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Part II: Vets on Planet Jobless

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On Planet Jobless, or as some call it, "Earth," almost everything you know about finding work has been turned upside down.

  • EXPERIENCE can hurt you.
  • WELL-WRITTEN RESUMES mean nothing.
  • RESULTS don't matter.
  • LOYALTY or LONGEVITY is a quaint memory.
  • WELL-RUN COMPANIES are no longer the goal.
  • HAVING A CONVERSATION is rare.

Here on Planet Jobless, you are standing in the giant, universal line to find a job. The line is barely moving. Up front you've heard rumors of jobs. But you can't see the front.

The line is peppered with billboards that read: Veteran Unemployment. A National Shame. No shortage of billboards and bumper stickers here.

On your back are all the instruction books on how to write a perfect resume, interview and network. Lots of good advice, almost none of which is really wrong. The problem is... you've read those books.

You are a veteran of the United States Military. That means you have experienced firsthand perhaps the finest training organization on any planet. Even this one.

But here on Planet Jobless, the training on how to chart your own, personal work search never seems to be finished. Something is missing.

When you first took your place in line, somebody handed you a book. In the book were the basics of how to get a job. Cautionary tales of chewing gum in job interviews. Lessons in the obvious like, "make sure the people who recommend you really will say something nice."

The usual advice. None of it new. But what are your options? So you stand in the job search line. You might be munching on potato chips watching a daytime talk show or staring blankly at an internet job board, or filling out a profile in an HR office. But you are in some form of this line.

So you begin to wonder. What if...

What if the way a veteran connected with not just any job, but the right job, didn't come from a field level tactical rule book? What if the real key to finding work was in strategic level principles, adaptable by each individual vet, in their own unique way? Principles that not only connected them to the right job, but also to the kind of mission driven, substantial onboarding program that kept the vet engaged in the job? That kept the vet both satisfied and productive in the work? What if there really was a set of principles that provided a jumping off point for doing all that?

What if there was a way to think differently about finding and keeping work? Not a magic, one size fits all formula. A set of principles.

In Part I, we talked about telling your story, the first of The Five from "Finding Work When There Are No Jobs." The second of The Five is "Adding Music." This one sounds the strangest. Perhaps a clue that it might be the most powerful. So as you wonder what this could possibly have to do with finding work, try a quick experiment. See how long it takes you to remember a catchy musical jingle from any TV commercial. Got it? OK. Then here's the point. See how easy that was? The music captured the product someone was selling, differentiated it from all others and placed it off in its own little corner of your brain. Music, used as a metaphor, with its infinite varieties of rhythm, discipline, harmony, song, inspiration and even mathematical underpinnings can be a "thought-prompter" for all the ways you can make your story, skills and unique talents different than anyone else. The musical "thought prompt" might only last a second. It will be different every time. Different for every person. But it could provide that unique, extra push that prompts a hiring manager to say "Yes."

When a top-tier recruiter fills a job, what they look for above all else is what they call "fit." What is fit? Everybody has their own definition. But "fit" is always the answer to the question, "Why is this person best for this job?" Fit is an educated judgment call. It is listening to the same song and hearing what someone else hears.

"Adding music" is, perhaps above all, a way for you to think about and get to "fit."

How do you add music? Maybe it's in the way you describe your story. A metaphor for the rhythm of being able to perform a task consistently. Maybe it's the way you get across the "song" that always comes into your head when you describe doing what you do best. Maybe it's the tone of voice that conveys your energy. There is no right answer here. There is only your answer. Your communication that there is a fit between you and the job.

What might "adding music" look like in action?

It's an August afternoon in Little Rock, Ark. Heat that just for a moment reminds the soldier on his way to the job interview of an Iraqi sun. But in the cool, air-conditioned safety of his car, the soldier is listening to Johnny Cash sing about keeping his eyes wide open all the time. Hearing that song, the soldier is now ready for this interview.

Then, about 20 minutes later, deep into the conversation, the hiring manager asks what sounds like a very simple question. She says to the soldier, "How do you stay motivated?"

And the soldier answers:

"I remember once I had this commanding officer. He led our unit through a lot of tough times. We all needed some motivation of some kind or another. So what he would always do, is when he'd see one of us with our chin on the ground, he would come up and stand right in front of that soldier and he'd say, 'Soldier? What's our mission?' It doesn't sound like much. But when he said it, you could hear all six syllables like they were being played on a snare drum. It wasn't a command. It was a question. Like a drumbeat question. It made me find the motivation inside myself. So my answer is, 'I find the motivation in myself.'"

With that answer, the hiring manager heard that snare drum too. She decided that soldier was a "fit." Twenty minutes later, she offered him the job.

Adding music is the most amorphous of The Five. But it has to be. It's a metaphor for the way you get across that you are a "fit"

Your way to get off of Planet Jobless.

Your way to get back to work.