The 3 Skills That Will Keep You Employed

In his book, Present Future: Business, Science, and the Deep Tech Revolution, Guy Perelmuter writes (p.55), “The use of subjective judgment, emotional intelligence, and adaptability to unexpected situations are emerging as important characteristics for the employees of the future since these are features that are quite uniquely human and will very likely not be replaced by a machine in the foreseeable future.”

This quote is important for two reasons: First, Mr. Perelmuter is correct. Second, this is a great example of why job seekers can better spend their time reading books by legitimate authorities on the future, especially scientists and engineers, than reading “how to” books about getting a job, with the obvious exception of mine!

I have two rules about competitors. First, I never acknowledge anyone as my competitor. The minute I would do so, I would be telling potential clients that they, the competitors, are as good or better than I am. Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that? Second, I never try to build myself up by knocking someone else down. When I am asked about a competitor I always reply, “I don’t know enough about them to comment. All I can do is tell you about myself.”

No one can possibly be offended by that response. And it will work nicely in a job interview. This is especially so given that employers are not going to tell candidates against whom you are competing. That being the case, candidates have to assume that their competitors may have more direct experience than they do or may be younger. The first is faced by some veterans (although many have far more relevant experience than civilians); the second by older workers.

In either case, you never want to say, “I have experiences that no one outside of the military could bring to the table.” Or, just as bad, “I have more experiences than some twenty-something.” After all, you may be insulting the person who is interviewing you.

So ignore the competition. Don’t forget them; just ignore them. The inference will be that you have what the others don’t.

Which brings us back to Mr. Perelmuter. What are “subjective judgement,” “emotional intelligence,” and “adaptability to unexpected situations?”

First, they are all connected, in one way or another, to something I wrote about some time ago namely, on what older workers/candidates should focus in a job interview. My answer was then, and is now, dealing with adversity. In my career I have had to deal with death, criminality, and technological breakdowns, to name but a few. I guarantee I can “beat” you on your example of your worse day on the job. Someone with, let’s say, five years’ experience just can’t do that. They may have one example, but not enough to show that they can handle Perelmuter’s third point, which I will deal with first.

A good interviewee (candidate) politely takes control of the interview. They refocus the conversation to their benefit. Think about what talented politicians do in an interview. They answer questions by refocusing. (I think it was Churchill who said something on the line of, If I don’t like your question, I’ll respond to it; if I like your question, I’ll answer it!) You, the candidate, should do the same. Answer the question you are asked but immediately add a caveat. Say something like, “But what is also important is to prepare for the unknown. We do that all the time. That’s why we have insurance. That’s why we have virus protection on our computers. But, of course, we can always be surprised. No plan is perfect and no protection is fool-proof. Let me give you an example.”

I promise you, a veteran and an older worker will have a much better example than someone who has never served in the military or who has an employment record that can fit nicely on half a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.

Which brings me to “emotional intelligence.” I have read a great deal on the subject and, with all due respect to the experts, I still like my one-word definition the best: maturity. People with emotional intelligence do not panic. If you will, they do not get emotional. So, when giving your above example add, “As always, when the unexpected happens, I take a deep breath, and then begin to calmly respond. If I panic, everyone else will panic, and a bad situation will only get worse.”

And that brings us to “subjective judgement.” It’s “subjective” because it is yours. You are judging the situation. If everything works out, you are a hero, if not… Of course, in the example you will give, you will be right. So the emphasis is on “judgement.”

Now that you have explained that you do not panic, that you are mature, you have to tell the interviewer how you reached that decision which proved to be correct. In this case it is important to emphasize two things: First, experience. Briefly recall similar situations you had and what you learned from them. You can even include a failure. Recognizing your failures is a sign of strength, not weakness and, as everyone should know, you can often learn more from failures than from successes. Second, and just as important, make sure to say that you consulted with your team prior to making the decision. Team members want to have their leader agree with them but, more importantly, they want to be heard. Explain to the interviewer that you always explain to your team members why you agree or disagree with their recommendations. By doing so, you gain their support and everyone should implement your decision without bitterness.

Such a strategy in an interview should impress the interviewers and help you to secure the job offer.

Sure Bet Jobs in the Age of AI?

University Degree (Debt) Not Required!

In a previous article, I addressed the issue of the automation of the hiring process. I now want to look at what automation, or in today’s lingo AI – Artificial Intelligence – and it’s sibling – AGI – Artificial General Intelligence, will mean for employment opportunities in the coming decades, as well as industries not strictly technological in nature. In other words, what are the safe bets for choosing a career in the foreseeable future? What is nice about this is that, what they all have in common, to one degree (pun intended!) or another, and with only two exceptions, is that they do not require an academic degree and will free the employee of the future from the burden known as “student debt.”

(One thing to note, I always advise college students to minor in, and now I would advise non-college students, to actually go to their local community college and take some courses in, English. Regardless of your profession or industry, you will not be able to advance in your career unless you write and speak English well. And while people may want, and are in fact welcome, to argue with other statements I make in this article, that one is not open to debate.)

Military and Semiconductors

The mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans. I believe in my mission because we have a volunteer military and no one will volunteer, except those planning a career in the military, unless they have a reasonable expectation of employment following their discharge from the Service. And we need a strong military now more than ever.

The United States faces a grave and lethal threat from China. Think about it. If it is true, and I believe it is, that the coronavirus was an accident, unintentionally brought upon humanity by the Chinese, then the Chinese now know how to intentionally do it. They also know that they faced absolutely no ramifications of any significance (I can’t even think of an insignificant one!) for not having immediately informed the world of the existence of the virus. So they see the world (read: West) as weak.

Second, and now I am truly dusting off my doctorate in International Relations, a country that will not defend its own borders may be assumed to be unwilling to defend foreign borders. Russia got away with Crimea, literally, because it was not a vital national interest of the US. China may think, rightly or wrongly, that President Biden, unwilling to defend our southern border, may not be willing to defend Taiwan which is now in danger of invasion because of a world-wide shortage of semiconductors, which are most definitely a vital US national interest.

The shortage today centers around chips for cars, each one of which has thousands of microchips to monitor everything that happens inside, and to a certain extent, outside of the vehicles. The largest manufacturer of microchips is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. China wants the company. After all, no one can deny that China always prefers to take rather than create! China, a major consumer of microchips, wants to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to their manufacture. Taking Taiwan would help them achieve that goal and, as importantly, deny their competitors (read: the US and EU) access. The US, probably in response to China’s military activities, not the coronavirus, is limiting the sale of high-tech products to the Communist nation which is trying to recruit semiconductor experts from around the world.

That may be why Beijing has ramped up military harassment and diplomatic pressure on the Taiwan. Ironically, Taiwan is “heavily reliant” on China when it comes to the production of the chips and their supply chains. Nevertheless, China does not want a piece of the pie; it wants the whole pie. And not only does it want to be self-reliant, so does the US. Intel is reportedly planning a $20 billion investment in new chip factories, meaning jobs and lots of them. But Taiwan does not want to give up its leadership position and is willing to invest $43 billion to keep it and, no doubt, to defend itself from the mainland.

Semiconductors are not just important for cars. They are critical across many industries, those that exist today and those planned for the future (read: AI and AGI). In fact, you could probably say they are the oil of the twenty-first century. Countries have gone to war over oil. Trying to block China’s ability to manufacture semiconductors, or to limit that ability, is reminiscent of US actions against Japan which led directly to their alliance with Nazi Germany. We all know what happened when the US tried to turn off the oil spigot to Japan, as well as its access to other resources. How far will China be willing to go to realize it’s goal of making this century the Chinese Century just as the previous century was the American? Add Iran to the mix, not to mention North Korea, and the fact that China and Iran just inked a $400 billion 25-year deal, and there are a few things to keep world leaders (and the rest of us) up at night, including whatever it is Russia is planning for Ukraine.

All of which means that perhaps the most important branch of the military with be the Space Force. More than likely the next battlefield will be cyber. There’s no better place to learn cybersecurity than in the military and, as I will get to shortly, cybersecurity is the best bet for future employment. But first, let’s go old-school.

The Trades

A few years ago the Number One job in metropolitan New York City was, of all things, welders. You could not find a welder to save your life. (Previously, it was nurses – for which a college degree is most certainly required!) Currently, I am sitting at my desk, looking out my window at the apartments across the street, seeing a sight that I see every two to three weeks. A silver van is parked in front of the building. It belongs to a plumbing and heating company. Soon, they will open the back doors of the van, get out the “snake,” open the drain and remove the clog. I once asked them why they could not fix the problem. They told me the problem was not the plumbing but the people flushing things that are not supposed to be flushed.

We will always need plumbers, carpenters and electricians. Anything that can break, as long as it is more cost effective to fix than replace, will require a human being to fix it. So the non-glamorous jobs may be a solid bet for steady employment. (They may also be the only union jobs still in existence.)

Private Security

Before we get to cybersecurity, let’s stay old-school.

With the diminution of police forces across the country, people are scared. If you cannot trust the police to pull the trigger because they are afraid of being sued or attacked, they have been castrated. After all, if a White police officer is criticized for killing a Black woman who was literally about to stab another Black woman to death, what’s next? You can’t blame them for retiring, quitting, or others not signing up for service. To be honest, they’re right to think, it’s not worth it.

That being the case, many communities, neighbors, may band together to hire private security forces. Who would not be willing to pay $5 a day to make certain that their family and property are safe? And, if enough people join together, that’s all it would cost. The wealthy will certainly do it. Starting a private security company, and working for a private security company, may be a sure bet for long-term revenue and employment.

Enough old-school…

Cybersecurity

As already stated, the easiest sure-bet job to predict is cybersecurity. The more we are dependent on the Internet, the more protection we will need. Cybersecurity will be the Number One job for the foreseeable future.

(For the following, I rely heavily on Guy Perlmuter’s book, Present Future: Business, Science and the Deep Tech Revolution. Page numbers refer to the e-book edition. The quote I like most is, “The entire history of civilization is all about change – and, more than that, about technological change. This is what defines us as a species, this is what propels us forward.” [Emphasis in original. p. 19] Words to remember.)

Services for the Aged and Aging

But not everything is high tech. Just over 16% of the US population is over 62. (While writing this article I heard on the news that more adult diapers are sold in the US than those for children! Not surprising since it has been the case in Japan as far back as 2013.) The average age of the US population will continue to grow, but that also means that the number of people in the work force will decline. Immigration could change these numbers, but let’s say, for sake of argument, that on average the population gets older and the work force gets smaller.

That’s all good news. An older population means jobs which cannot be done by anyone/anything other than humans: home health care immediately comes to mind, along with nursing homes, assisted living facilities and supportive housing. Jobs in these sectors, services for seniors, are a safe bet when thinking about the future. There is no doubt that longevity will become a trillion dollar business (p.114).

And if the work force is getting smaller, that means automation will not be taking jobs away from people. The people won’t be here. The automats, if you will, will truly be supplementing what we humans will be doing. This is nothing new and neither is the hysteria of “the rise of the robots.” My favorite example, which I wrote about in my previously mentioned article, is the ATM. Remember when they first appeared? The doom-sayers predicted the end to jobs in banking, especially tellers. What happened? Smaller banks, by which I mean branches, but more of them. So ATMs did not result in fewer bank jobs, but more. And, in addition, because of the need for more branches, construction jobs were created.

Information Management

I do not mean this necessarily in the historic IT sense of the term. Here I am referring to access to Big Data, massive amounts of data that can help to predict what is going to happen in the future.

The example I like most is true but I don’t know which specific incident is actually true; they both may be. There are two stories I have heard and read, basically the same, but slightly different.

Using the data they had accumulated over the years, Target felt it could predict the future buying patterns of its customers. Based on her buying patterns, Target started sending coupons related to pregnancy and newborns to a school girl whose father, to say the least, was not amused. He went to his local Target and expressed his displeasure in clear terms. A few days later he had to admit that Target got it right. (p. 317).

Or, and here’s the second version, a woman who had been trying to get pregnant for some time, was highly offended when she read a congratulatory message on the top of her Target receipt about her pregnancy. She too was taken aback and expressed her displeasure in clear terms. I don’t remember if she returned to apologize but she was, in fact, pregnant. Target knew it before she did.

Which story is correct, does not really matter. They both may be. The important thing is, Target got it right. How many companies, based on pattern analysis, would like to be able to predict what prospective and current clients/customers will need? Answer: All of them. Learn how to use Big Data and I am confident that you will have a job for life. There will always be a need for great decision makers.

To be a great decision maker, you need data. Great decisions are based on facts. The suppliers of facts will always be needed. Yes, computers can supply facts. Anyone who has ever used Google knows that. But they cannot provide an analysis of those facts. They could report that a billion sources say “X” while only a few million say “Y,” but that does not mean that either is correct. It takes, and will always take, a human to make that determination. Unless or until the impossible happens, and an algorithm is created that actually replicates the human brain, no computer can be a great decision maker. Beating a human at chess, Go, or Jeopardy! does not a decision maker make!

In this vein, Perlmuter states (pp. 55-56): “The use of subjective judgment, emotional intelligence, and adaptability to unexpected situations are emerging as important characteristics for the employees of the future since these are features that are quite uniquely human and will very likely not be replaced by a machine for the foreseeable future. … And there is no doubt that much more is on the way – including new careers that simply don’t exist yet or have not yet become relevant – as technology creates the need for new tasks and unexpected, promising specializations.”

It is natural that all this talk about technology scares some people. It also reassures others. But the fact of the matter is, as I quoted above, technological progress is nothing new. It has always happened and we have always survived. Most people, if asked what the most important invention of all-time was, would probably say the wheel. They would be wrong. The invention that had the greatest impact on civilization was the steam engine (p.23). That was once the technology. Anyone reading this afraid of a steam engine? (Just remember, don’t get too close, the steam can burn you!)

Perlmuter predicts (p. 27) that “even more new jobs, careers, companies, and empires will be created. Others will disappear or evolve into something completely different.” This brings me to, of all things insurance.

Insurance

I am certain that before long the insurance companies will miss the good-ole-days of ships sinking in the oceans, aircraft crashing to the ground, cars colliding, and buildings burning. Life was simple. Not anymore – or not in the coming future.

I’ll give you one example: Autonomous vehicles (AVs).

AVs, be they cars, trucks, vans, buses or anything else moving people or things from place to place without a human sitting behind a wheel, are driven by AI-powered computers. In other words, there is no driver (or, in the case of drones and planes, pilots). The AV gets into an accident. Who pays? The owner of the vehicle? The manufacturer of the vehicle? The maker of the software? The designer of the algorithm that made the software possible? The government(s) that permitted the vehicle to be on the road, in the air, in the first place? Someone has to be held responsible or, to be more precise, liable. But who?

Perlmuter thinks it is going to be the vehicle manufacturers (p. 41), but he also believes owners will still need insurance for theft and damages caused by natural disasters.

I am certain there are other examples, but you get the idea: When humans are removed from the equation, when they are no longer the active party causing the bad thing that happens, who pays? Will personal or professional liability insurance become things of the past? If companies, manufacturers and algorithm designers are the culprits, why would Joe and Jane public buy anything but life, disability and health insurance? And given all the sensors (more on those in a moment) that will be in our homes to prevent fires and break-ins, who’s going to need fire and theft policies? If the sensors don’t work, won’t the manufacturers or the companies providing the service be held liable?

Bottom line: The insurance industry is going to get very interesting and “very interesting” usually means trouble. (Never forget the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”) On the other hand, “trouble” usually means jobs.

Technology is already having an impact on insurance. For example, when I owned a car, I had a policy that allowed me to pay by the mile. The more I drove, the more I paid. There was a little sensor that I plugged into the outlet which mechanics use to diagnosis the engine, and it sent information on my mileage to the insurance company. Every month I paid a different amount, but it was always substantially less than what I had previously paid with a traditional policy.

That was a few years ago. Today the sensors not only can report mileage, but also driving habits. Do you make last minute sharp turns? Slam on the breaks? The insurance company will know. How they will know if it was your fault or someone else’s I do not know, but there are now Pay As You Drive and Pay How You Drive policies, all thanks to technology (p. 42).

Electric Vehicles

In this case, the future is truly here, at least as regards the fact that cars, for years now, have been computers on wheels and mechanics have had to learn to be just as much computer engineers as mechanics. It’s a great example of technology not costing anyone their jobs and the right way, slowly, incrementally, to teach new skills to seasoned workers. It’s none of this nonsense that, seemingly overnight, someone who was employed building pipes to move fossil fuels will be able to build solar panels by the end of the week. There is a right way and a wrong way to retrain workers. Computerized vehicles is an example of the right way. But they are not, necessarily, electric.

No matter; electric vehicles will provide a plethora of new jobs:

The obvious job creator for electric cars are the manufacturers of the batteries and the charging stations which will make them practical transportation vehicles. This means an entire new way of charging batteries and building roads. “Highways could have a lane that transmits power to the vehicle, and areas near traffic lights in cities may be outfitted with charging stations under the asphalt.” This is not science fiction. It “is already being tested” (p.43).

So think of the jobs: Creating new asphalt. Creating new wireless charging mechanisms. Creating new ways of paving streets. And, when something goes wrong, a new way of removing the asphalt, fixing whatever broke, and repaving in an economical way which does not lead to extended street closures. (And, dare we hope, an end to pot holes!)

Being a Connector

What do Airbnb, Facebook and Google all have in common? They “connect the consumer with services or products” (p. 45). Amazon, of course, does it as well. And as everything is now “on demand,” there is no need for inventory. So, getting into warehousing, not a good idea. But coming up with a way to provide consumers with what they want, when they want it, and knowing in advance what that thing will be, good idea (big data returns!).

Think of all the things we never knew we needed until a company created it and convinced us we could not live without it. The car. Horses had been good enough for centuries. True, in urban areas they were causing a major health hazard (tons of manure having to be removed from the streets every night) but, still, no one had thought they needed a “horseless carriage” until Belgian engineer Jean-Joseph-Etienne Lenoir invented it in 1863, with Messrs. Benz and Ford subsequently taking the invention and running with it.

And what about this crazy typewriter I am using now. I was perfectly happy writing my Master’s thesis on my IBM Selectric with its changeable fonts. (Greatest typewriter every made!) In fact, my professor had to goat me (I wonder if that is now a politically incorrect expression. If it is, I apologize profusely to the Capra aegagrus hircus community.) into buying one of those new fangled personal computers with its word processing software. (For the record, Word Perfect was far superior to Word! Just goes to show, there will always be work for good marketers!) Today, I literally cannot write with pen and paper. I can’t write without a keyboard. And, like most of you, I am dependent on this thing for everything from communicating with friends and colleagues to balancing my checkbook.

And let’s not forget the so-called smart phone. When did we ever need to be in constant contact with the world? But now, not only do we need to be reachable 24/7, there are apps on the phone that we cannot, figuratively or literally live without.

These are all inventions creating demand that no one thought about but that we now cannot live without. And all of them can be utilized by smart people to create new dependencies and new jobs. Think food and other delivery services, for one. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Business creation means job creation.

Of course, there is another type of connector which will be in high demand: sensors for the Internet of Things. With every electronic device communicating with every other electronic device in our homes, cars and offices, someone is going to have to build, install, monitor and repair them. It is estimated that there are currently some 30 billion such units in existence today, and that the number “could exceed 75 billion by 2025” (p.79). And you know what they say, “Ten billion here, ten billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real numbers!”

And please, don’t buy into the foolishness that IoT and sensors on everything is “Big Brother” watching you. Technology is a good thing and sensors are a great example. They can “safely and preemptively track the maintenance schedule of any given piece of equipment” (p.83). Don’t you want to know in advance if the doo-dad on your thingamajig needs to be replaced or the whatchamacallit at the powerplant (green or not) is about to fail? And, as I’ll get to shortly, wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on inside of you!

Energy

Don’t worry, I am not about to add to the “climate-change-world-coming-to-an-end” hysteria. (Dear Haters: Before you write a nasty comment, I believe that climate change is real. I also believe that throughout human history, whenever faced with a threat or danger, human beings have come up with a technological solution which made life better. I believe in the genius of humanity, not just their stupidity.) Continuing our discussion of sensors, technology can save us energy. We all know that. We have been buying appliances with “energy efficient” labels on them for decades. But the entire system can become energy efficient, regardless of the source of the energy and, at the same time, creating real jobs.

It’s called a “smart grid.” This refers to “an electrical grid that uses sensors to better measure, dispatch, and control energy.” It “involves the installation of new meters and household energy storage systems” (p.85). Someone has to build, install and monitor these devices.

Medical Devices

As noted a moment ago, it is not only our homes and businesses that can benefit from sensors, we can as well.

“Our bodies are being integrated into the IoT structure via the wearables industry market; according to the firm Grand View Research, this market sector reached more than $32 billion in 2019 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of almost 16% until at least 2027” (p. 95). In other words, more jobs and not just silly things that count the number of steps you take in a day but important things like meters that show your glucose levels. (Yes, walking, exercise, is important. But does your life depend on knowing the exact number of steps you have taken? I think not.) Moreover, these sensors can monitor things that are happening in our bodies so we can deal with medical problems before they become problems.

For example, literally fresh off the press (as I received this while completing this article), psychiatrists can now use an app to help them diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders. It brings together “classical psychiatry with computational neuroscience.” Jobs created by technology, not lost.

Related to healthcare devices are human replacement parts. Need a heart valve? No problem. We’ll just print one using our 3-D printer. “Human organ transplantation using the patient’s own cells offers stunning possibilities as it eliminates the risk of rejection and the need to wait for a matching donor.” This is a business predicted to grow to the $35 billion dollar level in just three years. (p.121)

Healthcare Professionals

Just to make it clear, medical devices will not replace medical professionals/healthcare workers. They are tools, nothing more, nothing less. “In the 2006 report Working Together for Health, the WHO indicated a global shortfall of over four million professionals, especially in the poorest regions of the world” (p.96).

Healthcare is a thriving business. “According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent population health research center at the University of Washington, global expenditures in health care went from $780 billion in 1997 to $7.9 trillion in 2017—a 10-fold increase in 10 years” (p.98). This does not just mean physicians and nurses, but technicians, therapists, home health aids, literally anyone involved with the prevention and treatment of, or recovery from, injuries, diseases and disorders. Which brings me to CRISPR, which, for present purposes, simply means altering DNA and RNA.

Genetic Reengineering

This article is long enough, so, suffice it to say that we now have the technology to use genetic material “to cut out the virus and neutralize it,” (p. 105) or, put differently, we can now remove genes that are bad for us or we don’t like from our DNA and RNA (I think) and thus eliminate them. We can edit the building blocks of our progeny and maybe even change our own (although that part I am not certain about).

You already have four daughters and want the fifth child to be a boy, no problem. Find the proper sequence to add that Y chromosome and, voila, you have a boy. Have four sons and want a girl, find the proper sequence to remove that Y chromosome an, voila, you have girl.

Assuming the gene or genetic sequence that causes homosexuality is discovered, and you don’t want your child to be homosexual, no problem. A little editing and what was once recognized as a mental health disorder will no longer exist in your child.

The doctor tells you your child (embryo or fetus) has the gene for Tay-Sachs or Sickle Cell Anemia, consider them gone. Diabetes. Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s. They are found in history books, not medical books. And if there is a DNA/RNA string for blindness or deafness, who would not want it altered or removed? Ethical issues aside, baby designing, for good or not-so-good, may be a thing of the future. (If you are interested in this topic, I recommend The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson.)

For the record, this is not science fiction. China has recruited “couples that would allow their babies’ genetic code to be edited making them not only resistant to HIV, but also to small pox and cholera” (p. 107). That would be one heck of a vaccine!

Reality Check

To almost end on a positive note, no one knows how many jobs are replaceable by automation. In 2013, Carl Frey and Michael Osborn of Oxford University, predicted that, “Nearly half of the activities [that they] analyzed showed up as being susceptible to automation.” But the Center for European Economic Research, in Mannheim, Germany, “arrived at a very different conclusion: Rather than 47%, their estimate is that only 9% of the professions studied run a high risk of being automated. Other studies published by global consultancies have produced estimates of this figure between 30% and 50%” (p. 54). Again, no one knows.

Given that by definition automation focuses on jobs that will be lost, and ignores jobs that will be created, I for one shall continue to sleep soundly at night. After all, “the more predictable the task the greater the chance that an artificial entity will be capable of executing it” (p.60). So, think about it this way: Are you ever surprised in your job by something unexpected? Of course you are. So what you do is not predictable. And you can handle it; a computer can’t. To be fair, the continuation of the quote is, “and now, tasks that require some form of logical reasoning are also being automated,” but I choose to emphasize the words “some form.” From my perspective this means “limited” and “limited” means a minority of “tasks” and, for the record, a “task” is not a “job.” Jobs consist of tasks, not the other way around.

And keep in mind that it is the industrial sector which most needs to fear automation. At least as of 2019, the International Labor Organization was estimating that “79% of employed Americans worked in the services sector.” So. again, no need to panic, although technology will continue to increase “efficiency, accuracy and safety” in the services sector as it has done in the industrial (p. 66). But that does not mean a loss of jobs. Accounting software has not done away with the need for accountants. Computers (word processors) have not eliminated the need for secretaries (although, you can’t call them that any more, you have to call them “administrative” or “executive assistants”). And even though computers can now create reports, or rather the data for reports, for financial institutions, they can’t interpret the data. Without the interpretation, their just meaningless numbers.

Receptionists

It might be fun or cute to be checked into a hotel by a computer panel or robot, but if something goes wrong, you will want to yell at a human being. And, if you are like me, and can’t stand to “talk” to chat-bots, companies that hire real, honest-to-goodness human beings to answer their phones and greet visitors to their offices, are more likely to secure my business and, I would be willing to bet, yours too. Good receptionists may become a valuable commodity as more and more (foolish) people try to eliminate the personal connection in business with an artificial one.

Translators

I lived in Israel in the 1980s, during which time their was a trial of an alleged Nazi war criminal, a Ukrainian guard at a concentration camp. (The only thing worse than the defense was the prosecution and he was found not guilty only, if I remember correctly, only to be subsequently deported to Germany, from the United States, from where he had been extradited to Israel, and where he was eventually convicted.) The important point is that the trial was broadcast live on television and radio in its totality. The stars were the translators.

While the judges and attorneys, of course, spoke fluent English, and in fact, the judges sometimes corrected the translators on legal nuances, it turned out that the translators, who gave not just simultaneous but almost instantaneous translations from a variety of languages into Hebrew, were all graduates of a school in Switzerland and were, at the time, the highest paid persons, on an hourly rate, anywhere. And no one doubted that they were worth every penny.

Business is becoming more and more international. We all know Google Translate and other translation apps. But computers can only translate words, at least at present, and I doubt if ever, will be able “to correctly interpret the meaning of the original text” (emphasis in original). “[Q]uestions remain as to whether a machine can master the subtleties of non-technical translation and the interpretation of the immense range of human emotions” (p.65). So the translators of technical manuals have something to worry about, but not anyone translating, let’s call it, “human conversation.” And so what? Computers can’t possible do any worse than people in creating manuals for assembling the things we buy on-line!

Miscellanea

There comes a point where enough is too much and, I fear, I may have reached, if not surpassed, that point. So let me just say that there is a very good future for people involved with virtual reality, artificial reality, video games and eSports, and education (COVID may have changed teaching forever with remote learning, for many students – no doubt the affluent and therefore the ones who will be accused of being racists, although one would hope that with broadband becoming “a right and not a privilege,” every child will have a chance to become, as I have written previously, an ideal employee. Of course, on-line accredited universities have been accepted for years.). And then there are e-commerce (predicted to amount to $6.5 trillion in two years – p. 167), and finally, fintech and cryptocurrencies (which I readily admit I do not understand).

It’s Not Academic

Finally, for all of these jobs, professions and careers, a university degree is not required (with the obvious exceptions of physicians and nurses). I once worked, for a short time, at a university that was supposed to be teaching Computer Science. Impressed, I was not. The university, in point of fact, utilized a tax-payer funded grant to set up, in essence, an unaccredited trade school to do what one would have thought its Computer Science programs would have done: prepare students for employment.

Truth of the matter is, everything regarding IT can be learned at a decent trade/technical school for a fraction of the cost of a college or university, public or otherwise. And then those studies can be augmented by obtaining certifications. I have placed a number of IT professionals with clients – engineers, help desk attendants, Quality Assurance professionals, and some I can’t remember at this moment. But I can remember that in every job description a college degree was “preferred” not “required” and Cisco and Microsoft certifications were held in higher regard than whatever academic credentials a candidate had. The only thing that mattered to my clients was whether or not the candidates I submitted could do the job, not where they learned how to do it.

Put differently, no employer is going to be interested, for example, in hiring someone who can write articles for academic journals on cybersecurity if they can’t actually set up the necessary firewalls, etc. They will want people who can actually, if you’ll pardon me, secure the cyber! You don’t need a 4-year college degree, and the corresponding debt, to do that.

(Apparently, I’m correct. This article was just published as I was concluding another round of proofreading. It’s title, “No degree? No problem at these cos.” Make sure to read the comments.)

Links to LinkedIn Posts You May Find of Interest

Ten Things for Veterans to Keep in Mind When Conducting a Job Search

10 Things to Do to Get over the Holiday Job Seeking Blues

Why I Believe I am Correct in Accepting Connect Requests from Everyone

The 5-Second Resume Skim

Two Jobs to Think Thrice About Before Taking

How I Got a Former Prostitute Hired

5 Steps to Successful Career Change

Closing the Salary Gap

9 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask in an Interview and Why

Before hiring, meet the wife!

Why reading the classics is important

Check Your References

What is an Informational Meeting and How Should You Conduct One?

The Dangers of Frivolous Accusations of Sexual Harassment

Why Volunteering is so Important for Job Seekers

What is appropriate to share with colleagues and what isn’t?

Is this the Dumbest or Most Brilliant Reason for Working on a Straight Commission?

On Time Management

What will the 2018 Resume Look Like?

Job Alert: IT Project Manager and IT Account Exec – Hoboken, NJ

IT Project Manager – Hoboken, NJ   (20 minutes from the Port Authority)

Are you looking for a career move to a company where the environment aligns to your career goals?Are you unafraid of new challenges?Are you comfortable with a reasonable amount of change and fluid reporting structures?Would you like to work at the “best college” in the industry, one of the few companies that can claim to have been listed seven consecutive years by Inc. Magazine as one of the nation’s fastest growing privately held companies?And do you want to work in a culture that promotes unlimited learning,entrepreneurship and opportunity?Then continue reading.

The Project Manager (PM) will be responsible for the overallon-time and on-budget delivery of successful technology installations, along with developing and communicating work plans, managing deadlines and coordinating the Network Engineering team’s activities and sub-team activities.He/she will be responsible for defining and agreeing on deliverables and milestones, setting and controlling scope.Additionally, the PM will be responsible for communicating client status and vision to the company’s management and any other project shareholders.Projects tasks will include the definition of user requirements, strategy for project delivery, process measurements, test plans and implementation approach.The PM will be continually tested and will deal with a wide range of challenges.

While the PM will be expected to travel to clients (85% local), this is primarily an on-site position.The PM will have dotted line management responsibility for a team of six engineers, including senior engineers.

The ideal candidate will be energetic, good at assessingsituations, and possess both problem solving skills and the soft skills necessary to know when to compromise. They must have a strong technical background especially familiarity with Microsoft infrastructure, as well as Cloud experience. Additionally, they must be a multi-tasker who can simultaneously oversee projects, deadlines and competing priorities.

Veterans are encouraged to apply.  LOCAL CANDIDATES ONLY!

Specific Skill Requirements

  • Project Management skills necessary to prioritize and manage day-to-day activities and deliverables of the team
  • Act as a liaison between business and technical staff at all levels
  • Support, lead and assist internal customers with requirements definition, project definition, and project planning
  • Establish and maintain effective working relationships will all stakeholders in project to assure success
  • Prepare project plans, tollgate documentation and reports
  • Work closely with customers, developers or (AND?) vendors to manage issues, scheduling, etc., as they arise
  • Monitor progress of each project at every phase of the process, doing everything possible to avoid delays and costs
  • Prepare and submit proper close-out documents to all parties.  Assist customers with cost-benefit analyses and business cases to support new project proposals
  • Develop and maintain a detailed understanding of business processes and applications, customer needs and priorities
  • Experience identifying process changes; ability to design and help implement revised processes
  • Experience with preparation and delivery of communications to all levels within an organization
  • Manage dispatch team (TBD)

Experience

  • Minimum 2 to 3 years’ project management experience
  • Technical experience with Microsoft products, the Cloud, Firewalls, Storage Media, and Mobile
  • Effective written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent customer services skills
  • High level of consistent organizational skills
  • Attention to detail in handling and tracking technical issues

Education

  • BS in Computer Science, IT Management/Project Management preferred
  • Microsoft certifications a plus
  • PM Certification NOT required

To apply please submit your resume as a Word Document to bh@hsstaffing.com.

***************

IT Account Manager – Hoboken, NJ  (20 minutes from the Port Authority)

If you are looking for your next job, then this position is not for you.If you are looking to advance in your career, continually learn and work in a dynamic fast-paced environment, then you should continue reading.But only if you have a passion for IT.You need to read the literature out of enjoyment, not duty.IT needs to be not just your career but your hobby. You understand all the capabilities of your cell phone, you’re fascinated by all things digitally transformed, and you know that the “The Cloud” is not something that’s over your head. As for your skills and experience in sales, you need to be a prospector.You can’t be someone who waits for the phone to ring!

If this sounds like you then you are encouraged to join one of the few companies that can claim to have been listed seven consecutive years by Inc. Magazine as one of the nation’s fastest growing privately held companies.They have a culture that promotes unlimited learning, entrepreneurship and opportunity.

As an inside sales support representative you will be pivotal in executing the company’s growth strategy.You will be in contact with IT managers, CFOs and COOs of small and medium-sized blue chip clients, assisting them in resolving their technological challenges.

Veterans are encouraged to apply.  LOCAL CANDIDATES ONLY!

 Qualifications

  • Possess the personality to successfully engagement with C-Suite executives and senior managers
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Proven track record as a strong prospector
  • Positive attitude and desire to work in a rapid-growth professional environment
  • Technical aptitude: Either you are in love with technology or you have a desire to learn how technology impacts business and have the aptitude to understand its impact
  • Phenomenal phone skills with the ability to convey enthusiasm and energy
  • Positive attitude and desire to work in a rapid-growth professional environment
  • Minimum of 2 years’ of continuous employment history

Position Responsibilities

  • Manage client expectations and deliverables
  • Complete outgoing calls to follow-up on existing technology contracts and purchases
  • Complete outgoing calls to leads provided by the Marketing team
  • Explain the company’s value proposition
  • Distribute marketing materials to prospects as needed
  • Schedule 2-5 qualified new account  appointments per week
  • Work with Marketing to develop customer touches to enhance connect rate with prospects
  • Self-motivated and achievement oriented

Required Skills

  • Prior business-to-business calling experience
  • High school diploma required.  Minimum Associates degree in Business or Technology.
  • Knowledge of and experience with managing customer expectations
  • Strong technical aptitude and knowledge, along with the ability to translate the complexities of technology to a lay person’s language
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

To apply please submit your resume as a Word Document to bh@hsstaffing.com.

A.J. Luna to Appear on Bruce Hurwitz Presents to Discuss Veterans in Transition

AJ LunaAriel J. Luna, Bergen County, New Jersey’s Director of Veterans Services, will be interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents! for a discussion about issues facing veterans transitioning to civilian life.  The show will air live Thursday, February 18 at 9 AM (Eastern Time).

Luna enlisted in the U.S. Army at the start of 2000 and he was stationed as a communication soldier in Fort Gordon, Georgia, South Korea, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  After he left the Army in 2002, he joined the NY National Guard where he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-2005.  While serving in the National Guard, Luna was pursing his bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College.  He recently completed his Masters in Administrative Science with a concentration in Non-Profit Organizational Development from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2007, Luna received the opportunity to run a program at the NYC College of Technology.  In a period of two years, the Veteran Services Office assisted over 500 veterans with educational benefits, disability claims, job referrals, G.I. Bill workshops, and student veteran events.

In 2009, Luna came on as the new director of veteran services for Fairleigh Dickinson University.  The Office of Veteran Services was created and students on campus and online now had access to a one stop shop for a majority of their needs.  Students had access to one of the most knowledgeable individuals about the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.  Luna was involved with the group Student Veterans of America back in 2008.  This was one of the key groups that helped lobby to pass the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

————————————————

Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

Shane Schmutz of Veterans Passport to Hope to Appear on Bruce Hurwitz Presents

Shane Schmutz

Tomorrow morning, February 3, at 8 AM Eastern Time, Bruce Hurwitz Presents! relaunches with a live interview with special guest Shane Schmutz.

Shane is the Founder, past President of the Board, and past Executive Director of Veteran’s Passport to Hope (VP2H) – a non-profit founded in order to help our nation’s veterans. Shane currently lives and works in Utah after having moved back to his home state in 2013. Shane brings a wealth of experience to the VP2H team having had various roles in the private sector to include: Medical Device sales, Private Wealth Management, Private Jet sales, and Software sales. Before joining corporate America in mid-2008, Shane was a Captain in the United States Army. As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Schmutz served three combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during which he received the US Army’s Bronze Star. Shane continues to serve as a board member with VP2H and is very involved in the day to day activities of the 501c3, the non-profit symposiums, and the grant awards.

VP2H has three primary missions:  Raising awareness about the issues facing Veterans; raising money for Veteran friendly non-profits; and acting as a rallying point for other Veteran friendly organizations.

————————————————

Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

Let’s Look at the Affordable Care Act

I keep on getting questions about Obamacare.  Is it as bad as people say?  Is it hype? What does it mean?   Well, here’s what I think it means (thanks, in part, to Inc. magazine):

If you have less than 50 employees or 50 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees, the law should not impact you.  However, from the perspective of hiring, if a business has 49 employees, odds are they will not make that extra hire.

However, if they have less than 25 FTEs, and their average salary is below $50,000, they might qualify for a two-year tax credit to enable the to buy health insurance. The good news is that they will then become a more desirable employer. Of course, the question is, What will happen after the two years?  Moreover, the government already gives tax credits to employers who hire veterans.  But the process is so cumbersome that most employers don’t even bother.  Will it be the same under Obamacare?  Time will tell.

If a company has 50 or more employees or FTEs and they offer insurance, the question is whether or not they pay at least 60 percent of their employees’ health costs.  If so, the next question is, Do any of the employees pay more than 9.5% of their W2 income on health insurance?  If so, the employer has to pay a penalty of up to $2,000, not counting the first 30 employees. So for number 31 to 49, the penalty is in force.

If the employer is not paying at least 60%, they may qualify for a tax credit, but the above mentioned concern is still valid.

The good news is that if they cover 60%, and no one pays more than 9.5%, then they are in compliance with the law and have no worries about penalties.

By the way, Full Time Equivalency means at least 30 hours or more a week, not 40.

And one more thing: If an employee is under 26, they can be covered by their parents’ insurance. So let’s say a company only hires 18 to 25 year olds. They will save a ton of money, which may be the only way they can operate.  But, are they opening themselves up to an age discrimination suit?

So is the Affordable Care Act affordable?  Only time will tell.

ON GRATITUDE, UNIONS, VETERANS AND NEW JERSEY TRANSIT

As readers of this blog and my book know, the mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans.  I take that mission seriously because I believe that it is our duty, as Americans, to offer the only tangible support we can to returning members of the Armed Forces: employment.  But it is not just the right thing to do.  As I wrote in a previous post about the treatment of vets, it’s also the smart thing to do.  Vets make great employees, have fabulous skills, are mission-centric and care about the people they serve.  They also have the “‘No’ is not an acceptable answer” attitude.  They get the job done.

I work in Manhattan and live in New Jersey.  Every morning and every evening I travel by bus to and from the City.  I actually enjoy the ride.  It gives me a chance to unwind and catch up on my reading.  Not having to drive is relaxing.

What is not relaxing is the Manhattan bus terminal a.k.a. the Port Authority.  If, and it rarely happens, I can get to the PA before 5:00, there are no lines.  But from about 5:15 the lines start to form.  Sometimes it’s all gates; sometimes only a few.  And when I say “lines” I mean “lines.”  Hundreds upon hundreds of people can be standing in winding rows leading to their gates.  Sometimes the lines even cross each other.  Thousands of people can be waiting for their buses.  This is not exceptional; it’s practically every day.  We are all waiting for New Jersey Transit buses.  There is never a representative of NJ Transit to found.  What would be the point?

Now to be fair, if there is an accident in the Lincoln Tunnel, where all the buses are heading to or coming from, it’s no one’s fault that the lines are long.  And if the weather is bad, traffic slows, accidents happen and, again, it’s no one’s fault.  But this situation exists even when there are no accidents and the weather is fine.

Two days ago, Tuesday the 22nd of May, was one such day.  The weather was fine – although humid.  There were no announcements of accidents.  I actually got to my Gate, number 224, just after 5:00.  The lines were just forming.  I was fifth or sixth in line waiting for the 5:20 bus.

Now I should explain that the 162 local, 163 local, 164 local, and the 144, 162, 163 and 164 express routes all use my Gate.   There can be three to four hundred people waiting in a line that I won’t even try to describe.  You have to see it to believe it.  Let’s put it this way:  Around 5:15 they have to shut down the escalator or people will start crashing into each other.

(Just an aside:  The escalator is the only way to access Gate 224.  If it is heading up, you have to leave the Gate and cross over to another Gate to find stairs if you want to return to the terminal.  The stairs have been blocked for months following the remodeling/renovation of the Gate.  Put differently, if something really bad happens, our only escape route is into the bus traffic lanes!)

But let’s get back to Tuesday.

It’s 5:20 and my bus, the 144, scheduled for departure at that time, is nowhere to be seen.  A couple of 162s and 163s come and go, but no 144.  The minutes tick away, the crowd gets larger, the humidity rises, and people start complaining.  One woman sees the dispatcher and calls him over.

She said something like, “Three 162s and two 163s have come.  Why no 144?”  The dispatcher tried to explain the situation to her, to no avail.  Then, being human, he got frustrated.  And then he said the truth.

Now I am sympathetic to a man who has to face one angry woman with literally hundreds of people standing behind, beside and in front of her, knowing that everyone supports her and no one supports him.  Add heat and humidity, and he’s entitled to be cranky.  And I’ll give him credit, Mr. Conrad Daniel told me his name when I asked for it.  That surprised me.  But what shocked everyone was what he said to the woman before turning around and leaving:

“A bus is coming for you.  You should be grateful.”

“Grateful.”  Probably the worst word he could have chosen.  Everyone was in shock.  A couple people asked, “What did he say?”

Well he said we should be grateful.  Why?  Here’s my theory:

Mr. Daniel (and I may have the spelling of his name wrong) is in the union.  (That’s an assumption on my part, but since NJT is unionized, I think it is a safe assumption.)  Apparently, according to him, we should be grateful that union workers do their jobs.  It’s irrelevant that we are paying them to do their jobs.  It’s also irrelevant that they are incompetent.

Why “incompetent?”  If, as I wrote, there’s a problem due to an accident or the weather, there’s no one to blame for a delay.  It’s the life of the commuter.  It’s the price we pay – in addition to the fare.  But the long lines and interminable waits when there are no accidents and the weather is fine are a chronic problem.  It’s practically every day.  If the good people at New Jersey Transit were competent, they would have figured out how to deal with the problem.  After all, they have the data.  They know how many riders there will be.  They know that 49 can be seated and 11 can stand.  Divide by 60 and you know how many buses you need.

Mr. Daniel’s “grateful” comment explains the attitude.  Mr. Daniel is not the disease; he’s the symptom.  The disease is unionism and the fact that it would take a Ronald Reagan (as in the air traffic controllers) to find the cure.

The Port Authority is owned and operated by the States of New York and New Jersey.  With all due respect to Governor Cuomo, who has taken on the unions, I doubt he’s a Reagan.  But New Jersey’s Governor Christie is a different matter.  Perhaps he would be good enough to take the lead…

Again, I want to be fair.  The buses running from New Jersey to New York come on time.  I’ve never really had a problem.  Every so often a bus is late or doesn’t show.  But it is so rare that it’s really not worth mentioning.  The problem is Manhattan and the Port Authority.

When Michael Dell started his computer company he did not use an IT company as his model.  His model was FedEx.  Reliable products and phenomenal customer service.  So let’s forget that New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority are involved with transportation.  Let’s look at them in a different way.

Tens of thousands of people arrive at a location in mid-town Manhattan to be taken by hundreds if not thousands of buses to various locations as far north as Montreal, as far south as Florida, as far east as Long Island and as far west as California.

But let’s not call them “people,” let’s call them “packages.”  Who sends packages, around the world, on a daily basis?  UPS.  And what is UPS’s tag line?  “We love logistics.”  In fact, instead of “love” they have a “heart” and a trademark which, I trust, I did not just violate!  (By the way, UPS is a union shop!)

Logistics.  Who have we, the American people, trained in logistics?  I’ll give you a hint.  They are mentioned in the title.  Correct:  Veterans.  And we have tens of thousands of them unemployed and soon to be.

Now if you read the blog post I referenced earlier, you’ll discover that truck drivers and medics, trained by the military, that is to say the Federal government, are not licensed, meaning their licenses are not recognized in any of the States.  Let’s change that.  How does this sound?

Officers with logistics training will be hired to run the Port Authority.  Veterans who were drivers in the military, will be hired as drivers (New York and New Jersey will recognize their licenses), and other vets will be trained to be drivers and to fill other positions at both NJT and the PA.  None of them will be permitted to join a union.  The only guarantee of their continued employment will be competency and efficiency.  If they are good, they stay and advance.  If they have a “gratitude” problem, they’ll be grateful for their unemployment benefits.

Yes, there will be a strike.  And, in the case of the New Jersey-located staff, they may have a justifiable complaint that they are losing their jobs despite having nothing to do with Manhattan operations.  Perhaps they should be spared.  In any case, yes, there will be a great deal of short-term inconvenience.  When the attack on 9/11 occurred, President Bush did not call on Americans to make sacrifices.  He told us to go shopping.  He was wrongly criticized.  He was, in fact, correct.  The aim of the attack was to cripple our economy.  The weapon with which to respond was consumerism.

But now we do need to sacrifice.  And the sacrifice is for our veterans.  So what if we have to rearrange our schedules for a couple of weeks?  It’s nothing by comparison to what veterans and their families have had to do.  This is the best way for us to show our veterans that we are, to quote Mr. Daniel, grateful and are now willing to repay the debt.  Get rid of the union; hire vets!

__________________________

I have hand delivered a copy of this post to the Customer Service Department at the Port Authority.  If they, or Mr. Daniel, wish to add a comment, it will be approved and posted without any changes or edits of any kind.  I will be happy to give them, and my fellow NJ Transit travelers, the last word.

The Unreasonable Demand of Veterans

“They want a job!”  So said Mayor Alvin Brown of Jacksonville, Florida.  “They don’t want a handout.  They want a job.  They’ve earned it.”

Mayor Brown was speaking at the May 7 Robin Hood Foundation “Veterans Summit 2012” on the USS Intrepid here in Manhattan which I had the honor of being invited to attend.    It was an extremely worthwhile, informative and inspirational event.

But let’s get back to the Mayor.  Imagine that someone who has literally spent years risking his or her life to serve, protect and defend their country and, when they return home, are finally out of harm’s way, all they want is a job and there are none to be had.  One would think that they were making an unreasonable demand.  Of course, they are not.  Hiring veterans, to quote Steve Cahillane, the president and CEO of Coca-Cola Refreshments, is “the right thing to do” and “the smart thing to do.”

Just to paint the picture, in New York City, as Mayor Bloomberg noted, there are 8,600 unemployed vets.  Nationally, according Steven A. Cohen, the chairman and CEO of S.A.C. Capital Advisors, 29% of all veterans are unemployed and 20% of the homeless in New York City are veterans.  In fact, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan said that veterans are fifty percent more likely to be unemployed than the general population and that more Vietnam veterans are homeless than died in that war.  Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, noted that the homeless rate for female vets is higher than for their male counterparts.  Even worse, Mr. Cohen quoted the figure, disputed by former Vice Chief of Staff, US Army, General Peter W. Chiarelli who now serves as CEO of One Mind for Research, that 18 vets commit suicide every day.

The problems are known.  They are not just statistics.  One of the major problems is the Federal bureaucracy.  When NBC’s Brian Williams asked Mayor Brown and his counterparts from Augusta, Georgia and Houston, Texas what would happen if cities had to wait for the Federal government to act, they all laughed.  Mayor Deke Copenhaver of Augusta said the situation would be “bleak.”

For example, family members of veterans, their caregivers, are not eligible for VA services.   Dr. Charles Marmar, who chairs the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, said that “you can drive a Mack truck through the medical health system available to family members.”

Admiral Mullen remarked that the transition programs ostensibly designed to help veterans transition to the civilian world, and he was clearly being diplomatic, “are at best inadequate.”  Moreover, he said that fifty percent of veterans don’t contact the VA and, and this has to have been the most ridiculous fact cited during the entire conference, the Department of Defense cannot contact the VA about veterans because of HIPPA regulations!

But even if they could, it probably wouldn’t matter.  Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, the assistant secretary for Policy and Planning at the VA, said that the VA only “captures” half of all veterans.  As he said, “We don’t know where the veterans are.”  Understand?  At best, the Department of Veterans Affairs can only provide services to one out of every two veterans because they don’t know where the other one is.  And by the way, according to the Assistant Secretary, the aforementioned transition program is not mandatory.

How’s this for bureaucratic insanity?  According to NBC’s Tom Brokaw, military drivers’ licenses are not recognized by the States.  So a veteran who was authorized, trained and drove a truck in Iraq can’t drive a truck in Iowa.  And a medic who was entrusted to save lives in Afghanistan, trained to do CPR and treat life-threatening wounds, isn’t licensed to be an EMT in Alabama.  One does not know whether to laugh or cry!

To be fair, it’s not just the government that is coming up short.            Nancy Berglass who is the director of the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, pointed out that there are some 30,000 non-profits whose mission statements include helping veterans.  And that, of course, does not include the number of for-profits, like my own companies, whose mission statements are similarly focused.  The problem is that there is a lack of coordination.   There is a lack of data meaning that advocates lack, according to her, the necessary information for strategic planning purposes.  Moreover, there is no existing collection of “best practices”  although Syracuse University is about to publish a free e-book which may go a long way to eliminate that deficit.

What is it that veterans bring to the table?  What do they have to offer employers?  First and foremost, as a number of speakers mentioned, members of the military are taught never to say “No.”  They always have to find a way to achieve their goal.  Who would not want an employee with that philosophy and a track record of making it a reality?

For his part, Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group, begins with professionalism, excellence and accomplishments.  But even with a proven track record veterans are, according to him, in an analogous situation to college graduates.  When a company is hiring someone fresh out of college, the hire is based on attitude, commitment and dedication.  As I note in my recent book (which has a chapter on issues facing veterans who are looking for a job), it’s a hire based on potential – something veterans have in abundance.

Expanding on that point, Joe Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior director, Issue Management and Strategic Outreach, noted that veterans bring with them a high level of maturity and reliability.

What can companies do to improve the lot of veterans once they are hired?  What are the existing “best practices?”

Wal-Mart sponsors job fairs for veterans.  While some military jobs are difficult to translate into the civilian market, thereby necessitating a focus on skills, some are a perfect match.  Darrell Roberts, who is the executive director of the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment, gave a few examples.  A sheet metal worker in the Navy is a sheet metal worker.  Same for maintenance workers and mechanics. He told the story of a veteran HVAC mechanic living in West Virginia who was hired to be an HVAC mechanic by Disney and moved, to the delight of his children, to Orlando.

Sometimes, as noted, the focus for employers has to be on skills and not actual experience.  For example, Jes Staley, the CEO, Investment Bank at J.P. Morgan told the story of the vet who they hired to oversee trading.  Obviously he had no previous trading experience, but he had been responsible for logistics.

J.P. Morgan has set goals for veteran hirings.  They want to hire 10 veterans a day.  Toward that end, they have established recruiting centers inside seven military bases.

How did J.P. Morgan get started working with veterans?  They foreclosed on the home of a vet while he was deployed!  To quote Mr. Staley, they were “rightly” criticized for it.  Today, every veteran who submits a resume to J.P. Morgan gets a call within five days.

They also learned that when looking for veterans as a monolithic cohort, they rejected nine out of 10 candidates.  However, when they started a focused search among the veteran community, a third were actually hired.

Oh, and to return to the foreclosure story, today J.P. Morgan is giving away 1,000 homes to veterans.

According to Coca-Cola’s Cahillane, veterans are mission focused so it is important for them to be inspired by the company’s mission.  Joe Quinn added the importance of understanding the corporate culture.  It falls on leadership and employees of a company to make that happen.

At Goldman Sachs they have a veteran intern program modeled after their program for women who are returning to the workforce.  It is an eight to nine week program where they learn the skills necessary to succeed in the positions for which they are hired.

Additionally, Goldman has an internal network of a thousand veterans who help each other with any issues that may arise.  A similar group exists at J.P. Morgan.  After all, having had similar experiences makes for easier communication.  Simply stated, veterans understand veterans better than anyone else.

And that leads to the issue of prejudices.  Understandably, there are concerns which some employers have about hiring veterans.  As Mr. Blankfein noted, fewer than one percent of the population serves in the military, the lowest percentage in 70 years.  Civilians just don’t understand veterans because they have not be exposed to them.

“The elephant in the room,” as Dr. Perea-Henze described it, is concern over mental health issues.  (Guess what, according to him, the VA does not track the mental health needs of veterans!)  Wes Moore told conference participants about the difficulty veterans have in Times Square.  The former paratrooper and founder and CEO of Omari, explained how soldiers in Afghanistan cannot have any white lights on at night.  They use red and green flash lights.  Being in Times Square at night, with all of the bright lights, is “an assault on their senses.”  It’s a little thing but an example of a real problem.

From the perspective of employment, one thing that I have encountered when providing career counseling services to veterans, is that some have asked me how to raise the issue of where they sit in an office.  Veterans do not like sitting with their back to the door.

Little things for us, lights and seating arrangements, can be major issues for them.

Mr. Blankfein says that the way to overcome prejudice is by hiring as many veterans as possible.  Once non-veteran employees see for themselves what veterans have to offer, prejudice will be replaced by actual knowledge.  Put differently, familiarity will eliminate concerns.  If you will, familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds understanding.

Why is it so important to find employment for veterans?  It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do.  There is also a national security component to the equation.  As Professor Michael Haynie of Syracuse University, perhaps the most veteran-friendly university in the country, asked, “What happens to military recruitment if we can’t find employment for veterans?”  Whose going to enlist if they know that when they are discharged, they’ll get a salute and a thank you, as Admiral Mullen noted, and then be left destitute to fend for themselves?

What needs to happen?  Three things:  Companies need to set minimum goals for the hiring of veterans and then take tangible steps (such as job fairs) to make it happen – and the employment succeed (as with internal veterans networking groups).  Non-profits have to get their act together and replace competition with coordination and cooperation (perhaps using Robin Hood as the model).  And as for the Feds, the Department of Defense has to make the transition program mandatory and create reciprocal agreements with the various States recognizing the licenses (as in drivers’ and medics’) .  That said, the VA doesn’t just need the resources and authority to do its job (HIPPA?  Really?), according to Washington Senator Patty Murray, the transition has to begin a year before veterans are actually discharged.  Hopefully her words will not fall on deaf ears.

(c) Bruce Hurwitz 2012