What You Need to Know About Civilian Job Searching
Tune in as Navy Federal career expert Jon Barton offers tangible guidance to help servicemembers and veterans navigate career shifts.
Video Transcript for MakingCents Episode 5
[MUSIC PLAYING] EMILY BIGHAM: Hi, and welcome to the podcast Making Cents, brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union. I'm your host, Emily Bigham, and each week I'll be taking your questions to the experts to help you make cents of your money. Pun intended. And just for the audience who is just now tuning in, thank you so much for joining us on Making Cents. I am speaking with John Barton. John, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
JOHN BARTON: Hi, it's my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me over.
EMILY BIGHAM: So while we're on the topic of service members transitioning out of service, tell us your story.
JOHN BARTON: Yeah, I guess mine's more of the typical story. Although it was about a decade ago and there weren't as many opportunities as there are now. But I was transitioning off reserve duty after a time on active duty. And the idea was, oh wow, this should be pretty easy. I can hang the uniform up, put the boots in the closet, and immediately start getting to work with this plethora of schools that I've been to and all this amazing training.
And my focus in the Marine Corps was weapons. I was in weapons company and I was an 0351 by trade, but then I'd gone on to develop my skills at division schools. So I had all this amazing knowledge of weapons and weapons systems, which had absolutely zero, zero credibility in the outside world, unless I wanted to be a gunsmith somewhere at some random gun store.
So I found that I was woefully unequipped to handle the work environment. Then went unemployed for a while, long enough to burn through anything I'd saved from my time on active duty. And so, yeah, it was tricky. So I dove in and went to my Rolodex to try to figure out who I knew that wore a uniform or I served with that might possibly be out in the civilian world.
And through some mutual friends and some random universe intervention, I bumped into a Sergeant Major, who I had heard about, but had never served with. And he was working in film and TV business. And he and I spoke, got into a conversation, which sparked a really long, amazing friendship. And through him, that opened doors in the film and TV world. And that's where I maneuvered over into.
But it had nothing to do with anything other than the fact I had been a really good Marine and I knew a lot about guns. So it was funny how I was able to transfer skills that were completely inapplicable to the civilian world into something that was very sought after in the civilian world, it was an interesting career choice that had nothing to do with a day-to-day thing. Hollywood's a weird group, this fantasy world that people get into. And I would have never wanted to be anywhere near it. And happenchance and karma took over.
EMILY BIGHAM: Sorry, I don't mean to jump in there, but I did want to ask you about this idea that the veterans are speaking a different language than the business leaders who might hire them. And I have a stat here that says, like 2/3 of veterans feel that way. And after talking to you, it sounds like that's maybe not the case. That there are a lot of transferable skills that veterans don't even know they have. Do you have any tips maybe for resume building or what veterans should be looking for for jobs?
JOHN BARTON: Absolutely. I think that you should have an open mind and I think you should look at your military experience, not just the specifics, like your MOS and the schools you've been to, but look at it as a broad package of managerial skills and troop leading skills that transition into leadership skills outside in the civilian world. And that's always your first step.
In the military, we're trained leaders. So the civilian world, and especially in lower, middle, and upper management, they're looking for trained leaders more than anything else. They want people that can hit the ground running and grab people, people gravitate to them. And they're effective in their communication and their discipline in terms of how that relates to the bottom line for any particular company. And this is outside of whether or not vets want to go into business for themselves.
So I think when I started working with vets with their resumes, when I started getting into mentorship, the hard part was saying, OK, look this is you on paper and this is great. Because we're taught in the Marine Corps to go through our resume building as if we were taking all of our skills and applying them directly into a civilian resume make for job sets. And that's fine and some of that does translate over. And some of that does translate over into if you want to pursue a higher level degree.
Some of our classes and schools do translate into college credits and that can be translated into a degree in certain aspects and certain colleges agree with that.
EMILY BIGHAM: So you mentioned--
JOHN BARTON: Oh, go ahead, yes.
EMILY BIGHAM: I'm so sorry. I just had an idea that I really wanted to touch on. So you mentioned the fact that a lot of businesses are looking for trained leaders and that's a quality that the military leaders who are transitioning have. I wonder if that's maybe something having to do, and I don't want to say confidence, because I don't think it's confidence.
I think it's maybe that that veterans need to understand the connection between the trained leaders that they are in the military and how that relates over to the trained leaders in the business world. Because I think that there's a lot of things there that are similar, but it's difficult to understand if you've never been in a corporate setting. So do you encounter that ever? And how would you coach through that?
JOHN BARTON: I do. I think what I found it the most interesting is that, oddly enough, a lot of veterans coming off active duty or reserve duty that come into the corporate world, their first notion is to be, not meek, but they tend to hide behind some of their more robust communication skills.
I've been in conference calls and meetings where veterans were present and I never knew, because they were sitting and watching the room and anticipating and picking their targets and picking their battles to fight. And that's definitely a skill we're taught. But I think that more vets should embrace this idea that they were trained communicators when they wore a uniform. They're trained in their abilities to communicate succinctly, think, and digest problems accurately and come up with good solutions.
And if you never communicate that in the corporate world, if you sit there and say, well, no one wants to hear from me. I'm just a vet. I never went to business school or I never did-- that's doing do it yourself a disservice. And yes, there is a language barrier. The corporate side, they can talk differently. But our world, as you translate in, it's not as hard as mixing oil and water. I believe it's like mixing two different colors of water. And what you come up with is a hybrid.
And so as a veteran, look back to your basics, look back to your communication and your attention to detail. And then develop your style, your leadership style that you may have already had when you were in, or maybe it's a hybrid style that you're adapting to the corporate world. Now, of course, there are things you don't want to do. We've got to keep our swearing down to a minimum. And I think we need to tone down any of our more robust rhetoric. But in the end, the skills that you learned, even going so far back as boot camp, are very applicable being a corporate leader.
EMILY BIGHAM: So I'm reading your bio here, which is great by the way. It's very long, you've done a lot of things. Congratulations.
JOHN BARTON: That's a blessing and a curse.
EMILY BIGHAM: There's a part, [LAUGHING] So there is a part here that says that you encourage out-of-the-box Marine Corps-style leadership principles. I'm so curious to hear about some of these out-of-the-box leadership principles.
JOHN BARTON: Well, years ago I had someone referred to members of the Marine Corps, we're just the civilians multitool, we're the civilians Leatherman. So there's so many different tools within our quiver that can be directly applied to how we work in the corporate world, but also how we become veteran entrepreneurs. And I spent a lot of time and lessons learned of what we call the asymmetric warfare school and division schools.
And we talk about, well, if you have a hammer and in an ice cube, well, you can easily beat the ice cube into submission. Or there are different ways to let it melt and there's different ways to utilize what it produces. And it's no different than if you're faced with some problem in the corporate setting. A veteran has to look at it and think, well, the easiest outcome might not be the best. The easiest solution might simply be the hardest to communicate through in the civilian world.
But I'm just trying to think of an analogy where we used our guerrilla warfare tactics in a civilian application. But there aren't any good ones. But there was a saying that I heard at boot camp. And granted, I was at boot camp about 20 years ago. It was improvise, adapt, and overcome. And in essence, that's what asymmetric and counter-guerrilla warfare is. And so, I think vets can use their out-of-the-box thinking more in the civilian world to create different types of hybrid results than they ever could in the military.
In the military, our background is still housed in a foundation of discipline and specifics to our branch and MOS. Well, you can think in terms of-- you don't have to think in your MOS or you don't have to think in those specific structured terms when you're out in the corporate world. You have access to Google. There are many times in the field when I was setting up booby traps and doing cool stuff, where I had no access to Google and if I had, there were all kinds of really cool things I could have learned that they didn't teach in our regimented school system.
EMILY BIGHAM: Kind of sounds like a process. So it's the process at which you problem solve. And can you repeat those three words one more time?
JOHN BARTON: Improvise, adapt, and overcome.
EMILY BIGHAM: I love that, that's great. That sounds like--
JOHN BARTON: Oh, go ahead.
EMILY BIGHAM: No, I was going to say that it sounds like for any veterans that want to start a business, I know that's definitely a popular career move for veterans. That would solve a lot of problems.
JOHN BARTON: Yeah, beyond a doubt. Again, it goes back to this multitool concept. Where you can be-- the military teaches you to just mission accomplishment. And there are so many different methods to do this. And to complete the mission objective we're armed with training. So it was another expression we learned when I was going through our martial arts training program, which was one mind and weapon.
And so you can apply that to just anything you do as an entrepreneur. So if you have the head knowledge, if you can become a duty expert in what it is you want to accomplish, what the next amazing great thing you want to bring to the world is, and you just look at it like so how do I head think my way through this? And that's singly the most important tool that you have is your ability to think through the issue.
EMILY BIGHAM: And improvise.
JOHN BARTON: Adapt and overcome.
EMILY BIGHAM: I love that. So switching gears a little bit, I want to talk about resumes and how veterans can tailor their resumes to civilian positions to make their military experience applicable to a more corporate job. This is something that you mentioned in a military personnel office that's applicable to human resources. I don't even know if that maybe sometimes the terminology or the jargon used in the corporate world even registers if you haven't been in it.
JOHN BARTON: I don't think it does either. So as I said about a decade ago when I was first transitioning out, there were so few resources for veterans. And now especially with the tools that the Navy Federal offers and the SBA offers, there's certainly more elements out there that can help guide and let veteran entrepreneurs prosper. Which did not exist a decade ago. And was much more difficult.
But the resume is tricky. So outside of the entrepreneurial side of the fence, if you want to do something amazing in the work environment, there are tons of opportunities. And so I'm going to draw back to my original story, which I talked about my friend who was the captain and he was the XO of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. Well, he now has a Master's degree in marketing, which he did his entire education on Camp Pendleton, while he was on active duty. And he applied everything that he was learning and training into a civilian mindset, a corporate mindset as he was going through these online schools. And I think he did some in-course classes, but mainly it was online as he completed his degree.
So he started learning the civilian terminology and adapting it to his resume early on. He took things like, of course, I've done the same thing. When I went to NCO school, that's just an upper management certification course. So he looked at that and he said, well, I've done this training block as an officer, I've done this training block as an enlisted Marine, and I've done this training block, and those translate into the corporate designations of these. And so he used any advanced school he went to, any leadership school he went to, and plugged it into the corporate side of the fence.
Now, it's funny because he's been telling me that a lot of the corporate side, because so many veterans have gone into the corporate workforce that they're actually changing terminology to reflect more the attitude of the incoming service member. And so it's easier for that side to go, OK, well, this person went to Non-Commissioned Officers course, so we don't have to send them to a basic managerial position. They've already got the managerial leadership skills in tact from the government. So we could just send them to something on our side that teaches them the basics of how we work.
EMILY BIGHAM: What about the job environment? So we've talked a lot about the skills and how those are transferable, but is the job environment ever difficult?
JOHN BARTON: Oh, it can be. I think now it's more difficult than I've ever seen it. It was pretty tough around 2009, '10. Right at the height of the recession. I think there was a lot of people just being very discouraged. Nobody was hiring. If you were an entrepreneur trying to get out there and get your product or service out there, nobody was funding. That was tough.
I think it's really tough now, because even what's happened currently, if the banks are funding, if the credit lines are liquidable, and you're able to get out there and let's say you want to start the next big company. We're still limited by social distancing. I live in Los Angeles, we just had a whole new series of stay at home orders put in effect. So this pandemic is really tricky for us.
Outside of that, in times when things are a little bit more successful and the economy's on an upturn, which I believe we're going to see here real soon, it's a dog-eat-dog world where the competition is really intense. And so you have to navigate your way through a competitive corporate environment much more so than now. So yeah, I think that there's definitely some give and take. The environment, the work, what's happening in the world, politics, they all interfere with how vets are getting out into the workforce.
EMILY BIGHAM: Are you seeing any-- I know that you have a couple of businesses, and you also speak at various schools, and you have other programs that you're involved in. Have you seen anything, I guess, in your businesses related to COVID that have made you have to alter the way that you are operating? And how you've overcome that using a tactic from the military.
JOHN BARTON: Oh yeah, yeah. We've had to refocus everything that we're doing, especially on the film side. So I do more consulting work and service work in the film business. There has been nothing. We've only just started going back to productions as of a couple of months ago, and even then it's at about 20% or 30% of where it was just a year ago.
I just finished a project out in the New York area and the direct impact is how we interact with each other on a set. Now, many people have not been to a movie set, some people have. Those that have know that there could be anywhere between 200 and 600 people on a set at any given time or in various locations throughout a movie crew. So it's a huge grouping of people and that's well outside of your director and your principal cast.
Well, I deal directly with directors and cast members. I do a lot of production work behind the scenes, but mainly I'm up there in front trying to make sure everyone looks great. Well, there's new rules in place where I can't even go up and adjust an an actor's weapon in a sling, I can't go up and adjust a uniform, there's nothing I can do with that actor without going through a series of COVID protocols to get to hands-on. And they even discourage it even if we go through those protocols.
Every day we have to go through a questionnaire, a COVID written test. At the end of business we have to document whether or not we felt ill or we're getting headaches or anything like that. And take those hundreds of people and they're all put under a microscope daily and we have a check and balance that goes into making sure that, A, that we're not getting sick, but in particular with our actors on set.
If you have a $25, $30 million actor and you give him COVID, or her COVID, be ready for the lawsuit that's going to come. So I understand there's definitely protocols in place for what we do and how we do it now. Part of that's directly affecting creativity. The film side of this is a creative business at the end, so people have to work creatively with each other to come up with something cool.
For me, I do a lot more stuff on-set. We did this job in New York. I would have to talk to the actor via our phones in between takes. So he'd have his phone in his pocket, I'd have my phone, and we would talk and I'd say, look, adjust your thing to look like this. And I'd have one of my staff dressed up in an identical suit, whatever he was wearing, to make sure that he could make the adjustments. All right, I need you to walk like this. And I'd have my staff member walk like this and then the actor would emulate. And it was tricky, we've never had to do that before.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah, that is tricky. And that's another way that you can use that skill of adapting that you said you learned in the military. And I think that's something--
JOHN BARTON: --Right back to adapting.
EMILY BIGHAM: I've experienced that here at Navy Federal. I really miss the in-person and being creative and coming up with solutions or problem-solving. Problem-solving through what kind of relief we're going to give members for COVID. That's not as easy to do when you have to call someone or set up a meeting, just it's easier to do when you're with people. That's when the real creativity and you just kind of start to get on a groove.
JOHN BARTON: Oh, you hit the nail on the head. The individual veteran on their own is powerful, but when vet get in groups that actually can hybridize and brainstorm, that's really when true power comes out. It's true across the board with everyone that shares a creative vision, of course. But I work with groups of veterans and I'm not just out here on my own doing my own thing. I work with a great, amazing support staff. I have people and networks all over the place.
And when I run into a situation I have people I can call, and I can work through problems and talk about things. It's interesting how much we rely, even as veterans, on that face-to-face, interpersonal connectivity. And to watch COVID erase all that. It's unfortunate.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah, well, erase it, but maybe you just find another way to get the job done.
JOHN BARTON: For sure. Again, it goes back to mission accomplishment. Yes, that is our primary goal. Can you be as effective in the COVID times? Yeah, I think you can get close. But I think we're all looking forward to those days we go back to work and we can actually shake a hand and then create those interpersonal bonds that make everything that much better. I think that we're an amazing species and we just work better together.
EMILY BIGHAM: Right. Well, part of me thinks that if now more than ever, veterans are more well equipped to handle the stresses in the job market that a lot of people, they haven't had these types of hardships enter their lives. And maybe the veterans can help the civilians that are in the workforce to overcome it.
JOHN BARTON: Well, look, case in point. I know we're probably crunched for time. But I witnessed numerous instances of veterans helping people with the COVID protocols. Especially on donning and doffing equipment, like masks and gloves. I can remember going through every level of mock training you could think of. And so, especially if you just boil it down to a boot camp scenario where everyone goes into the gas chamber.
At some point you've been tear gassed. You know how to put a gas mask on, you know how to take a gas mask off, you know how to put gloves on, you know how to take gloves off. I watched all these vets, I don't even know what MOSs they all had, but they all knew how to take gloves on and off really well.
And so they going around each crew member and helping them, because a lot of civilians on a movie set or in any corporate environment, I guess, haven't had to work an entire 12 or 14-hour period with gloves interfering with their day-to-day. And yet in the military, that's just a common thing. So it's interesting to see that level of group help that was taking place with these 60, 80 people learning that, oh wait, you can't take gloves off like this? I didn't know that. So I thought that was pretty spectacular.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah, even the small things like that. So we are a little bit crunched for time, well not crunched for time, because I can talk all day about this.
EMILY BIGHAM: But give me a cut off time.
JOHN BARTON: Yes, yes, I'm sorry.
EMILY BIGHAM: Is there anything else that we haven't talked about that you want to get out to the veterans who are transitioning into civilian jobs?
JOHN BARTON: I would say, like we had said earlier, there's many paths through the forest. So whether you decide, as a veteran, that you want to be the next big tech mogul or you want to just be an amazing upper manager at McDonald's, all of this is great. And it depends on where you want to take yourself. Because not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. It's tough, there's a lot of risk, the chances of going broke are pretty much 90% certainty in certain instances.
So there's all these different levels of why you should do something and why you shouldn't. So I say, look, follow your passion. You're passionate about going into business for yourself, then you need to become an amazing duty expert and what you want to do and how you want to do it and learn from other veterans that are doing it. I always make my door open to people for mentorship, because I believe that I've learned some interesting, valuable, costly lessons in my life, and I'm happy to share the pitfalls of that journey. It's funny--
EMILY BIGHAM: And successes.
JOHN BARTON: Successes are a great. Successes are great. But you have to-- the successes are easy to navigate. Everyone's happy. You're making money, everyone's having a great time. How do you navigate the failures and the pitfalls, especially in today's COVID times, can really determine the ethical path you take as a business owner and even as an employee. And it can guide your future prosperity.
There are great ways to navigate speed bumps and there are really crappy ones. So I think that veterans can learn from each other in how we navigate our way down that bumpy road. Because, honestly, these days, at least for the interim, we're going to be down some bumpy roads.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah. Who knows, who knows what's going to get thrown at us next.
JOHN BARTON: Yeah, for sure. We've already had pestilence and floods, we've had record hurricanes this year. What's next? What's [INAUDIBLE].
EMILY BIGHAM: I think on the East coast we're due for big snowstorms.
JOHN BARTON: Oh yeah, that's coming. I just saw it on the news, you'll get that tonight.
EMILY BIGHAM: No I'm not prepared. Oh my goodness. Well, thank you so much for joining the podcast today and it would be great to talk to you again about specifically entrepreneurs or veteran-owned businesses. I think that would be a really good topic to really get into, especially the experience that you've had.
JOHN BARTON: Yeah, it's my pleasure. There's some real heavy meat and potatoes in a good veteran entrepreneur talk.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yes, and some good beer I heard too.
JOHN BARTON: Yes, our beer is quite good. People do like it.
EMILY BIGHAM: Gets the job done.
JOHN BARTON: COVID has really put a damper on our beer-making, let me tell you. But we are looking forward to 2021 for sure. A little bit, we're going to-- again, we have to improvise and adapt and overcome the crisis. So we're rebranding a little bit. But we're going to have beer for the masses here pretty soon, once again.
EMILY BIGHAM: Very exciting. I'll have to make a trip up from Coronado next time I'm down.
JOHN BARTON: You're always welcome, always welcome.
EMILY BIGHAM: If I make it through this blizzard that's coming tonight. I'm just kidding. So where can listeners find you?
JOHN BARTON: Well, you can go to our main corporate portal, which is thewarfightergroup.com. Of if you're interested in just our beer, you can go to the Warfighter Brewing Company and we can answer your questions there.
EMILY BIGHAM: And for resources for veterans?
JOHN BARTON: They can always call me direct.
EMILY BIGHAM: They have to come buy beer.
JOHN BARTON: Well, I tell you those conversations are best had over a pint. So any time, they can reach out to me at any of our email addresses. Anyone that needs help with any questions they have in regards to work or entrepreneurship, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. My numbers are public, my emails are public, and I'm happy to answer any questions.
EMILY BIGHAM: All right, well, thank you, John, so much for being on the podcast. And for those of you who are listening-- and hopefully we'll talk soon. And for those of you who are listening, make sure you subscribe to Making Cents wherever you get your podcasts. And give us a rating, drop a comment, or email us that email@example.com. That's M-A-K-I-N-G-C-E-N-T-S @ navyfederal.org. Where we're making your financial health our mission. Take care, John.
JOHN BARTON: Thanks a lot, you too.
ANNOUNCER: Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. This podcast is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial professional for specific information on how certain laws may apply to your individual financial situation. References to and participation with the military community does not constitute organizational endorsement. Navy Federal is an equal housing lender. Navy Federal Credit Union, our members are the mission.
If you’re a servicemember looking to transition to a civilian career, need tips for how to translate your military service into civilian terms on a resume or have already made the switch and are looking to take the next step in your career, the advice that Navy Federal career expert Jon Barton offers in this episode is for you.
Release Date: December 16, 2020
Theme music was composed by Taka Yasuzawa and Alex Sugiura.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.