Career Transition Advice from Air Force JMO

Often, JMOs ask me what they need to do to be successful at the Cameron-Brooks Conference.  While I can pass on several key lessons, I also believe there is tremendous value in receiving insights from JMOs who recently attended the Conference and what they did to plan and prepare for their success.  This is why I wanted to share with you one Air Force Pilot’s feedback to Rob Davis and me on what he specifically did prior to the Conference.  He had 12 interviews and 8 companies pursuing him into the follow-up interview process. 

 Full disclosure:  I did edit a few sentences for clarity.  I also wrote my own comments after his points in italics.

I told you I would send you a quick note about things that helped me prepare both before and during the Conference.  My intent isn’t to toot a horn.  As of right now, I don’t have an offer in hand.  So, I’m still focused on the next step.  My intent is to give you some things to pass along to other candidates who will be attending future Conferences.

1.  Read a wide variety of periodicals and books.    One thing that helped in my interviews was being able to talk about a wide array of topics.  The only way I was able to do that was by reading everything I could get my hands on.  WSJ, FORTUNE, On-line periodicals, etc,  I remember when I interviewed with a wind energy company.  I asked a question about the difficulty of transmitting the produced energy from windmills ultimately to the users.  She was surprised I would ask something like that but I had read recently article about it, not even knowing I would interview for such an opportunity at the Conference.  When I interviewed with an oil services company, we spoke briefly about the Keystone Pipeline, which I had read about in the news.  Even though I was by no means an expert about the pipeline or the wind energy issue, both topics demonstrated my interest to the recruiter regarding the company and industry.  I wouldn’t have been able to stand out if I hadn’t read articles or books on topics such as Lean, Six Sigma, and sales concepts PRIOR to the Conference.  While there is some time at the Conference for research on the company, I was able to speak on a wide variety of topics because of the knowledge I developed prior to the Conference. 

Most interviews are conversational where the recruiter wants to engage the candidate in dialogue about the position, company and industry.  This JMO’s advice is spot on as it will provide you with enough knowledge to engage that recruiter in an intelligent conversation.  This is why we have our “Reading Program” that focuses on topics like team building, Six Sigma, Lean, Theory of Constraints, selling strategies, Project Management and financial concepts.

2.  It is good that Cameron-Brooks Recruiters demand excellence in being able to answer the commonly asked interview questions clearly and concisely.  I don’t think I was asked too many questions straight from the interview Flashcard Question list provided by Cameron-Brooks.  However, I was able to mix and match my prepared answers based on what the recruiter was trying to find out about me.  I remember when I attended an interview workshop, Rob Davis told me I didn’t have enough details.  So, I hit the details hard.  Then, I interviewed with Joel Junker and he said there was way too much extraneous information, which helped me tailor my answers to their tightest proportions.  So stay on top of candidates. It’s a bit of a pain, but it pays dividends.

His advice is correct.  It is important to develop answers to the commonly asked interview questions.  Some recruiters will ask those questions and several of them.  However, most recruiters conduct a conversational interview and do not ask many of the formal questions directly.  Instead, as he advises, it is important to mix in parts of those answers into the conversation and tailor them to the interview.

3.  It is important that prospective candidates really delve into projects in their military careers that have business correlation.  Then, candidates have to be able to LISTEN when recruiters are talking in the interviews so they can interject at the appropriate time to share something he or she has done in the military. That is key.  

My biggest regret is that I didn’t do that earlier in my career.  As soon as a candidate shows interest in C-B, they really need to read PCS to Corporate America, 3rd Ed.  It should be required reading for O-1s.  I’m serious.  Even if officers don’t leave the military, it will help them focus their attitudes about their careers.  At the Conference, I told Roger Cameron that PCS changed the course of my career and, as a result, my last 2.5 years in the service were the best, not because I had the best assignment or was in the best location, but because I had a completely different attitude toward my service.  

His advice is to start early!  Cameron-Brooks completely agrees, and this is why we will work with JMOs as far from their potential transition as necessary.  Some of our competitors only want to work a month or two prior to the transition, and some others will only start at 1 year.  While the average time a candidate spends in our program prior to a Conference is right about 12 months, this past Conference, we had one candidate spend 5 years, and another 3 1/2 years.  We also had a few who only spent 1 month!  I am sure they wished they had had more time.

The other point he makes is that it is not enough just to be in the program.  Most important is to take what you are learning and apply it in your military career to improve your performance and also provide accomplishments that relate to business and that you can explain to a recruiter.

I’m not giving you anything too new – just emphasizing what worked for me.  Hopefully this information can help prospective candidates also have successful Conferences.