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Current Economy and the JMO
When my colleague, Joel Junker, and I are speaking with JMOs considering a career in business, we often hear them tell us they are strongly considering separating from the military, but have concerns about the economy and what the job market looks like for them. It is understandable given that the majority of JMOs have never had to apply or look for a job. They graduated from college, an Academy, or OCS, raised their right hand and had a job as a 2nd Lieutenant or Ensign. The uncertainty about the economy is surely not going to go away, especially in an election year where both political parties are trying to paint very different pictures and convince Americans their position is the right one. Additionally, what is being portrayed in the news, USA Today, WSJ, CNN, etc., is macroeconomic news and, as a JMO, you have to look at it from the microeconomic level. The economy does not have to be a point of consternation and to help quell some of the uncertainty, let’s examine the facts.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics just posted the latest unemployment numbers for the month of September. For the first time in a few years, the unemployment rate dropped below 8%, down to 7.8%. This is a 0.3% decline from August. For those over the age of twenty-five with a college degree, which is coincidentally the JMO demographic, their unemployment remained steady at 4.1%. That is nearly half of the national unemployment rate. It is important to remember the national rate includes everyone from high school dropouts, to those with just a high school diploma, etc. Below is the table from the BLS.gov website where you can view these figures for yourself:
Another statistic to which to pay attention is job creation. For the month of September, the private sector created 114,000 jobs. In fact, commercial business has created on average 146,000 jobs per month in all of 2012. Additionally, these numbers continue to be revised because the initial incoming data on which the statistics are based is often flawed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just revised the July and August private sector employment numbers from 141,000 to 181,000 and from 96,000 to 142,000, respectively.
Now, contrast those numbers with the public sector, or government, that has either cut jobs or remained flat each month in 2012. If you look at what’s going on in the government sector with hiring freezes for 3-letter agencies, the Army reducing its officer ranks by 5,000 officers over the next five years, reduced career designation percentages in the Marine Corps, reduction-in-force for the Air Force, etc., you can see where this is coming from and how it makes sense.
My goal of writing this blog is not to tell you the economy is perfect, because it isn’t. There is a lot of work to be done to improve our national economic conditions. Yet, we continue to hear from our client companies that they have needs for strong leadership. The issue for our client companies is not a shortage of applicants, but a shortage of the right applicants. That means there are opportunities for JMOs who are well prepared and can separate themselves from the noise. Our candidates have averaged 12 interviews at every Career Conference this year, which illustrates this point. Our companies want to hire top leadership talent, but they will not hire just anyone. You must be well prepared to be successful. That means:
1) Read as many business books as you can. Learn about and study up on concepts like Lean, Six Sigma, Project Management, Self-Directed/High Performance Work teams, and sales concepts.
2) Prepare for challenging interviews. Get a list of frequently asked questions, develop a strategy to answer them, write them out, and most importantly, rehearse! Rehearsing your answers is probably the most critical part, yet one the most ignored. Imagine a time when you have had to brief an O-6 or a General Officer. I would imagine that you did not step into that briefing without having practiced and rehearsed until you had it down cold and were prepared to answer any questions. The same goes for a professional interview.
3) Interview with every opportunity with a “How can I help you solve your problems?” approach. Do not be self-serving in an interview. There will be time to evaluate the opportunities, but that time is when a job offer is in hand. Until that time, you must work hard to prove your fit, demonstrate interest in the position and company, and build rapport with the interviewer.
The bottom line is that economic statistics should not be a deterrent, but rather a reminder that opportunities exist and will continue to exist for the well prepared JMO.