Cisco Exec Helps Vets Transition to Civilian Careers

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Jason Phillips, Cisco Vice President of Digital HR and Chief of Staff, agreed to sit down recently for a Q & A with U.S. Veterans Magazine. This man who spent over 11 years in the Marine Corps didn’t hold back.

An advocate for veterans, Phillips shared his passions and insights on a number of issues facing vets, including their professional lives after they leave the military. He discussed Cisco’s Veterans Enablement and Troops Support (VETS) group, which helps vets transition to civilian life.

One issue he returned to often was teamwork (referred to at Cisco as the “power of teams”). In the corporate world, Phillips has worked hard and smart to facilitate teamwork, and the results have been positive. He sees parallels between his time as a Marine and his tenure as a corporate executive. He emphasizes that the issue of teamwork, when it comes to helping our vets and supporting our military in general, is incredibly important.

At Cisco, Phillips plays a major role in the company’s human resources performance, leading HR digital strategies, promoting operational efficiency, and managing team performance through effective governance and financial stewardship. Prior to Cisco, Phillips worked as the Vice President of HR Shared Services for Kaiser Permanente. Phillips, who completed his doctoral studies in adult learning and human resources development, started his professional journey as an officer in the Marine Corps.

Following is the Q & A, which gives readers an unfettered look into Phillips’ efforts to help vets and illustrates the way he draws parallels between the power of teams in the military and at Cisco.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to Cisco and what your position there entails?
A. I spent over 11 years in the United States Marine Corps in roles both at home and abroad. I had 5 different roles in those 11 years, and like most military leaders, I quickly learned the missions at hand and became comfortable with new challenges in various settings. After leaving the Marine Corps, I started a career journey in HR consulting where I learned how critical a well-run human resource function is to any effective organization. After six years in consulting, I took a full-time position with Kaiser Permanente where I served in multiple human resources leadership roles. My transition to Cisco this year was fortuitous because it allowed me to serve in a role that continues my personal learning and do it with a group of colleagues that are innovating at a pace unlike anything I have seen before within the field of human resources.

Q. What does digital HR mean to a major technology company like Cisco?
A. Digital HR is what we refer to as the “connection between technology and the human touch.” At a company like Cisco it really changes everything related to talent. Clearly, it has an impact on employee skills, but more importantly it impacts the capabilities required to meet our complex business demands. HR must offer up a different set of capabilities that more closely meet the ever-increasing pace of our business environment. At Cisco, HR is moving away from the model of “one size fits all” to “one size fits one.”

Q. What does “The power of teams” mean to you, when it comes to employees at Cisco?
A. As an HR organization, it is up to us to support the increase in the performance of our people – and because performance lives in teams, we set out to understand team excellence. As a result of this work, it became clear that there were repeatable factors that differentiated our high performing teams. Cisco set out to educate and scale the critical components of high performing teams. From a technology perspective we have implemented Team Space, which is designed to help teams be better together giving our leaders the data and insights they need to create the best experience for their team. It’s quick and easy to use, and it helps people share the best of themselves with those around them, understand and reveal how they do their best work, and get the right support from their leaders.

Q. How has teamwork helped encourage veteran retention?
A. Teamwork is one of the most important elements that impacts retention not only at Cisco, but in most organizations. From day one in the military, regardless of service or role, it is ingrained into all of us that effective teamwork is what will create success. It is also why such a significant investment is made within the military to develop “small unit leaders” so that a team, at its smallest focal point, can be successful. It is within these teams that loyalty and esprit de corps is built. It is within these teams that lifelong relationships are built, and it is within these teams that performance is enhanced. And to me, it is within this teaming environment that you find the “secret sauce” that motivates military personnel to want to stay and serve. Rarely is it about the pay and rarely is it about any senior leader. In my experience, it is usually about the people to the left and to the right of you – your team – that make you sacrifice daily and also motivate you to stay and serve. I feel that the same principle applies outside of the military as well, and it is an important element within Cisco’s culture that is attractive to all veterans that choose a career at Cisco.

Q. What programs is Cisco implementing to not only retain veteran employees, but to offer employee engagement and overall work life balance?
A. We have many initiatives across Cisco, but I feel that our Veterans Enablement and Troop Support group (VETS), which is one of our Employee Resource Organizations, is unique. Simply put, this group, which has regional chapters, sponsors events year round in support of our military veterans, and helps them effectively transition to civilian life. There are multiple mentoring forums and career guidance activities that truly can benefit any military professional as they transition to their next career. You can learn more about our VETS ERO offerings on our Cisco site, cisco.com.

Q. What advice would you offer a new transitioning veteran who wants to join the Cisco team but is unsure of where they would fit in?
A. Reach out and take advantage of the various entry points Cisco offers. There are multiple ways to engage and learn about areas of opportunity. Whether it is completing your profile and going through the careers site or attending a career event—such as the VETS ERO annual Veteran Career Technology Day—or reaching out to a leader like myself, this company will take the time to engage with you.

Q. As a veteran yourself, is there any advice you want to share with our veteran readers that is mission critical to a successful career transition at Cisco or any company?
A. I have always considered these three items when assessing career options: the organizational brand, an industry that excites me, and the team I will be working with. Regarding the brand, I feel it is important to align yourself with companies that can and have stood the test of time. We all tend to know who these players are across every industry. There are reasons they have been successful, and my experience is that veterans assimilate well within these organizations. Secondly, knowing which industry excites you from both a personal and professional point of view. Lastly, make sure you interview your team as much as the company is interviewing you. When the days get long and the work gets hard, it is the team around you that will provide the motivation to carry on.

Q. What is your advice to companies who are looking to hire and retain veterans?
A. There is no real risk to taking the plunge. Veterans bring a wealth of leadership experiences that are truly unique in the marketplace. The bottom line is, if you want an employee that is goal and mission oriented, comfortable with ambiguity, excels at working at a fast pace and embodies leadership traits and principles that are timeless across all industries – look no further than your veteran community.

Your Guide to Launching a Civilian Career

LinkedIn
Soldier and civilian shaking hands on blurred background

Five steps to identifying your post-military career goals

By Jeff McMillan, Chief Analytics and Data Officer, Morgan Stanley

Over 25 years ago, I left the U.S. Army to pursue a civilian career. I loved serving my country, but it was time to do something different.
The military builds valuable skills, but often does not prepare veterans for the process of finding a job after leaving the service. Most transitioning veterans struggle with uncertainty over how to launch a new career, simply because no one has taught them the “do’s and don’ts” of identifying job opportunities, networking, interviewing, etc.

Based on my own experience and my time spent counseling hundreds of veterans in the years since, the following steps can help veterans determine what career direction to pursue and how to position themselves to employers as qualified candidates.

  1. Examine your skills and interests

Most individuals I speak to have little or no clue what they want to do post-military. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed about being unsure, because it takes time and exploration to figure out what kinds of jobs might be a good fit for your interests and expertise. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • List the skills that set you apart from other candidates (make sure to use language that non-military people can understand). For example: “I know how to manage and motivate people.”
  • Next, describe the kind of work that you enjoy (or don’t). For example: “I get bored by routine work and like to tackle new issues/problems.”

It may take some time to gather and articulate these skills and interests. Your objective is to outline who you are and what you like. You will use this information as a point of reference for evaluating potential career opportunities.

  1. Research relevant opportunities

Once you have a sense of your skills and interests, use that knowledge to determine which roles suit you best. The best way to do this is by talking to a lot of people. Ask what they do, what they like and don’t like about their jobs, and what skills are necessary for success. After every conversation, ask yourself if the role you discussed is aligned with your skills and interests. Keep in mind that you’re not looking for a “perfect” job, but rather deepening your understanding of various career possibilities. Other useful resources include:

  • Job descriptions
  • Companies’ websites and mission statements
  • Relevant trade publications
  • Career fairs
  1. Determine whether you need further education

One of the first questions people ask when transitioning to non-military jobs is “Should I go back to school?”

The answer depends on what kind of career you decide to pursue. Some jobs require an advanced degree; for others, you’ll need a specialized certification. As you research opportunities, ask people about their educational backgrounds. Keep in mind that some (but not all) employers favor candidates who attended competitive or prestigious institutions. If you do go back to school, make an effort to excel—employers will look at your GPA.

  1. Develop a crisp and clear message

Many individuals leaving the military hesitate to self-promote, because they’ve been trained to put aside their egos for the benefit of the broader mission. But in the civilian world, if you don’t promote yourself, no one else will. As a job seeker, you need a simple, direct set of talking points that tells people what you want to do and why you’re a fit for the role in three minutes or less:

  • One minute on your background and differentiated skills
  • One minute on the opportunity you’re seeking
  • One minute on why you would be a great fit for the role

As you draft and refine your “elevator pitch,” remember to use language that non-military personnel can understand, and to connect your skills and interests to the role you are seeking in a way that demonstrates you understand the responsibilities the job entails.

  1. Find a mentor

A mentor is a trusted advisor who can help you learn about your field of choice, provide honest feedback and advice, make networking introductions, and generally serve as a sounding board during your job search. You can find a mentor among your existing connections, or look into American Corporate Partners, which offers free one-year mentorship programs for transitioning veterans. Be upfront with your mentor about how much time you’d like them to commit (such as a 30-minute meeting or phone call once a month), and prepare ahead of time to make your sessions as productive as possible.

Embarking on a new career after serving in the military can seem daunting or intimidating to even the most decorated veterans. Breaking the process down into manageable steps, laying a solid foundation based on your interests and skills, and leaning on others for guidance and support can help set you up for success.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management or its affiliates. All opinions are subject to change without notice. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is a business of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.

Military Leaders Make Great Accountants

LinkedIn
military veteran sitting at desk in civilian clothes giving a thumbs up

 And why being an accountant is ‘cooler’ than you think

It’s true. And here’s why: the skills required to be an exceptional leader in the military—problem solving, strategy, planning, teamwork, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic—are the same skills required to be a successful accountant. In fact, major corporations and public accounting firms alike look for these “soft skills” first when they build out their teams.

Among these skills, leadership may be the most important. Companies place a high value on incoming employees who are boardroom-ready and who possess the maturity to work in client-facing situations. They often find these leadership attributes in those transitioning out of the military.

Of course, accounting knowledge and skills are required, too. But, with an undergraduate degree—any undergraduate degree—these skills can be gained in as little as one year. In fact, some graduate schools have designed their Master of Accounting degrees to cater specifically to those with little or no accounting experience. And, to make things more convenient for those already working, or serving, some programs are now fully online, allowing students to log in from anywhere in the world.

Accounting is challenging, but it’s also straightforward. Less math than you might think; it’s more about organization and documentation. Less rigid than you might think; there’s actually a good deal of judgement and flexibility. And, because they regularly work on teams and with clients, accountants are less “back-office number cruncher,” more “proactive communicator.”

But, why accounting? Hmmm…why not? Accounting is very popular career choice. Accountants make strong starting salaries and see rapid salary progressions—even those just entering the workforce top six figures after just five years. Accountants are also in serious demand, both in public accounting firms and on corporate finance teams.

And, accounting is cooler, and way more important, than you think. Accountants help businesses make critical fiscal decisions that can shape investor confidence. Auditors verify transactions, protecting companies from allegations of fraud and criminal misstatement. Tax strategists uncover opportunities for significant savings. At more senior levels, those with an accounting background often fill key seats in the C-suite: CEO, CFO, or VP of Finance.

For those in the military planning to transition into the private sector, or for those continuing to build a career within the military, a Master of Accounting degree is a key step toward lucrative accounting and finance positions. The degree also prepares students, and provides the necessary education credits, to sit for the CPA exam, the key professional credential within the accounting field.

As noted above, some schools offer online programs that allow students to earn the degree from anywhere in the world while continuing to work or travel. The best programs leverage webcam-connected classrooms to bring students together for live, interactive discussions and learning management systems that deliver course lectures via recorded video.

The online Master of Accounting (MAC) degree from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School can give your career the boost it needs.

Source: UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Florida man loses more than 180 pounds to join the Army

LinkedIn
Christopher Montijo speaks live on air about his weight loss

One Florida man is living proof that you can do anything if you want it badly enough. Christopher Montijo, a 28-year-old father of two, said his dream of joining the Army was put on the hold because he was almost 150 pounds over the weight limit, according to WOFL, an Orlando Fox affiliate.

It was “draining to walk, to sleep, to do anything,” he told WOFL; he knew if he wanted to see his children grow up, he’d have to make a major life change.

So he did.

Through cutting out soda and eating out along with walking more, Montijo has dropped over 180 pounds — almost half his body weight — and passed the Army’s physical fitness test. (It doesn’t appear he took a page out of this veteran’s book, who dropped weight by consuming beer and beer only for Lent.)

He told WOFL he “feels amazing,” and he’ll arrive at Fort Jackson at the beginning of 2020 with the rest of the recruits heading to basic training.

Continue on to Task and Purpose to read the complete article.

Standard Operating Procedures for the Military Transition Process

LinkedIn
Veteran looking at iPad

By Brian Niswander

For the past decade, I’ve conducted interviews and collected data from thousands of veterans and spouses about their transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce.

After countless hours analyzing survey data and comments, I’m convinced that a successful transition embodies five key elements.

After making this discovery, I started thinking about my time in uniform and the importance of adhering to Standard Operating Procedures.

I couldn’t help but remember how we had procedures and checklists for important mission activities, and I think we owe the same level of rigor to veterans as they consider their future transition.

Based upon extensive research conducted by the team at Military-Transition.org, I developed a 5-step process to reduce confusion and increase the chances for success during the transition process:

#1 – Start Preparing Early

The data is clear and the majority of veterans surveyed (84%) indicate that starting early is critical to a successful transition. Unfortunately, this is seldom as easy as it sounds. Today’s ops-tempo requires military members to focus on the mission for the majority of their day. While finding time for things outside of the mission and family can be challenging, the advice from veterans is simple—you must find a way. There’s nothing unpatriotic about thinking and planning for what follows your military service. I tell serve members to start considering what’s next at least 24 months ahead of their transition. Starting this far ahead will pay dividends and will enable you to begin focusing on those transition elements which require time and effort to accomplish.

#2 – Have a Transition Plan

Your initial plan doesn’t have to be complex, but should include goals, enabling activities, and timelines. These can change as you progress, but you need to have a starting point. Your first goal might be to research and learn more about industries, organizations or positions that align with your existing skills. Maybe you’d like to do something completely different in the civilian workforce and need to begin exploring new and different opportunities which are outside your comfort zone. Activities may include reading books, journals, blogs and newsletters about these fields. Those considering an educational program might explore what programs are available and what career opportunities result from attaining that degree, certification, or license. In all cases, start connecting with those who transitioned before you, and others who can assist and might become mentors along the way.

#3 – Build Your Network

Of all the advice I’ve gathered over the past decade, this is the most recommended element of a successful transition. You can utilize social media (LinkedIn) and identify individuals to connect with, organizations of interest, and potential opportunities to learn about. You should also become active in community groups and build contacts through face-to-face networking. Engage with other military members, veterans, and civilians to understand their career experiences, education, and training programs. Successful networking not only helps you learn about post-military life, but it will also help you learn a new language which I call “the language of civilians.” Trust me, you need to speak their language—this is critical for the next element of a successful transition.

#4 – Learn to Translate your Skills

Of all the elements within the transition process, this activity will require the most effort. Translating your skills results in a strong resume, good interviewing skills, and the ability to demonstrate your value to a potential employer. Practice is essential to success and you must consistently demonstrate how your skills add value when networking. Ask for feedback and make continual improvements. This will require time to accomplish, but it’s worth the investment.

#5 – Be Patient

Almost half of the veterans surveyed (48%) claim their transition was ‘more difficult than expected’ and more than half (59%) say it ‘required more time than expected’. Take the time, do the research, build your network, learn how to translate your skills, and be patient along the way. You didn’t become a soldier, sailor, airperson, marine or coast guard person overnight, so don’t expect the transition to be quick. Remember that patience and persistence are key throughout the transition process.

Brian Niswander is the Founder of Military-Transition.org, an organization that uses data analytics and visualizations to assist military members with their transition into the civilian workforce. He started Military-Transition.org after identifying a need for data-driven-solutions which inform and guide veteran decision making during the reintegration process. Brian was an Air Force intelligence officer and now provides ‘transition intelligence’ to educate military families. His work has been featured in numerous publications along with radio and podcast interviews. His background includes analytic and leadership positions within the consumer goods industry along with management, strategic planning and marketing in public and private organizations. Brian has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and a BS in Behavioral Science/Human Factors Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

One-Man Show Transcends the Life of a Solider

LinkedIn
Douglas Taurel is sitting onstage in a green shirt, pants and headband lighting a cigarette

Douglas Taurel is not an American soldier. He’s never been to war. Yet veterans across the country are saluting him– thanking him for being “their voice,” for telling their stories and for showing the nation what military members go through in times of war and at home.

“I wanted to write something and I was very moved by the stories I was reading in the papers regarding combat veterans with PTSD and not having work. Some particular stories really moved me and started the spark (for the play,)” he said.

For the past five years, Taurel has fine-tuned his one-man show entitled, The American Soldier, which spans all of America’s significant war conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Taurel performs 14 different characters during his 80-minute show, which was performed following Veteran’s Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on November 13th.

The characters, which are based upon letters written by real servicemen in each war, include a father in the wake of his soldier son’s suicide; a soldier dealing with the loss of his limb; a wife and son dealing with a deployed father’s absence; and a grieving mother remembering her son at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Taurel said over the course of eight years, he spent hours a day at the New York City public library, reading veteran letters and researching each war for the play – reading 20-30 books and thousands of letters.

“I have a storyline that goes through the play,” Taurel says. “I try to talk about the different aspects of war, the challenges and what they [soliders] have to go through.

“The overall theme is thanking family members and veterans. The idea is to give the audience a sincere understanding of what it is that we ask our men and women in arms to do for us. That is the goal,” he added.

Audience members, veterans and critics alike are completely enthralled by Taurel’s performance and his heartfelt portrayal of soldiers and their families. He’s received hundreds of letter and comments regarding the show.

Here are just a few of them below:

“Words cannot express my profound gratitude in being able to Douglas Taurel headshotexperience your amazing performance. As you carried out each story, you truly transcended the audience into the life of a soldier.”

—Mother-in-law of a veteran

“Your performance was first class, moving, thoughtful, compassionate and heartfelt from the very beginning to the end. Tried holding back my tears, but that didn’t last long.”

—Desert Storm combat veteran

“Your passion for the stories you enact help us realize what the American soldier does and why they do it. Your inspiring portrayal of our veterans reminds us of the debt we owe our nations defenders.”

—Vietnam veteran

“I saw and felt the pain and journey of each character you created and remembered all of the tragedy I saw as a nurse in Vietnam.”

—Civilian nurse

Taurel has performed The American Solider more than 8,000 times in 11 different states. His play was one of 100—out of 3,500 entries—nominated for an Amnesty International Award.

But more than awards or reviews, Taurel says the years he spent researching and now portraying military members has given him a whole new appreciation for men and women in uniform.

“What I hope is to share how this allows our veterans to talk about their experiences,” he said. “It honors them and their families in their own words and gives them a voice.

“Now, as a society, we don’t have to make the same kind of commitment or sacrifices that previous generations made. Society functions efficiently even with war. We forget what they go through. My play reminds them.”

Your Guide to Launching a Civilian Career

LinkedIn
man wearing a military uniform on left and a suit on the right

By Jeff McMillan, Chief Analytics and Data Officer, Morgan Stanley

Over 25 years ago, I left the U.S. Army to pursue a civilian career. I loved serving my country, but it was time to do something different. The military builds valuable skills, but often does not prepare veterans for the process of finding a job after leaving the service. Most transitioning veterans struggle with uncertainty over how to launch a new career, simply because no one has taught them the “do’s and don’ts” of identifying job opportunities, networking, interviewing, etc.

Based on my own experience and my time spent counseling hundreds of veterans in the years since, the following steps can help veterans determine what career direction to pursue and how to position themselves to employers as qualified candidates.

 

  1. Examine your skills and interests

Most individuals I speak to have little or no clue what they want to do post-military. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed about being unsure, because it takes time and exploration to figure out what kinds of jobs might be a good fit for your interests and expertise. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • List the skills that set you apart from other candidates (make sure to use language that non-military people can understand). For example: “I know how to manage and motivate people.”
  • Next, describe the kind of work that you enjoy (or don’t). For example: “I get bored by routine work and like to tackle new issues/problems.”

It may take some time to gather and articulate these skills and interests. Your objective is to outline who you are and what you like. You will use this information as a point of reference for evaluating potential career opportunities.

  1. Research relevant opportunities

Once you have a sense of your skills and interests, use that knowledge to determine which roles suit you best. The best way to do this is by talking to a lot of people. Ask what they do, what they like and don’t like about their jobs, and what skills are necessary for success. After every conversation, ask yourself if the role you discussed is aligned with your skills and interests. Keep in mind that you’re not looking for a “perfect” job, but rather deepening your understanding of various career possibilities. Other useful resources include:

  • Job descriptions
  • Companies’ websites and mission statements
  • Relevant trade publications
  • Career fairs
  1. Determine whether you need further education

One of the first questions people ask when transitioning to non-military jobs is “Should I go back to school?”

The answer depends on what kind of career you decide to pursue. Some jobs require an advanced degree; for others, you’ll need a specialized certification. As you research opportunities, ask people about their educational backgrounds. Keep in mind that some (but not all) employers favor candidates who attended competitive or prestigious institutions. If you do go back to school, make an effort to excel—employers will look at your GPA.

  1. Develop a crisp and clear message

Many individuals leaving the military hesitate to self-promote, because they’ve been trained to put aside their egos for the benefit of the broader mission. But in the civilian world, if you don’t promote yourself, no one else will. As a job seeker, you need a simple, direct set of talking points that tells people what you want to do and why you’re a fit for the role in three minutes or less:

  • One minute on your background and differentiated skills
  • One minute on the opportunity you’re seeking
  • One minute on why you would be a great fit for the role

As you draft and refine your “elevator pitch,” remember to use language that non-military personnel can understand, and to connect your skills and interests to the role you are seeking in a way that demonstrates you understand the responsibilities the job entails.

  1. Find a mentor

A mentor is a trusted advisor who can help you learn about your field of choice, provide honest feedback and advice, make networking introductions, and generally serve as a sounding board during your job search. You can find a mentor among your existing connections, or look into American Corporate Partners, which offers free one-year mentorship programs for transitioning veterans. Be upfront with your mentor about how much time you’d like them to commit (such as a 30-minute meeting or phone call once a month), and prepare ahead of time to make your sessions as productive as possible.

Embarking on a new career after serving in the military can seem daunting or intimidating to even the most decorated veterans. Breaking the process down into manageable steps, laying a solid foundation based on your interests and skills, and leaning on others for guidance and support can help set you up for success.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management or its affiliates. All opinions are subject to change without notice. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is a business of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.

The Punniest Female on Instagram

LinkedIn
military spouse dubbed punniest on Instagram is pictured with the Puns in the background

Military spouse Angelica Hanley is behind the pun-based stationery brand ACouplePuns.

Angelica Hanley is a self-professed entrePUNeur, so when she found herself making up puns to describe the things she saw throughout the day, she decided to turn her love of puns into a shareable art form.

Thus, ACouplePuns was born and is now a rapidly growing online and wholesale greeting card shop connecting people through punny sentiments.

A card for every occasion imaginable, ACouplePuns delivers sweet messages accompanied by disarmingly darling drawings on superb card stock that is scored, folded and packaged by hand.

Her designs are inspired by travel, pop culture, and current trending topics.

She’s a military spouse who used a lifestyle of frequent moves to create a business she could take with her wherever she and her husband end up.

Angelica hold up some of her punniest cards
Via Instagram @ACouplePuns

Seeking a means to connect with people after a cross country move a couple years ago, Angelica launched ACouplePuns on Etsy with ten greeting card designs.

After just two years she has over 100 cards, which have landed on store shelves all over the country.

She has created custom cards for many popular female-founded brands such as Kendra Scott and also coordinated giveaways on Instagram.

Angelica enjoys sharing laughter through her cards and is building a community of fellow pun lovers she refers to on Instagram as “Punny People.”

She encourages you to share the puns you see with her at ACouplePuns to help inspire her latest creations!

Source: ACouplePuns, Instagram @ACouplePuns

Five Military Veterans Win Free Dream Vacations Travel Agency Franchise

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2019 Operation Vetrepreneur Winners pose together with U.S. Flags in the background

As part of a weeklong Veteran’s Day celebration, the number one franchise for veterans Dream Vacations awarded five military heroes with free travel franchises as part of its award-winning 8th annual contest “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General.”

Currently nearly 35 percent of franchise owners within Dream Vacations are military veterans and in the past eight years, the travel agency franchise has awarded 42 free franchises valued at more than $533,400 to deserving military veterans.

(Pictured left to right) Army Veteran Don Shirley, Army Veteran Michael Foster, Marine Corps Veteran David Alexander, Air Force Veteran Jimmy Weeks and Navy Veteran Tawnya Caldwell. Photo Credit:  TheLXA.com

“Military veterans have made so many sacrifices so we can be the land of the free, making the American Dream a possibility, and Operation Vetrepreneur is just one way we are able to give back to these heroes,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations. “Every year our winners raise the bar in their business plans and I am excited for Dream Vacations to join them on this journey to successful business ownership.”

The annual “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General” contest was open to former members of any of the five branches of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) who are retired, off active duty and/or honorably discharged prior to the contest start date this past May. Candidates participated in a rigorous three-part application process which included creating a business plan, video essay and phone interviews. More than 2,400 people have applied for franchise ownership through Operation Vetrepreneur since 2012. This year’s winners are Marine Corps Veteran David Alexander of West Orange, N.J.; Navy Veteran Tawnya Caldwell of Hermitage, Tenn.; Army Veteran Michael Foster of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Army Veteran Don Shirley of Cedar Park, Texas; and Air Force Veteran Jimmy Weeks of Costa Mesa, Calif.

“I’m proud of my service in the United States Marine Corp Infantry. It taught me discipline, determination, how to work hard and strive for perfection — all traits that I’ll apply to running a travel franchise,” said Vetrepreneur winner Alexander. “I’ve always had a passion for traveling and meeting new people. I love experiencing new adventures and learning about different cultures. I have a natural curiosity that traveling always seems to satisfy.”

All military veterans and Gold Star families who purchase a Dream Vacations travel agency business receive an enlistment package valued at no less than $5,000 and ongoing support. They can select one of four perks currently being offered — $2,000 travel training credit; receive up to $7,000 back based on initial fee through the Earn Back promotion; waived administrative fees valued at $1,350; or a Microsoft® Surface Pro tablet valued at $1,000. In addition to having access to the Command Center, an internal portal with veteran-specific training and veteran-themed marketing assets, all veterans and Gold Star families receive a waived training fee for a business partner and the ability to hire active-duty military spouses and veterans as associates at a discount. Additional veteran incentives include the ability to move residences and stay in business, travel discounts for military customers and access to veteran networking groups.

As the only travel franchise to receive a 5 STAR ranking from VetFran, Dream Vacations proudly supports military veterans and is consistently recognized by leading industry publications as a veteran-friendly franchise. It was ranked the #1 franchise for veterans by Entrepreneur magazine in 2019, and other recent number one rankings include Military Times and Forbes. Additional recognitions include inclusion on G.I. Jobs annual “Hot Franchises for Veterans,” US Veterans magazine’s “Top Veteran-Friendly Companies”, USA Today’s “50 Top Franchises for Military Veterans” and recognition by MSC Cruises in its Seaside Salute Award. The Operation Vetrepreneur program won gold from the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards and the IFA Franchising Gives Back Awards.

Dream Vacations is committed to being “Rich in Diversity” and empowers all owners, franchisees and employees to reach their highest potential by leveraging their broad range of talent, experiences, personalities, viewpoints and ideas to generate business growth.

Military veterans who are passionate about travel with an entrepreneurial spirit who would like to be part of a travel agency network that cares more about its agents, travelers and military veterans, should visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com or call 888-249-8235 to learn about franchising with Dream Vacations.

About Dream Vacations

Travel agents with the top-ranked home-based travel agency franchise Dream Vacations have the resources to plan and create seamless vacation experiences for their customers while offering the best value. A member of the International Franchise Association, Dream Vacations is part of World Travel Holdings and has received partner of the year, a top-ranking status, by all the major cruise lines as well as national recognition for its support of military veterans. For more information about Dream Vacations, visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com. Like Dream Vacations on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DreamVacationsFranchise, follow on Twitter at @Dream_Franchise and watch its videos at http://www.youtube.com/DreamVacationsBusiness.

Join Will Smith, Dame Helen Mirren, Chris Martin and Team New Directions For Veterans in The World’s Big Sleep Out

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large group of people sleeping outside in sleeping bags

The World’s Big Sleep Out is a one-off global campaign where more than 50,000 change-makers, business-leaders and members of the public around the world will be sleeping out in unison on December 7th, 2019 to create the world’s largest display of solidarity with – and support of – those experiencing homelessness and displacement.

Join Will Smith, Dame Helen Mirren, Chris Martin and Team New Directions For Veterans in The World’s Big Sleep Out global campaign. Up to 2,000 participants will sleep outside the iconic Rose Bowl.

 

A Global Sleep Out to Call for an End to Global Homelessness

The World’s Big Sleep Out is a one-time global event that will see 50,000 people sleeping out in iconic locations like Times Square, the Rose Bowl and Trafalgar Square but also backyards, football fields and parking lots in more than 50 cities around the world to shine the global spotlight on homelessness and internationally displaced people.

The World’s Big Sleep Out will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019 from 4:30pm to 6:00am.

A list celebrities such as Ziggy Marley, Seth Green, Ellie Goulding, Randy Jackson and Sean Kingston will be performing and reading bedtime stories and those impacted by homelessness will be telling their stories.

Claim your place to Sleep Out with TeamNewDirectionsForVeterans

Normally, you would have to pay a $20 fee to participate, but thanks to New Directions For Veterans’ support, we’ve covered that for you. While your ticket is free and you don’t have to pay to join the team, each of us on #TeamNewDirectionsForVeterans needs to commit to raising as much money as we can to help the charities in our area and throughout the world that are doing the work. Your own donation counts!

 

To claim your place on Team New Directions For Veterans all you have to do is:
Click here to claim your Pre-Paid Team Place and when prompted type in this password 7XNZB2 and then complete the required fields and you’ll be automatically assigned to Team New Directions For Veterans

·  Once you claimed your place on the team, you’ll begin the ‘on-boarding’ process and will receive a welcome email with useful information that generates your JustGiving online fundraising page so you can start fundraising with #ValenceMedia. (Note: If you’re not already on the JustGiving platform, you’ll need to create a JustGiving account).

·  Start spreading the word through your network to collect donations

·  And…if you reach a $1,000 or more individual fundraising goal, we will mark your achievement by including your name in a specially created mural that will be exhibited at the United Nations in February 2020 at an important homelessness summit.

To learn more about this one-off global event that New Directions For Veterans is proud to be a part of visit www.bigsleepout.com.

Interview Like a Pro

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hiring manager shaking hands with a newly hired veteran

Behavioral and situational interview styles are the most effective when interviewing both veterans and spouses. That’s because veterans are accustomed to concise and polite conversation.

They are not accustomed to boasting about their accomplishments, scope of authority or level of responsibility, as they have been operating in a team environment. Gaps in a spouse’s resume or volunteer experience may overshadow the great skills and experience they have gained over their professional career. In both cases, you as the interviewer have to probe for their accomplishments and for detail revealing their adaptability and how their experience can contribute to your company.

Ask prospective employees if they’re willing to be coached by an existing veteran employee. For example, a candidate may say he drove a truck. What he may not be saying is that he supervised several dozen soldiers transporting millions of dollars of inventory. Or a military spouse may say she volunteered as a Bible study leader. What she may not be saying is that she coordinated spiritual retreats for a few hundred military spouses, organized food deliveries for families in need, and went through training to spot domestic violence on post, all while her husband was deployed three times to a war zone. If you have an employee resource group devoted to veterans, ask members to attend hiring fairs and to be available to coach potential interviewees on their resumes and job interviewing skills before the interview process begins. And ask prospective employees if they’re willing to be coached by an existing veteran employee.

These veteran employee resource groups can even be tapped to participate in mock interviews with HR recruiters, join the in-person interview with the veteran or spouse job candidate to help break the ice, or provide the candidate a tour of the workplace.

Also, train your hiring managers on these interviewing techniques, suggested by Sherrill A. Curtis, principal and creative director for HR consulting firm Curtis Consulting Group LLC, in a report for the Society for Human Resource Management:

Know what they bring. Be familiar with the military occupational skills (MOS) that correlate with the job.

Show gratitude. At the start of the interview, thank military talent applicants for their service or the spouse for their service and sacrifice as well.

Explain the job. Clearly describe the job role and its responsibilities, defining expectations up front and avoiding generalizations.

Make them comfortable. Draw out applicants to discover their “thread of excellence.”

Get them talking. Avoid closed-ended questions (those that elicit a “yes” or “no” response) by posing probing questions about an individual’s service experience.

Translating Military Experience

Lend them your ears. Focus on active listening for skill sets, and correlate them with job functions within your organization.

Stay connected. Keep the candidate engaged in the process by following up and delivering on what you promise (for example, with post-interview phone calls about the status of their application, next steps, etc.). This is very important to them and should not be overlooked.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers these tips:

Set an easygoing tone. The concept of “professional presentation” is often different for veterans than for civilians. Employers should understand that some might present themselves with a high level of discipline and formality (for example, using “sir” or “ma’am”). It’s OK to let candidates know that they can be more relaxed and respond in a casual manner. Doing so may help foster a more comfortable and insightful conversation.

Ask if they can do the job. Whether or not you’re interviewing someone who might have a disability, it’s a good practice to ask all candidates about whether they think they could perform the job—one idea of raising the issue is by asking: “Have you read the job description? Can you, with or without a reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job?” This is not the same as asking candidates to disclose any disability; it merely ensures they can perform the necessary functions of the position.

Questions relevant to experience or training in the military, or to determine eligibility for any veteran’s preference required by law, are acceptable.

Dig for detail. When trying to delve deeper into their experience and how it might translate to your business, consider phrasing questions that will ensure that the candidate provide more detail about their responsibilities. For example: “Tell me about the type of training and education you received in the military.” Or: “Were you involved in day-to-day management of personnel and/or supplies?” “How many people did you supervise?”

Sample Interview Questions

There are rules on what you can and can’t ask veterans about during an interview.

Off limits:

  • What kind of discharge did you get from the military?
  • When will you get deployed again?
  • Have you ever killed anyone?
  • Were you ever injured in combat?
  • Will you have to miss much work for your military service?

Instead, ask:

  • Will you be able to perform the duties in the job description with reasonable accommodation?
  • What did you do in the military?
  • Which of your military experiences will translate to this job?

Source: vetemployerroadmap.org