“The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”– Carl Jung
“What the hell am I watching?” These words ran through my head when I recently attended a Veterans’ Transition Webinar. Why? Because I had just witnessed one of the worst pieces of transition “mentoring,” from one of the “top voices” in the transition industry.
So what happened? I’ll tell you.
During this webinar, a group of leaders from a well-known organization provided a webinar where they field questions from transitioning service members after giving a presentation. The idea was to allow service members to ask sticky questions regarding their transition back to the civilian world of employment.
What I witnessed, instead, was a travesty. Here’s how it went down.
At one point, the presenters came to an individual who had questions about securing informational interviews. For those who are unfamiliar with informational interviews know that they are essential to career transitions but tricky if you’ve never done them. Most service members must be up to speed on interviewing someone for information. Any transition member worth their salt should know that. Our service member was no exception.
So the line of questioning from the three moderators begins, and it looked something like this:
Service Member: I’m really struggling with informational interviews because I don’t know who to ask, how to ask them, and what to ask when I get one scheduled.
Moderator 1: What industries are you looking at?
Service Member: I don’t really care about the industry; I just want to make sure I end up in a productive role.
Moderator 2: What job titles have you evaluated?
Service Member: I’ve evaluated a few, but I’m not really sure what I’m looking for.
Moderator 1: Ok, well, what would you like to do?
Service Member: I just want to help people.
Moderator 3: EHHHHH WRONG. You need to have a list of industries with specific job titles that you want to evaluate before you can even begin asking for informational interviews. What you’re saying is not specific enough…(Long-winded explanation with no action steps commences)… Sorry, I’m not trying to be mean here, but you have a lot more homework you need to do.
Service Member: Oh, ok. Well, thank you, everyone, for your help.
Moderators: You’re welcome.
(Moderators move on to the next questions)
I was so pissed off that I had to walk away from my computer. I can tell you from experience that when someone says I’m struggling with confusion and they are at the beginning of their transition process, a diagnostic line of questioning is necessary. Where they missed, specifically Moderator 3, is when they got to the question, “what do you want to do” and the service member said, “I want to help people.”
This answer is the EXACT answer I pray for when someone comes to me looking for mentorship. This EXACT answer makes me devote so much time to helping service members transition back to civilian life. You hear that very rarely outside of the veteran population. I wait for that answer with bated breath because if they give me that answer, I have found another rockstar mentee who will do the work. I know, without a doubt, that their “why” will be strong enough to make them a Titan.
These Moderators, however, shit all over it. They took the exact answer any mentor begs for, ripped it up, spit it out, and then gave a half-assed apology for being idiots. Instead of going down that rabbit hole with the service member, they told the service member you don’t know shit, you’re doing it wrong already, and you are so far off we have to get aggressive with you.
So the question remains: what the hell was I watching?
What I was watching is what I have watched repeatedly during my time as a transition mentor. Well-intentioned zealots (WIZOTs) spewing Conventional Transition Wisdom (CONTRADOM) in the form of canned one-size-fits-all advice dispersed across a broad swath of service members with no actionable insight, no follow-up and no tact.
It’s total bullshit.
I hear you asking: ok, smart guy, what would you have done? I’ll tell you.
The moderators should have helped the service member tease out who exactly they want to help. So instead of “EHHHH WRONG!” They could have done the following:
Service Member: I just want to help people.
Moderator: What people do you want to help?
Service Member: (Answer that probably lists a few different types of people they would like to help)
Moderator: What’s the significance for you in helping people like that?
Service Member: (Answer that probably discusses the desire to continue serving out of uniform, but on their terms)
Moderator: Where can you find people like that?
Service Member: (Answer that probably includes a geographic location)
Moderator: What industries and organizations serve those people?
Service Member: (Answer that probably says “I’m not sure”)
Moderator: How would you go about looking?
Service Member: (Answer that probably says “I’m not sure.”)
Moderator: Who have you spoken to about this besides me?
Service Member: (Answer that probably says “no one.”)
Moderator: Ok. We’re off to a good start. We know you want to help ____ people. We understand why you want to help them. We know where these people are. What we need to know is where to find employment related to that. Here’s your homework:
- Using LinkedIn. Find 5-10 Organizations serving those individuals (take 1-2 hours)
- What industries are those organizations in? Use your best guess; if you aren’t sure, we can follow up, and I’ll help you figure that out.
- Find five people at each organization whose roles sound interesting to you or that stand out in some way. Take 1-2 hours to do this.
- Put all of this information into the spreadsheet I will email you after this webinar.
- Use this link for 30 minutes on my calendar 1-2 weeks from now so we can download it.
Can you see the difference? The webinar I saw grilled that service member and likely embarrassed them in front of their peers with no foreseeable help in the future. The service member was defeated.
Using the model I recommend above, we can teach service members how to empower themselves and dominate their transitions instead of waiting for crumbs to be distributed to them by the almighty LinkedIn influencers.
So why don’t more “transition” organizations take this approach? Because it’s sticky, it’s philosophical, and time-consuming, and no vanity metrics are associated with my recommended method. These larger organizations are also obsessed with efficiency over effectiveness.
Think about that the next time you allow an expert to take up room in your head. There’s a cost associated with hearing bad advice. If you’re a transitioning service member or a veteran, do not let the B.S. of CONTRADOM spewed by WIZOTs bog you down. Be careful about what the hell you’re watching.
Founder – Veteran Mentor and Career Coach
No veteran should feel like civilian life is purgatory. It’s my job to help professionally ambitious post-9/11 veterans avoid entrapment in transition purgatory by challenging the B.S. of Conventional Transition Wisdom.
I challenge the B.S. of Conventional Transition Wisdom by breaking down the mindsets, strategies, and tactics of world-class experts (Titans) to help veterans compress the transition learning curve.
Learning directly from Titans helps veterans escape entrapment by avoiding the costly mistakes encouraged by Conventional Transition Wisdom.
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