Military members are coming home to the U.S. in growing numbers. Drawdowns in overseas operations, and new budget realities at the Department of Defense (DOD), have accelerated the move back to civilian life for many military members and families. For some, this situation has interrupted long-term career plans. For most, the transition comes at a time of economic uncertainty and job search challenges.
As they head home, military members and families can draw on help from the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) co-sponsored by the DOD, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Veterans Administration. TAP includes face-to-face job search training, online information, and individual coaching. In our Aligned for Results workshops with military support staff, we’ve been impressed by these resources. And we’ve often wondered how The Grove’s visual tools could further improve their intended results.
The Challenge: Coach Job-Seekers More Effectively with Less Face-to-Face Time
An opportunity to explore this question came along with an invitation to provide coach/mentor training for transition-assistance staff at several overseas military bases. We began by asking prospective participants about their challenges and the results they want to achieve. They told us that their jobs are changing rapidly. Many aspects of job-search assistance, which were traditionally offered face-to-face, are moving online. In addition, staff are more often facing tightly compressed transition schedules, with less time to coach their customers on job search strategies and skills. At the same time, due to civilian force downsizing, many military support staffers are facing their own transitions.
Clearly, new coaching strategies and creative thinking were needed to maximize the impact of transition resources for those heading home.
The Design: Fuel Job-Search Success with Online Research, Outcome-Focused Coaching, and Visual Thinking
We decided to combine the power of The Grove’s visual-thinking tools with coaching and mentoring models we practice in our own work with supervisors and counselors in business, non-profit and Federal organizations (see Robert Dilts’ remarkable book From Coach to Awakener for models and methods that have inspired us). Visual thinking and coaching methods would be woven into the transition-assistance services currently available to military members and their families. Coaching exercises were designed to take advantage of online sources and tools, such as the D)D’s TurboTAP.org and DOL’s O*NET. The exercises would demonstrate how to combine individual Internet assignments with coaching to clarify outcomes, dissolve limiting beliefs, establish SMART plans, and encourage accountability.
Over the course of two-and-a-half days, participants in Coaching Next Steps re-experienced and re-invented how to coach an Individual Transition Plan (ITP). They practiced how to quickly establish rapport, to listen and question for long-term career outcomes, and to assess the alignment of immediate job-search plans with these outcomes. A customized version of The Grove’s Graphic Gameplan template enabled participants to draw the links between their coaching strategies and participants’ job search challenges. Two of the The Grove’s Career Compass templates (Preferences and Possibilites, and Choices in Context) provided visual summaries of online self-assessment and occupational research assignments. Participants completed these templates through individual Internet research and reviewed results with their coaching partners. Working together, the job-seeker and coach then laid out a customized job-search gameplan, including tasks and timelines for employer research and contact, resume development, and interview preparation.
Results and Lessons Learned
As anticipated, the interplay of Career Compass templates with structured coaching conversations produced a range of positive results. Participants gained deeper understanding of how to align an individual’s values, interests, skills, and experience with motivating career direction. In the role of job-seeker, they clarified career targets and gained a fuller range of choices for achieving what they want. As coaches, they gained practice with interview techniques and visual templates to gather information, guide outcome-focused planning, and support self-sufficient action.
The workshop also produced a surprising degree of teamwork. As participants shared career and life goals, they came to know themselves and one another more deeply. Networking and mutual support erupted, along with team plans to offer mini-courses on an array of job-search topics.
At the organizational level, workshop sponsors have gained staff able to “work smarter” as they guide customers through the changing terrain of transition assistance. According to our participants, the longer-term outcomes of the workshop are military members and families better equipped for their Next Steps, and heartfelt appreciation for their homecoming.
Although hard to track and measure, these are the outcomes that united all who took part in Coaching Next Steps.
Our company, Aligned for Results, LLC, helps people work better together to achieve results that matter to them. Because team alignment and individual commitment are essential to this process, we use interactive facilitation tools (such as The Grove’s Strategic Visioning templates) that support the emergence of both. For more information, you can reach us at email@example.com.
© 2012 Aligned for Results, LLC