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A Transitioning Veteran’s Biggest Challenge

DMG PhotoWhile transitioning out of the military, the greatest challenge I faced is one that many Veteran organizations don’t attempt to solve. I wasn’t wounded and I don’t suffer from psychological burdens with PTSD that keep me from chasing success, as these challenges far surpass the ones I’ve experienced.

What I’m referring to, something that I believe applies to all Veterans, was my lack of understanding about the differences between military and civilian career progression. 

Military job fairs, translating Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) to civilian skills on resumes, interview training, and other mechanisms for helping Veterans transition are valuable services that combat challenges during transition.

However, while in the military I followed a rigid career path as I was promoted to higher rank. Roughly every few years, the group responsible for career progression in my unit gave me limited options to choose from for my next military job. There were many mentors available to me who had followed a similar path to make it easier for me to make an informed decision.

If I worked hard at obtaining a specific job that was on my list of options, I could increase my likelihood of getting it.  Yet, if I did no extra work to get my next military job, the military would still give me one.

I found a very different scenario in civilian life. I was fundamentally unaware of the tactical actions I had to take to succeed, which proved overwhelming and frustrating after my career in the military. I was lucky to overcome this and find what I love to do, but am concerned that many of my fellow Veterans are not so lucky.

While leaving active duty, I often heard ex-military folks suggesting a common set of options for my post-military life: government agencies, defense contractors, medical device sales, getting that next level academic degree. I’m sure many Veterans hear the same advice, and treat those options as if they are the only ones available, falling into old habits from how they found their previous jobs in the military.

mil jobfair

But those options didn’t fit my ambitions. I realized that my true list of options was limitless, yet I didn’t have that person assigned to me to ensure I ended up in a position that suited my skills; nobody standing by to mentor me as I made a decision that would impact my family and me for the rest of our lives.

I found two key skills most valuable to help overcome this transitional challenge:

1) Networking to find mentors – Because no one was assigned to give me a job, I learned that networking was key for civilian employment. Finding a “wingman” to go with me to networking events (where I felt awkward and uncomfortable otherwise) to introduce me to his/her network was enormously helpful.

Organizations that help connect you to like-minded folks in specific civilian industries, such as Vets In Tech and Get Skills To Work, are great places to start searching for these live events and mentors.

Online social networking tools allowed me to research people who had the job I thought I wanted, and I was able to use those tools to get to more of those people than I ever expected. RockTech’s platform (tailored with content for Veterans in partnership with General Electric) can help Veterans looking to get more from LinkedIn.

The marriage of online and offline tools was overwhelmingly useful.

2) Selling my plan to my new mentors while seeking candid feedback – You never really have to sell anything in the military, especially not yourself.  You have to earn badges and ribbons, make rank, and score well on evaluations, but you rarely have to verbally sell yourself as you do in civilian life to get your next role. This concept is inconsistent with the humble professionals we are taught to be while in uniform.

Additionally, when you present your battle plan, the military teaches you to deliver it with confidence and a command presence that leaves no question in your conviction for executing that plan.

You can’t tell your troops to take a hill and then say “… er, um, unless you guys have a better idea?” Because many veterans join the service early in life, often while still teenagers, we often don’t know where to start crafting our civilian battle plan and just aren’t qualified to speak with such confidence.

We need to make a plan and ask for candid feedback from mentors who have experience to help confirm or deny whether our plan makes sense. An extra challenge here is that many civilians handle Veterans “gently”, out of respect for their service, often being too nice to provide candid feedback.

If you fall into this category as a mentor to a Veteran, realize that this Service member has likely weathered much worse than a verbal disagreement. You’re doing them a disservice if you don’t provide constructive criticism to help them shape their career.

If you know of resources for Veterans to use in their transition for these or other skills, please share them in the comment section.

Smart words about journalism from danah boyd

danah

 

 

danah's the bravest and most effective writer on matters like keeping kids safe on the Internet, getting the facts out in areas where people tend to make stuff up.

Her post on Medium might articulate a lot about journalism, both from a journalism and a news consumer perspective. You can read it here.

She gets to the point, writing simply and effectively.

"… since when did the practice of journalism allow for uncritically making shit up? ::shaking head:: Where’s the fine line between poor journalism and fabrication?"

Also, check out her new book, It's Complicated

(Note to self: this also reminds me that I don't write so good.)

5 women bloggers you really need to follow

Hey, I don't think women are noted frequently enough for their accomplishments. Women dominate social media and have a huge impact in the blogosphere, but aren't always recognized.

My team and I compiled a list of women bloggers who are the real deal. You should follow these folks on Twitter, and check out their blogs. These women are on top of of the latest tech news, nonprofit strategies, and social media trends.

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5 Women Bloggers to Follow:

Xeni Jardin is an editor and blogger for Boing Boing, a web zine they describe as being "devoted to the weird, wonderful and wicked things to be found in technology and culture." Independent for nearly 25 years, they publish a daily mix of short articles, long features, and video productions.


Beth Kanter is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing.


Shelly Kramer blogs about internet marketing, social media, and tech at V3, a full service integrated marketing, digital communications and social media agency.


Kara Swisher is co-CEO of Revere Digital, co-executive editor and blogger for Re/code, and co-executive producer of The Code Conference. Re/code is an independent tech news, reviews and analysis site. Because everything in tech and media is constantly being rethought, refreshed, and renewed, Re/code’s aim is to reimagine tech journalism.


Amy Vernon is the author of Dear Amy. Amy is among the top 15 contributors of all time on Digg.com (and the highest-ranked female ever), and is recognized for her knowledge of writing, community, and social media.


Who would you add to this list? What women bloggers do you have bookmarked on your reading list?

How your charity can raise $50K+ for Vets and Heroes

Hey, we're launching the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 to raise money for good causes.

Last year I sponsored the first Veterans Charity Challenge to raise money for nonprofits that support veterans and their families. The challenge was so successful that we decided to host the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 this year, but include more folks who really have their boots on the ground. I'm giving $50k to support orgs who are doing good work.

cc challenge

This challenge is for all nonprofits that support veterans, military families, police, and firefighters. It starts in just a few weeks, over on CrowdRise, and there's still time for you to get involved. Here are some reasons why your org should sign up:

    • Last year's Veterans Charity Challenge raised over $445,000 for causes like yours
    • This year's Veterans Charity Challenge 2 goes from May 22nd at 12pm ET and runs through July 3rd at 11:59:59am ET
    • The charity team that raises the most during the Challenge gets $20k, second place get $10k and third place gets $5k
    • Plus, there'll be another $15k given away in cash and prizes throughout the Challenge
    • Even if you don't win a grand prize, you get to keep the money you raised

Getting involved is easy, folks. Just Go Here and click the Start a Fundraiser button.

Okay…now that you know how to sign up for the Veterans Charity Challenge 2, check out the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 Toolkit. It's a reference guide to help you raise more money than you thought possible for your cause. The Toolkit has really important stuff, including sample calendars and tips.

And, as an extra bonus, if you browse the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 Toolkit and find the hidden movie quote, Email CrowdRise with the name of the movie it's from and you'll be entered to win a pizza party for your org on launch day (May 22nd).

Please share this challenge with all the orgs you know that support vets, milfams, police, and firefighters. These folks do a lot for our country, and it's important to give back. Email CrowdRise with any clarifying questions, they're the real deal.

This isn't altruism, it just feels right.

Local-Global Youth Development

Folks, the Organic Health Response (OHR) is located on Mfangano Island, Kenya, in the heart of Lake Victoria.  They seek to activate information technology, social solidarity, and environmental sustainability to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria.

Over the years we've supported OHR’s ICT initiatives, namely a highspeed Internet link from their ICT resource headquarters, the Ekialo Kiona (EK) Center, on Mfangano Island to the nearest mainland city of Kisumu. This record breaking link is East Africa’s longest wifi connection (You can read more here: WiFi to Help Out HIV/AIDS on Mfangano Island).

The Ekialo Kiona Center implements a suite of programs including the innovative Cyber-Voluntary Counseling and Testing Pilot, a computer lab with 17 low-powered Inveneo PCs, an organic demonstration farm and native tree nursery, the world’s first microclinic program for people living HIV/AIDS, and EK-FM, a youth-driven community radio station.

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The Organic Health Response helps connect kids to their local ICT resources by hosting school field trips to the EK computer lab. According to OHR,

"Last week, a group of 15 kids trickled in to the EK Center for their first tour, led by EK’s ICT Coordinator, Brian Mattah. Sounds of excitement bounced off the ferro-cement walls, as little fingers punched away at the keyboards.  For many, this was their first experience in front of a computer screen. In conjunction with a fieldtrip, Mfangano youth are paired with student pen-pals at Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater, MN. Over the years these kids will learn to communicate with each other via email. At the same time, students in the USA learn about life on Mfangano Island and help raise money to support each field trip."

The EK Center's the only high-speed Internet hub on the entire island. For local youth, there are no training facilities in their island communities to support a healthy connection to the outside world.

OHR supports local-global youth development by providing ICT experiences at a young age (computer training, journalism, radio production, and editing skills), in hopes of building and empowering skilled and empowered leaders for the future.  EK-FM youth presenters have been sending us posts over the last few months (More here…). Stay tuned for even more from these talented folks.