For whatever reason, the personal referrals from co-workers came flooding in this week!  Even though I don’t have any positions available right now, I actually took the time to call most of the referrals.  I wanted to discuss their skills, interests, and experience, since it’s a lot easier to fill those occasional vacancies from people resigning or transferring if I’ve already got a pool of candidates waiting on the back burner.   In general, the people that I spoke with had an awful lot of great experience.  One particular guy had an awful lot of attitude, too!

                Look, I’m all about telling people to build their career.  Always take as much training as you can get, and build your experience whenever possible.  Those two things will open a lot of new doors for you, and tackling new challenges helps build up confidence.  But here’s the thing:  being overconfident in yourself and what you’ve accomplished comes off as being cocky!  I mean yeah, it’s great if you already hold an active security clearance, but so do a couple hundred thousand other people.  And it makes things a lot easier if you’ve already got experience doing the work I’m hiring for, but think back to your MOS training.  You weren’t the only student in the class!  Besides that, some programs give the hiring manager a lot of wiggle room to provide on the job training to the right candidate.

                That being said, here’s a couple of thoughts to consider over the weekend.  Military folks and government workers should pay special attention, since it’s you guys who have the hardest time making the jump to working for a profit-driven company.  Welcome to the private sector, where promotions are never guaranteed!   Yes, pay raises are out there, but they usually come with more responsibility.  Staying in the same position for a couple years is seen as nothing more than doing your job.  Showing up every day doesn’t earn you any kind of seniority, so don’t look for it to count much during an interview.

                -Instead, change the way you sell yourself.  Don’t just say that you have 20 years’ experience doing something, then leave it at that.  Your experience is great, but what counts now is what you can do for the company.  For example, I was hiring an armorer last month and asked him about his experience with small arms.  The candidate briefly mentioned that he had 20 years of military experience in a similar position, but then went into detail on the weapons systems he’d worked on, the programs he’d managed, and the specific training that he’d received.   It was a great answer, and of course he got the job.

                -Also, take a hard look at your personal financial situation.  With more and more companies competing for government contracts, they’re all looking to submit the lowest bid to secure the initial award.  Reducing bid amounts means that they’re got to save money somewhere, and overhead costs such as employee salary and benefits are the first to be chopped.  When you’re making that jump to working for a company, one of the cold hard facts is that you might have to accept a lower starting salary then you’d like.  It’s your decision as to what you’re willing to accept, but keep in mind that the most important thing is always just to get your foot in the door.  Even though these companies might have higher paying positions available, you’re going to be competing against all of their current employees who are looking to move up.  No matter what those guys’ skills are, they’ve got a huge advantage over you since they’re already on the inside.  So while you might not have to start your career all over again from the beginning, you may very well have to downshift through the gears for a little while.

                -Finally, remember that even if you’re not that interested in a job because of its salary or whatever, keep in mind that every contact is one more opportunity to network.  Stay professional at all times!  Captain Attitude had a GREAT resume that showed over 20 years of progressive experience, but he wasted about ten minutes of my time griping about how he wouldn’t work for a low salary.  That sounded a little funny coming from a guy who was going to be laid off from his current job in the next couple months!  When he finally did come up for air, he asked if I could help him find a better paying job within the company.  Let me think about that for a minute…ummm, no.  Sorry dude, but I’ve got my own program to run here.  I’d be more than happy to provide career counseling during my own time or help anyone with a job search, but I’m sure as shit not going to do it for free!  If this guy had stayed professional, I would have been a lot more willing to actually save his resume on my hard drive.  That way, I could’ve passed it along internally if I did catch wind of a suitable position for him.

                Yes, companies need to hire someone to do the job.  But remember, nothing says that they have to hire YOU.  Your attitude, flexibility, and professional demeanor are just as important as what you’ve been doing for the past twenty years…