.S. Veterans Magazine are proud to provide the information, content and stories that continue to serve you and your career and business needs.

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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Black man and white man smiling and shaking hands while standing with colleagues

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

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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.

Navy Federal Credit Union Report Reveals New Financial Habits for Military Families During the Pandemic

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Military Spouse, husband in fatigues and daughter pose casually in frontyard

Navy Federal Credit Union recently released a new report on the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on military families.

The survey of more than 1,100 active duty servicemembers, veterans and military spouses illustrates the new financial habits military families picked up, their financial plans for the coming months, differences in saving and spending across generations, and the disparate impact of the pandemic on military spouses.

Household Expenses and New Financial Habits

As a result of the pandemic, Navy Federal found that the majority of military households cut expenses and adopted new financial habits in 2020, with 89 percent of respondents indicating that they spent less on an expense in 2020. The most common expenses cut include:

  • Vacation travel (63 percent)
  • Eating out (58 percent
  • Entertainment (57 percent)
  • Self-care (41 percent)
  • Clothing (40 percent)
  •  
    Military families did more than just cut back on their spending though, with 77 percent indicating that the upheaval of 2020 caused them to embrace at least one new financial habit. The most common new financial habits reported were:

  • 43 percent cut back on daily spending
  • 36 percent kept track of finances more closely
  • 27 percent established or added to an emergency savings fund
  • 26 percent paid off credit card bill monthly
  • 25 percent used digital/contactless payment
  • 23 percent maintained a monthly budget
  • 20 percent set up autopay for bills or recurring payments
  •  
    “The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every facet of our lives, and our members have taken this turmoil in stride and adapted their financial habits to face this new challenge,” said Clay Stackhouse, a retired Marine Corps colonel and regional outreach manager at Navy Federal. “At Navy Federal, we’re passionate about supporting military communities and dedicating resources to ensure they have financial tools and knowledge needed to meet their financial goals. Our proactive approach and ongoing dedication to our members allowed us to support military families during this challenging time.”

    Military Families Re-emerge: Summer Spending and Travel

    As more Americans are vaccinated and it becomes safe to travel; dine out at restaurants, shop or visit entertainment venues; and see family and friends, most military families plan to re-emerge this summer and start spending again. Overall, 69 percent of military families report they plan to do more or just as much in summer 2021 as they did in past summers. Similarly, 64 percent report they will spend either more money or just as much money as usual this summer. Still, a significant portion of military households plan to maintain their pandemic spending habits, with 35 percent indicating they will spend less than in past summers. Other key findings regarding summer include:

  • Military families report they plan to travel more frequently (43 percent), go out to restaurants and bars (31 percent) and shop in-person at stores (25 percent).
  • More active duty servicemembers (34 percent) plan to go out and do more things this summer than in the past than veterans (21 percent) and military spouses (23 percent).
  • Most military families plan to bring back vacation travel (60 percent).
  •  
    Differences Across Generations and the Impact on Spouses

    When looking at different age groups of servicemembers, veterans and spouses, differences begin to emerge across generations when it comes to pandemic spending, new financial habits and post-pandemic outlook. Navy Federal found that:

  • The younger you are, the more likely you were to pick up a new financial habit
    1. 18-34 (86 percent)
      35-54 (76 percent)
      55+ (66 percent)
  • Younger people in the military community are more likely to have increased the amount of food they have ordered for delivery or pickup
    1. 18-34 (46 percent)
      35-54 (33 percent)
      55+ (36 percent)
  • Younger people report feeling high levels of uncertainty or feeling stuck more so than older generations
    1. 18-34 (26 percent)
      35-54 (21 percent)
      55+ (12 percent)

    Additionally, the research study showed that military spouses experienced a greater impact from the pandemic, and its effects will likely last, even as the pandemic wanes:

  • Of households who reported they cut childcare expenses in 2020, 55 percent indicate they plan on delaying or not bringing back this expense.
  • 46 percent of active duty spouses report cutting back on self-care during COVID compared to just 31 percent of servicemembers.
  • 81 percent of active duty spouses reported a higher level of uncertainty about post-pandemic life.
  • Navy Federal uses the data and insights it gleans from this research to provide timely and relevant financial tools in support of its members’ financial journeys. Navy Federal has been continually recognized for its dedication in delivering exceptional service for its members, ensuring members are educated and can achieve their financial goals though all life stages.

    About Navy Federal Credit Union: Established in 1933 with only seven members, Navy Federal now has the distinct honor of serving over 10.5 million members globally and is the world’s largest credit union. As a member-owned and not-for-profit organization, Navy Federal always puts the financial needs of its members first. Membership is open to all branches of the armed forces and their families. Dedicated to its mission of service, Navy Federal employs a workforce of over 23,000 and has a global network of 345 branches. For more information about Navy Federal Credit Union, visit navyfederal.org.

    Federally insured by NCUA. Equal Opportunity Employer.

    Methodology: These are the results of a survey of more than 1,100 active duty servicemembers (n=255), veterans (n=543) and military spouses (n=334). Current and former military household interviews were conducted online among Navy Federal Members as well as a general population component through Maru/Blue. Data were aggregated and weighted on age and military affiliation status. The survey was fielded March 24 – April 6, 2021.

    Moving? Make Sure Your Personal Property is Insured

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    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

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    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.

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