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Bunker Busting Transitions

Americans have transitioned successfully from military to civilian life since the Minute Men hung up their muskets. Millions of us have put our uniforms away and started new work-days doing something else. It is a very natural thing to do. Furthermore, the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration and certainly the "alumni groups" from your branch of the military are all extremely active in helping you transition successfully, both formally and informally. The trick is to optimize your chances of grabbing something more than a decent job. You have at this moment one chance to direct your energy, time and resources toward a job that is perfect for you in every possible way, just where you want to be.

The roots of the approach you are about to learn are found in my book "Will it Fly?" where an "Innovator's Scorecard" is used to find the best ideas around which to build businesses. Here we convert that business tool into an employment tool for you. It will function extremely well in just about all fields of employment from teaching, to the clergy, medicine, politics, law, and all forms of commerce. You will need to open and manage the accompanying excel spreadsheet that will be filled in for each possible job opportunity. The one with the highest score wins.

The magic in this program is its simple, hand-over-hand, progression to maximum personal satisfaction. You will identify a critical underserved need. Then you will create a realistic solution. Then you will inspire letters from people who want you to solve the need you identified, and finally you will find an employer who will hire you to help your "customers." Briefly stated, you will obliterate the risk of hiring you, and in the process you will be firming up your self-confidence that you can accomplish your mission the way you envision it. Everyone loves to hire winners and winners always exude great self-confidence. Winners know exactly where they are going and what they're going to do when they get there.

One of the keys in this program is a stack of letters we are going to inspire from people who want your solutions. If you take nothing else away from this exercise, there could never be anything more powerful in your employment campaign than this stack of letters from prospective consumers or customers who want your solution to their needs.

I hope you will have as much fun with the exercise as I have had in creating it for you. If you want to launch a business, study "Will it fly?" If you want a great job, go through this exercise, get your stack of letters, saddle up and attack your target market. Ready? Let's get busy.

Stage One: Who ARE you?

1. Myers Briggs Test

Most of you have taken this test and over the years its results can shift. It tries to identify a number of personal traits about you. Take it, find your latest four-letter code and understand what it says about you. Often you can find hints about what career paths are likely to be best for you.

Here's the URL: http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html

Bunker Busting: The results of this test can sometimes work against you in the workplace so don't broadcast your four letter code. Furthermore, try to heed the signs of the results from this test. For example, if it says you are an introvert, please don't take a job where extraverts excel. You'll be miserable.

2. S.W.O.T.

This is an acronym for one of the ways we analyze a going enterprise. It is a snapshot that can be quickly prepared, often delivering startling results if the author (that would be you writing about yourself) is honest and well informed. It is one of our favorite tools in graduate business schools. Here we turn the S.W.O.T. analysis upon you as if you were a going enterprise.

A. Strengths - What are your personal strengths?

This is the section where you will identify, groom, expand, list, and prioritize your strong points. No fair inflating your strengths. Sample strengths could include gregariousness, patience, discipline, persistence, good at numbers, great writer, good physical condition, well connected, multi lingual, extraordinarily well informed about a specific subject matter, greater public speaker, etc. Do NOT include military lore and craftsmanship-marksmanship, gunnery, rocket guidance, and parade field drilling are not likely to be of great use in the civilian world. Just list the relevant material.

B. Weaknesses - What are your personal weaknesses?

We are going to identify, prioritize and confront your weaknesses. Some will be easy to over come, others maybe not. Examples of weaknesses could include lack of business skills, don't like to be around civilians, don't like to work with (Democrats or Republicans - pick 'em), don't have any credentials in the activities where you want to work, no self-confidence, etc.

Bunker Busting: Be careful who learns this information. "Weaknesses" are only for you to know and the others to never find out.

Ideally, you will want to convert each of your key weaknesses into strengths. The quickest way to do that is through education, some of it time consuming and some of it maybe not (see shortcuts below). Need to know something about business? Earn an MBA. Need to know something about computers? Pick up a Microsoft certificate. Want to teach at the graduate level? Earn a Ph.D. Your challenge will be to convert weaknesses to strengths as soon as possible.

If you are eager to get moving and need to conquer a weakness or two, here are some ideas about a shortcut. If you cannot earn a graduate degree such as an MBA, take individual graduate level university courses that address the weakness. If you are geographically far away from a good graduate program, contact Prentice Hall or McGraw Hill and identify the best graduate level textbook on the subject. Buy it, devour it, and create your own course as if you were the professor. Buy and absorb the corresponding teacher's aid book. Build lectures around each chapter with power point slides. "Own" the subject matter. Amazon and possibly Harvard Business Publications are full of publications on all these matters. First become a good student, then become a good teacher, then get published somewhere.

Bunker Busting: If all else fails, publish your material somewhere on the web. If anyone at any prospective employer or recruiter mentions that you have a weakness in (fill in the blank), give them a site to the articles you published on the subject. Don't forget to mention the site in your resume.

If you are trying to overcome a weakness in non-commercial employment, you can learn all about it by reading books listed in Amazon or in articles that appear on LexisNexis or Dow Jones News Retrieval. These are two research tools that allow you to dig up newspaper and magazine articles about your subject. The research capabilities and quality of writing about your area of curiosity will probably be spectacular. But they are really expensive. Use Google and Yahoo as much as possible and then head for your local library - they often have access to these tools (or the librarian will certainly know how to put your hands on them for free).

Bunker Busting: For business and commercial weaknesses, use the same research tools I mentioned above but add Harvard Business Publications at http://www.virtualref.com/abs/50.htm. Unfortunately, this too can be expensive if you need a bundle of the cases or notes. My experience is that there are some seminal notes that you will keep in your drawer for constant reference. It's worth a look.

If you are considering a job somewhere in commerce, here are some possible weaknesses:
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Management (in a commercial context which can be very different)
  • Operations process
  • Human resources
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Strategic development
  • Regulations over target industry
  • Basic law in contract, property, banking, corporations, labor and securities
Bunker Busting: Do NOT be intimidated by these subjects. You will be amazed at how much of this material you have actually practiced over the last 20 years. You will often need only to recalibrate your thinking and not learn everything from scratch. Dive in, the water's fine! And never forget that if you come up with a solution to a critical need, it is likely to be so powerful that the new employer builds a team around you with wizards who understand the subject matter of your weakness better than you ever will. A drive-by self study could be all that is required.

C. Opportunities - Temporarily on hold. You are just now in the first stage of a multi stage exercise that is all about spotting your opportunities and closing on that one deal for the best job in the best location. When you have completed the ten stages, this sector will have been solved. The reason why we are proceeding with the exercise without your knowledge of the "Opportunities" is because of the value of knowing your strengths, weaknesses and threats as we proceed.

D. Threats - What threats do you see against your success? These tend to be external because the internal threats to your progress have already been identified in the section on "weaknesses." These items are often things over which you have no control. However, you can avoid circumstances that would be most vulnerable to a threat that actually pops up. Here are some possibilities:
1.) Recession - when the economy tanks, it's not easy to sell much of anything.

2.) Competition - this could threaten the products you have mastered. Competitors will steal your consumers/customers and your employer's sales will go "poof." What happens if you cannot generate enough revenues to swamp your costs? You look around fast for a place to land, hopefully with the same enterprise.

3.) Technical obsolescence - yes, your product could be bypassed but in these industrial times, mastery of one product that has been sideswiped by another is nearly always loaded with tools and contacts with which to return the "favor" with an even newer product. As the old Apostles Creed mentioned, there are the quick and there are the dead.

4.) Poor health - keep up the exercise, lose the weight, and dump the bad habits. How often do you need to hear that?

5.) Financial problems at new employer - this is why you go to trade shows, join trade association committees, and keep business cards. Network. Network. Network. Just leap to a winner when the time is right.
3. Essay

Jot down a quick essay on who you are. What is your personality? What are your strong points, how can you enhance your arsenal of strengths, what weaknesses need to be avoided or conquered, and what threats do you foresee? What, briefly, is your plan to conquer weaknesses? In sum, who ARE you?

Bunker Busting: Write the essay. Honest. Don't slough it off. The writing effort will be powerful reinforcement. Have your spouse or someone really close to you edit it - they'll often add or soften things that you believe about yourself. Address the stuff that is missing because it's almost automatic that a void in your background will be used against you - unless you come up with something so powerful that your weakness will be overcome by other team members. Think.

Be sure to read the Fast Track Newsletters for the next stage: Occupations

Copyright © 2005 Thomas Kerns McKnight

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