Veterans: Your Job Is to Create Value

serious moneyWhen an employer hires a new employee, they do so with many expectations. Not only do they expect you will perform up to their standards and meet the objectives outlined in the job description and discussed in the interview, they also expect you will:

  1. Show up with integrity, reinforcing their company values on the job and in the community.
  2. Deliver against the goals set by your managers and supervisors.
  3. Return value to the company, team and mission that exceeds the cost of your compensation (salary + benefits).

As you transition from a military to a civilian career, it’s critical you understand that these expectations are set in the minds of your employer and are largely based on how you presented yourself before and during meetings, the perceptions others shared about you in recommendations and references, and how you communicated your value proposition.

While personality, likability and “fit” in the culture are very important to employers, what your new (or current) employer is really looking for are ways you can deliver more value than the cost of employing you.


Why Value Perception Matters

In my new book,Your Next Mission: A Personal Branding Guide for the Military-to-Civilian Transition, I emphasize that building a personal brand means you anchor your actions and behavior on the value you create for others:

You’ll be distinguished from the competition. Setting yourself apart from others who might offer similar value allows you to avoid what I call the “commodity sale,” where your audience chooses based on price (wage) alone. Here’s an example: If you go to the grocery store looking for laundry detergent and you don’t care about a specific brand—if the brands don’t mean different and compelling things to you; if you consider all laundry detergent to be created equal and expect they will all deliver the same result—how do you choose? Most often, you will buy the cheapest one. After all, why would you pay one penny more for something you consider to be the same?

If you are not seen as unique, compelling and relevant to your employer or potential employer, then you leave to chance the possibility that she might choose someone else for a promotion or new job based only on who’s the cheapest to hire. Or, the employer might perceive all veterans to be the same. If your employer simply looks at skills, time on the job, certifications and credentials but does not see your unique value and brand assets, she might choose your competitor because they command a lower salary. That’s not how anyone wants to compete! We don’t want to be chosen because we’re the least expensive solution among a lineup of options. As a veteran, you need to use the personal branding skills and attributes that set you apart to differentiate yourself from civilians and veterans who are competing for the same opportunities.

Being perceived as having value and worth means we compete differently than those who are hired or engaged because they can do the job at the lowest cost. Value and branding mean we can charge more and are more highly desirable.

To learn more about this book and what you will learn in it, see this video:



How Value is Perceived

Many times, we perceive value based on emotion. I like a certain brand of shoes because I imagine I will look and feel more successful and glamorous if I wear them. Their cost is high, which even further reinforces my perception that I will be seen as “able to afford them.”

Hiring managers look at this formula:

Benefits – Cost = Value

If they perceive that you will add to their productivity, team morale and ability to do more, they perceive you as having high value relative to the expenses the company will incur to employ you.

This is important because as you compete against other veterans and civilians, your ability to articulate and demonstrate that value will need to be communicated.


Demonstrating Value

The first step in being able to confidently demonstrate value is to understand what you have to offer. Consider:

  1. What has my military experience prepared me to do in my civilian career?
  2. How are my experience, skills and talents unique from my competitors’?
  3. How does my military experience and my uniqueness create value for my     employer?
  4. What are the ways I have demonstrated that value (either in the military or after)?

Hiring managers will ask you specific questions about your ability to produce, create value and contribute. You will be asked about previous successes and times when you faced hurdles or obstacles and how you overcame them. You will be asked to show real examples of how expectations and goals were set befor you and you provided value for the betterment of the unit, company or mission.

Be sure you have examples, anecdotes, stories and testimonials from others to illustrate how you performed against the objectives or mission you were given. When possible, highlight times and situations where you went above and beyond what was expected of you. This goes a long way towards convincing the hiring manager that the costs of hiring you will be outweighed by the benefit you bring.

Finally, be sure to do your homework before the interview to ensure you know what the objectives and goals of the company are, why they are hiring this position and how you can expertly fill the role. This will help you seamlessly tie your value and contribution to their goals and help the hiring manager imagine you in the job!


Be the Best Check Your Employer Writes

How do you know if you’re delivering the value your employer expects? Feedback, affirmation and validation will tell you if you are falling short or providing value.

I often tell veterans to “strive to be the best check your employer writes.” (Click here to tweet this thought.) When a client or employer questions your time, analyzes your invoice or requires more explanation on your project expenses, they are questioning your value.When the time comes to pay your invoice or salary, be the payment your employer is excited to remit because in their mind, you were worth every penny.

What are some of the best ways you’ve been able to demonstrate the value of your military training to the civilian workforce? Tweet at us!

Image: Flickr

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