Communication Skills Are Key to Landing the Top Jobs for JMOs in Business

If you are a JMO and you want to land a top job with a leading company, start improving your communication skills today.  As I matched Cameron-Brooks JMO candidates with company requirements for the April 2009 Career Conference, I was amazed at the number of times I saw a requirement about communication.  In addition to how often I saw the requirement, the variety of companies and positions asking for that ability also impressed me.  I saw maintenance, manfucturing, project management and process improvement jobs asking for this key skill in addition to the obvious customer facing jobs like sales that always require it.

Here is a sampling of the requirements:

“Need to be a mature and effective communicator.  Cannot be introverted”  Maintenance Manager position

“Self-assured, confident and assertive communication skills.”  Sales Leading to Management position.

‘Good presentation skills.  Sharp, can easily interact with a client.”  Consulting position.

“Strong communicator who seeks out others to gather information instead of waiting.”  Project Manager position.

“Need to be confident and savvy to understand when to listen and when to share ideas.  Must be comfortable interacting with high level company leaders.”  Process Improvement Analyst position.

“Must be assertive and have some intensity.  The laid back easy going style does not work.”  Sales Leading to Management position.

“Strong interpersonal skills to build relationships with technical personnel across the company.”  Engineering Project Management position.

“Need a certain amount of polish and personality to interface with customers.”  General Management position.

“Need solid communication skills.  Able to collaborate with others and work in a open communication environment.”  Operations Team Leader position

Why the increase focus on communication skills?  Three reasons. 

First, the positions for which companies now consider JMOs are more complex than in the past.  For example, team leadership positions like manufacturing and logistics also have responsibilities or projects that require interaction with other functional groups.   This could include Six Sigma, Lean or other quality projects that involve peer to peer interaction, influencing and persuading higher level personnel and leading change initiatives.  Also, more and more positions outside of sales are interacting with customers, and many other roles are partnering with vendors and contractors.   

Second, the JMO jobs in the military are becoming more complex and thus more challenging to explain to recruiters as well as to connect specific accomplishments and responsibilities with the positions.  As military operations tempo increases, the military is asking more of it’s JMOs in the Iraq and Afghanistan combat zones as well as back at the military installations.  This is a good thing , but it does create the challenge of how to communicate the accomplishments and responsibilities that connect to the company requirements.

Third, the interviewing bar is very high for success.  In this current job market, companies have numerous candidates from which to choose.  They want the perfect candidate and the company is unwilling to give on any of the requirements.  Those candidates who communicate well are able to demonstrate and prove their abilities, and will come out at the top of the list.

What does this mean if you are considering a transition?  Start today improving your communication skills.  You cannot ramp up your communication skills during your military to business transition.  The time to identify your opportunity areas and make improvements is before you start interviewing  – not during.  Whether you are years or months away from a potential transition, take specific steps now to improve your communication skills.

What can you do?

Read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie, The Lost Art of Listening by Mike Nichols and Crucial Conversations by Grenny, McMillan and Switzer.  There are many other books on communication to get you started.

Practice every chance you get.  Volunteer to give presentations at work, at your church or other oganizations.  Approach every interaction you have with someone as an opportunity to improve your ability to listen, comprehend and communicate effectively.  For more formal practice you can join a local Toastmasters International group www.toastmaster.org/

If you do make the decision to make the transition from JMO to business leader, write out answers to your commonly asked interview questions.  Then practice delivering them to friends and spouses.  Ask for their feedback.  The first time you deliver an answer and get feedback on your interviewing skills should not be in the interview itself – prepare ahead of time.

Joel Junker