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How to Interview with the Economy in Mind
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about how to interview with the economy in mind. My colleague, Joel Junker, recently published a very informative blog post discussing the current economy and the impact on JMOs considering and/or making a transition to the business world. I highly encourage you to read it here.
As one of my former military bosses once told me, hope is not a strategy! That certainly applies to any mission in the military, but it also applies to making a transition from the military to the business world. Yes, the economy has softened, and there is no denying that. However, it is still absolutely possible to make a successful transition no matter what the economy. Why? Because companies need strong leadership regardless of economic conditions. But in a more challenging economy, the bar is raised. So it requires two things to make that successful transition – strong preparation and a great career search strategy. I believe this to be true in any economy, but it’s certainly more critical in our current one. Our founder, Roger Cameron, always had a saying that he used during turbulent times: “You have to prepare to interview with the economy in mind.” Companies always have openings, but as I stated above, the bar goes up to receive offers, so prepare with this in mind. It’s less useful to react with worry about the economy and timing. The best thing to do is focus your time and effort on preparation, ensuring you have the right transition strategy and learning how to interview with the economy in mind.
- Read as many business books as you can. Learn about and study concepts like Lean, Six Sigma, Project Management, Data Analytics, Corporate Finance, etc. Companies are looking for candidates who are informed about business, have applied business principles in their military career, and are ready to make an impact. Additionally, reading business books will better help you translate your background using business language instead of military jargon.
- Take time to conduct self-analysis; understand your strengths, weaknesses, 3-4 significant accomplishments, 1-2 failures, and the key lessons you learned from the military. You should also be able to explain your leadership style in less than 3 minutes.
- Write out your answers to commonly asked interview questions. When you get them down on paper, study them to determine if there is anything that does not add value and cut out the extra verbiage and “fluff.”
- Practice your verbal delivery numerous times. You do not want to memorize the answers, but you want to be comfortable with the content. The first time you deliver an answer should not be in your first interview.
Career Search Strategy
This begins with having the right mindset. It is important to approach every opportunity with a “How can I help solve your problems” type of attitude. Remember, when making a transition to a new industry and launching a new career, you are making an investment. That means you have to be willing to give and not just “cash in the chips” and have a what’s in this for me attitude. There will be opportunities to be self-serving, but in a more challenging economy, it is especially important to be a “giver.”
A JMO is considered a nontraditional hire to Corporate America, meaning the military is not the traditional source commercial business companies turn to in order to fill their leadership positions. When the economy softens, it is even more critical that companies not miss the mark on who they hire. So, companies pursuing a nontraditional candidate during a slowdown in the economy can create even more risk. In order to get over that high interviewing bar, you must have an excellent strategy of being very open to a wide variety of careers, industries, and locations. We highly recommend not narrowing down in any area (e.g., location, career fields, etc.), with the exception of quality/leading companies and developmental positions that fit your background. It is much easier to maneuver your career within a company that values your leadership experience than from the outside. This means don’t wait for the perfect opportunity in your preferred location. Instead, get your foot in the door with a great company at any location, be a top performer, and then move to your ideal location later. This journey happens all the time!
If you have questions or comments about the blog post, Cameron-Brooks, or the economy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond promptly or set up a call with you.
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