Top 10 Resume Blunders

May 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Courtesy of SAI, top 10 resume blunders.

Note the link w/ LinkedIn’s list of over-used buzz-words, broken down by geography.

Categories: Career Management

On Government–it’s not the size, but the nature that counts

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Excellent article on ‘collaborative governance’.

Discusses the idea that there are many models of commercial/government/non-profit collaboration that can tackle large challenges affecting the public good.

Think about how you can align the trajectory of your career with these collaborative endeavours. Saving the planet, saving our schools, saving health care, preventing terrorism—big, enduring challenges that require creative solutions.

Financial Advice for Career Military

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Some useful and practical financial advice from a retired USAF NCO—especially for junior enlisted personnel considering a full military career.

First smart decision though, is to think real hard about a wife and kids before you are financially and emotionally ready to provide for them. Hard to save those extra few hundred bucks, if you have other financial considerations.

Accountability Without Authority: Management vs. Leadership

April 26, 2011 2 comments

If you have ever been placed in a position of having a large and ambitious objective, but have been given no tasking or decision-making authority, this article is for you.

 This article is spot on–it articulates the fundamental problem of launching some new initiative w/o ‘teeth’, especially in the midst of a large and bureaucratic organization (as is often the case when consulting for our client agencies in the US federal government).

There are times and circumstances, when a ‘manager’ is placed in a position of no authority—and all they have to rely on is influence, relationships, and being a conduit of information. However, if they have an ambitious mandate, a project or process manager must be given ‘tasking authority’. No one is going to drop what they are doing and help this manager, unless this manager cuts their paycheck or has a say in their business. You cannot manage a project/process and not manage people.

It reminds me of when I got first aid training in basic training—when you arrive at a casualty, you look at a single person, look them in the eye, and say ‘go get help’, rather than yelling ‘go get thelp to the group’. Accountability has to go down to the individual level, or nothing will get done. In another example—look at Libya and the NATO method of ‘war by committee’. Leaders make decisions. If you designate someone as a leader—give them the power to make decisions.

A Different Way of Looking at the World

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

A brilliant blog entry discussing the differences between having a ‘Gaussian’, or ‘bell curve’ view of the world vs. a ‘Paretian’ (Pareto principle or ’80/20′ ) view of the world.

My friends who are quant jocks or who got better grades in ‘Decision Analysis’ than me could probably explain—but in a nutshell, businesses, social science, and society tends to favor looking at a large data set and coming up with an average, that is representative of the larger whole. This is the Gaussian view.  The Pareto view, rather, shows a big hump on the front of the curve, tapering off to a long tail—showing that the world is characterized by a few, big events, followed by a long trail of similar events. This Paretian view shows that the world is far less predictable, yet shows that data is interactive. This Paretian view, is one where complexity, interdependence, networks of data sets are the norm, rather than a scattering of independent data sets. If you can find the underlying causes, you can predict/repeat.

The book ‘Black Swan’ by Nicholas Taleb explores this idea in more depth, but still in layman’s terms.

So what? If your job is to analyze data—stock portfolios, bio or tech start-up portfolios, terrorist activity, voters, customers, international events, earthquakes, etc., etc.—you should be taking a serious look at what this article is suggesting, and the shift in mindset that it entails.

If I might add, this reminds me of the work of one of my professors, Ming-Jer Chen, who examines the competitive dynamics of inter-firm rivalry. By using empirical methods to examine the behavior of firms competing in multiple firms in multiple markets (a kind of game theory), Prof. Chen shows that you can predict your opponent’s moves to an extent.

Taken all together, I think this shows that understanding certain fundamental quantitative principles, will be a tremendous asset to any true strategist–corporate, military, or otherwise.

Transition advice from IAVA; on military headhunting firms

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Great article one veteran’s advice on transition.

I noticed that IAVA has a whole section on their website dedicated to transition.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Corporate Gray, a company specializing in military-to-civilian transitions, from job fairs to career advice. More sincere (in my opinion) than some of the firms I will discuss below.


Military Head-Hunting Firms

I’ve worked some, but have not actually been placed by any of them. I will speak very generally about them, to avoid getting sued 🙂

In essence, these are a great resource for transitioning veterans who are on the job hunt. Some points for your consideration. If you are a recruiter or work for these firms, I encourage you to confirm, or dispute my points.

1. Start your job search before you separate, even before your terminal leave. If you are serious–even 1 year before your separation date. You want to line something up (without neglecting your current duties of course) right after you leave, to avoid a gap in income (or in your resume). Same applies with school admissions. There will be a gap between acceptance/offer date and start date. You may be able flex your separation date accordingly or start work while on terminal leave (depending on the regulations of your service/command/branch).

2. Have a clear sense of what you want to do. Do your homework on how your military skills translate into a civilian job. If you have a combat specialty, this will be harder–hopefully you will have invested the time to earn some certification or degree before you separate.

3. There is no placement service for federal government jobs–you are on your own to wade through the stupefyingly bureaucratic application process. The good thing is that you will have veterans preference and if you are smart, an inside track on where relevant openings are (more on that in another post). The bad thing is that you have to alot plenty of time not only for the hiring process itself (months), but also background checks and security clearances (which don’t necessarily transfer over outside DoD) which can take more than a year.

4. Headhunting firms are free to you, but get paid by the companies. Military recruiters are incentivized by quotas. They want to get you onboard quickly. They want a good match, to reflect well on their reputation. However, understand that they are salesmen. They will be veterans or JMOs like you. They may sincerely want you to succeed. But be clear about their fundamental motivations when you consider the job offers (and salary options) they are offering you. Don’t let them lowball you on salary offers.

5. There is no harm in using competing firms, just as you would apply to several jobs at once. Without being dishonest, it is prudent to play headhunting (or any other firms) against each other. You always want to keep your cards close to your chest. Be smart about negotiating. Do your homework on salaries—both starting and longer term earning potential. Have negotiating leverage. I’ll discuss salary negotiations on a later post.

6. What kind of jobs can you expect? You’ll have to check out these firms yourself. What have I seen? Alot of general management positions in metal-bending firms in the Mid-West and South or sales jobs in the $60K – $85K range (not that great compared to your military salary + benefits). This is what drove me away. I thought I could get offers of interesting jobs where I could apply my analysts’ skill set in the commercial world, perhaps even internationally (outside of your typical Beltway Bandit defense contractor jobs as you would find on ClearedJobs or Tech Expo). However, I did not receive, nor see any intellectually compelling opportunities. Maybe you were a criminal justice major from a state school and are a grunt (no offense). Perhaps you wouldn’t mind selling medical devices in South Carolina or managing a chemical plant in Ohio or working in management in a auto parts manufacturer in Indiana or being a Home Depot manager or running a franchise. Sorry, that’s not me. Don’t mean to be snooty, but these are the kinds of jobs that seem to be there. That being said, you could find a pretty well-paying job–especially if you have solid credentials like an Engineering degree, etc. If you are a hustler, you could indeed earn 6-figures selling stuff. Indeed, these types of firms often involve managing large operations and lots of people–places in dire need of your leadership skills.

5. But these jobs are not ‘big time’, I think you would best do it by applying to firms directly–many like GE (Junior Officer Leadership Program), Dell (Perot Systems Military Associate Program), Booz Allen Hamilton (Transitioning Military Program), Deloitte (JMO program, formerly from BearingPoint)–have special programs specifically designed to recruit military talent, and for the really good ones, nurture and cultivate that talent by placing you in meaningful job assignments. These programs are truly competitive. You can understand why federal consultants like BAH and Deloitte want JMOs—your clearances and bachelor’s degrees alone make you very valuable–they are Beltway Bandit jobs, but consulting is very transferrable to the commercial world. The other way is to truly ‘reinvent’ yourself by going back to a brand-name professional (law, medicine, business) school. Or, leveraging your military experience in the aforementioned defense contractor realm or even in the policy world for you international affairs/wonkish types (more on that in another post).  Only some niche skill set (i.e. Operations Research degree, cyber security, supply chain, Series 7 license), exceptional interview skills, and/or a brand-name degree will let you in the door to a ‘pedigree’ firm like McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting Group, or Accenture (for Consulting) or bulge-bracket banks like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan or hedge fund or tech firm like Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. Whether not ‘pedigree’ means anything is up to you.

Some of the well-known headhunting firms below, ranked according to my very subjective sense of ‘prestige’ based on my own experiences or second-hand knowledge from friends. Compare the jobs yourself. Again–I encourage you to refute or support, based on your own experiences:

1. Cameron-Brooks

2. Lucas Group

3. Bradley-Morris

4. Orion International

And of course, if you are a ring-knocker, I highly recommend checking out SACC at critical points in your career to gauge yourself against the market–even interviewing to see what you can get. Many of the firms I mention above will be there.

Why PowerPoint Makes You Dumb

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

An older NYT article that I was recently reminded of, now as I wade through my own .PPT madness.

When speaking about PPT, Brig. Gen. McMaster, one of the US Army’s leading counterinsurgency strategists, states:

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

USMC General Mattis: “PowerPoint makes us stupid”.

This idea originates from the work of Professor Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, who specializes in data and information visualization. He essentially argues, that the rigid, sequential nature of PowerPoint is a poor way to convey complex, multi-layered, and technical information—the human mind is able to absorb data and ideas at a greater rate than what can fit on a slide. Thus, a slide can actually inhibit critical thinking. Instead, a short written paper is probably far more effective.

Something to think about for consultants (like me), whose ‘bread and butter’ is all about the supposedly elegant simplicity of a pretty slide.  There are some powerful and effective data visualization tools out there–just look at the infographs in Good magazine. Unfortunately, nothing can beat PowerPoint yet, in terms of ease of use.