Read a Transcript of the Podcast
Curt Sheldon: Welcome to episode seven of The Eagles Transition Podcast. Today I'll be talking with John “Red” Millander. Red is a retired colonel and Air Force pilot. Red is actually working on his second retirement, but he just left the corporate world where he worked for Honeywell less than a year ago. Red has some interesting insights on how your network is working, even when you're not exactly sure how. Make sure you check out a resource he found useful for the salary negotiation phase of the hiring process. But before I talk with Red, I'd like to make a special offer for our podcast listeners.
Curt Sheldon: If you go to www.clsheldon.com/eagles, that's www.clsheldon.com/eagles, you can get a financial checklist to help you with your transition from active duty to the civilian world. It is designed for you and you can get it for free. Now, on to the show.
Curt Sheldon: Red, welcome to the show.
John Millander: Hey, thank you very much, Curt. It's a pleasure to be here.
Curt Sheldon: Now, Red, I've known you for probably, I don't know, probably four or five years I guess, since we first met. I think actually we might've crossed paths once on an active duty a long, long time ago. Why don't you tell us a little bit about what you're currently doing.
John Millander: Okay, great. Yeah, that sounds about right. Four or five years as we're both retired and we did bump into each other probably about 10 years ago or so when I was still on active duty. Well, I'm in my what I hope to be final retirement now. I retired from the Air Force back in 2010 and went to work with a major company there in Washington DC, which we'll get into a little bit later. Then retired from them in April of this year. So I am working on my hunting and my fishing game down here in South Alabama.
Curt Sheldon: Now, I know we're all shooting to get to that point at some time in our life, but this is a show about transitioning from active duty into your second career. So, what did you do after you got off of active duty?
John Millander: I transitioned in the summer of 2010 out of the Pentagon. I was working at the Air Staff there at the Pentagon, and I ... 26 years in the Air Force and my wife and I had sworn that we would never live in Washington DC of our own free will. But when the transition time came, that's where the best job offer was, so we decided to go ahead and transition. So I went to work in a marketing and a business development position with Honeywell back in 2010, and I actually stayed with Honeywell for the entire eight or so years that I was on the economy earning a living after the Air Force. I was in three different jobs with Honeywell as it turned out, but stayed with the same company the entire time.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Now, if you could tell us, just give us a little bit of a background on your military career.
John Millander: Sure. I was an operator, a pilot in the Air Force, mostly C-17s, had four tours in that aircraft. Three tours in Charleston, which was fantastic. I did a tour at the headquarters Air Mobility Command up at Scott Air Force Base. As I mentioned previously, a couple of air staff tours, once as a young major and my fini tour as an 0-6. Then probably one of the highlights of our career was almost three years over in Stuttgart, Germany working at the US European Command.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Now, from what we talked about before the show, you mentioned that you actually have had a couple of different positions at Honeywell. Is that correct?
John Millander: That's correct. Yep. I was hired into a business development position to begin with, which was something I was fairly good at frankly. But after a couple of years I just decided I didn't want to do that for the rest of my time. So I started sniffing around a little bit. They ended up promoting me in place in that business division. I stayed there for about another year and then I was able to kind of internally network myself into a job at the corporate level at Honeywell, government relations, and I stayed there for over five years until I retired.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So let's kind of talk a little bit about how you found your way to Honeywell. So first of all, how did you find out about the job?
John Millander: Well, it was kind of interesting. I was actively interviewing and had several interviews, thought I was getting close to the end game with a couple of different companies, and then almost out of left field I just got a call one day from a hiring manager at Honeywell who I didn't even know that Honeywell had a great big presence there in Washington DC. So he just came out of left field, said he had a job that I thought I would be a good match for, and would I mind interviewing for it? Frankly, I almost turned them down because like I said, I was in the end game, or getting pretty close to the end game with a couple of other larger companies. But I said yes, which is probably one of the golden nuggets, is most of us in the military aren't real good at the interview process, at least when we start. It's just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it.
John Millander: So my advice would be, if you get an opportunity to interview, even if you think you might not lock the job or might not lock the company or whatever it is, at least early on, go ahead and do it because it's another good opportunity to kind of practice those skillsets. So long story short is, I went ahead and interviewed with Honeywell and ended up really liking the position, liked what they were going to be having me do and ended up landing with them.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So you got this call sort of out of the blue. How did this person know to call you?
John Millander: Well, I asked him that afterwards and they honestly couldn't remember. It was most likely ... I had a networking resume, about a less than two page networking resume that I had floated out there, had been popcorning around for several months and they probably found that somehow. They found it through some websites search or friend of a friend. We tried to go back and actually recreate how it happened, and none of us could really recreate it.
Curt Sheldon: That's rather interesting. So you were probably the first one, the person that I've interviewed that at least there's a potential that it came from a computer base or a website, search, and that kind of comes back to the don't leave any weapons out of the arsenal. While most people will say, "Network, network, network," I was actually thinking we might need turn it into a drinking game on here where anytime somebody says networking, you have to take a shot, but it's not the only way to find things.
John Millander: Absolutely, and I guess the second golden nugget would be you'll get that networking resume together, save it as a pdf, and when someone asks for it, shoot it out to them. And once you hit send on that thing one time, you never know where it's going to end up. It's going to popcorn around and it's going to end up in a lot of different places that you would never even dream off.
Curt Sheldon: Now, you said that again, they reached out to you, said you know, "We'd like to talk to you about this job." I assume at the end of that conversation there was probably something like, "And by the way, go to the website and apply for the job." Did something like that occur or not?
John Millander: Yes, it did. So after that initial phone call, they directed me over to their HR website and kind of went through that process. But honestly, it was very much an accelerated process with them, because I told him upfront that I was pretty far along with a couple of different companies here. So I was able to kind of speed them along in their process, what normally would have taken probably two to three months. We ended up doing it in about 10 days or so to actually get an offer from them.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So how did that process ... so, you apply through HR, did they then do a classic screening interview on you or did you kind of bypass that and start getting into interviews with hiring managers?
John Millander: Yeah, the initial phone call, kind of introductory phone call was the basic screening interview, if you will. So I never really, I didn't talk very briefly to an HR specialist, but it was almost proforma at that point. Then I very quickly, within the space of a few days, proceeded to start talking with hiring managers and his boss as well, as well as some of the corporate folks inside the division there. So I'd say probably about four or five interviews spread over two days just because the people worked in different locations in the DC area.
Curt Sheldon: Now, were those all pretty much one on one interviews or were there some group interviews? How did that play out?
John Millander: With that particular session that I did with Honeywell, it was all one on one with a couple of those other companies that I talked about. I did do a couple of group interviews, including one that was via telephone. So it was basically a conference call. We were four people from the other company on the line and I was on the line from my end.
Curt Sheldon: Just out of curiosity, were they all in one place or were they trying to run a conference call with people in five or six different places and you?
John Millander: They were in two different places and I was in a third place.
Curt Sheldon: I would think that could be a little hard to orchestrate and keep. You'd have to start using “ove”r and with any conversation.
John Millander: It was and it was complicated by the fact that it was a fairly bad connection to begin with. So the whole thing didn't go over well. I don't think it hurt me because of the technology failed out on their end, not on mine, but my advice would be face to face is always better.
Curt Sheldon: Now, do you remember any particular questions where either you said, "Never thought about that one before," or, "Dang, I knocked that one out of the park. I was ready for it."? Just in general, kind of a second question, how did you prep for the interviews?
John Millander: The only real questions I guess I remember, one I thought I did pretty well on, it was one of your standard HR questions. It was something along the lines of can you tell us about a time in your career where you felt like you encourage diversity or encourage the growth of diversity, people under you into leadership jobs and those kinds of things. So I had kind of prepared for that because I knew it was coming.
John Millander: One of the Honeywell questions actually asked me, because I was an Air Force guy, and that's pretty much what I had done. I had some transportation background and logistics background and those kinds of things. So almost kind of out of the blue they asked me about State Department and what I knew about State Department and if I felt that I could kind of help them branch out over into the State Department. That one kind of took me a little by surprise at least initially, but I guess that's another one of my golden nuggets, is don't be afraid to learn new skillsets.
John Millander: I had never really worked with State Department any time in my Air Force career, but the things that made us all successful in the military are going to make us successful in the outside world as well. So, as it worked out, I just ... the way I answered is, "Well, don't have any contacts over there, but here's how I would approach trying to get into that new marketing," kind of laid out a series of talk to people that I've encountered in my career that had worked with State Department, see if they could recommend some good people to go talk to over there, et cetera, those kinds of things.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, great. Then as far as prep work for interviews, reviewing the company website I assume, checking out the people that you were interviewing with on LinkedIn. Any other things you remember doing to prep for interviews?
John Millander: Those are very good, yes. Highly encourage that. If it's a larger company, maybe go look at their annual report. A couple of the subsequent interviews that I did inside of Honeywell to move kind of up the corporate ladder if you will, the higher up you get particularly at the corporate level, they're concerned with things beyond just the stuff that they make and stuff that they saw there, is they're concerned about or interested in corporate image, corporate ethics, how everyone else perceives them as a company. How is the stock doing? Is the stock doing good? Stock doing bad? What does Wall Street think about them? Those kinds of things and that's stuff that as a military guy, I never really even thought about. So, I would say everything that you mentioned plus an annual report of the company if it's a larger company.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So you went through the interview process, obviously they called you up or sent you a letter and said, "Here's your offer." What can you tell us, obviously not talking about dollars and cents or anything like that, but what can you tell us about salary negotiations?
John Millander: Obviously, us in the military we've never really negotiated salary at all before. My advice there would be to not just focus in on a base salary, potential bonuses or signing bonuses or things like that. I would encourage everyone to look at the entire package, the entire compensation package that you're going to be offering me. Here's why. As you're transitioning out, the hardest thing or one of the hardest things you're going to have to figure out is, "What do I want to do?" Now that you have a choice, what is it you want to do? Then you're going to have to figure out where it is you want to do that. Then you got to figure out which one of those is most important to you.
John Millander: Compensation package, if you look at the entire package, you just take Washington DC as an example. Maybe working remotely a couple of days a week is really important too, so that you don't have to sit in traffic for five days a week. Is that a part of the compensation package, to be able to work remotely? If so, then that may come at the expense of some of your base salary. Look at your 401k match. Look at your time off, your vacation days. My advice is just to look at the entire package and not get too focused in on specific base salary numbers or things like that.
John Millander: In my case, it was a pretty fair offer that came in from Honeywell. So there wasn't really much I wanted to do with it frankly. As it turned out, I got an offer from another company before I got the Honeywell offer. So it put me in a position where I had to kind of slow down company number one that had already offered me and speed up company number two, which was Honeywell to try to get both of the offers in hand at the same time. That's a goal that you want to do, is you'd like to have all your offers on the table at the same time if at all possible, because that helps you evaluate things fairly.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Well, and I think I've said this before on the podcast, but one of the things we in the military do really well is bring people on board, spin them up, get them ready to do the mission. I'm kind of hearing that may not always be the case in corporate America. How did you find the onboarding process? Was it pretty structured, or was it pretty much, "Here's your new job responsibilities, figure it out."? How did that kind of play up for you?
John Millander: Well, in my case, and I think probably in Honeywell's case, it is exceptionally online driven because your HR person may not be geographically located in your work location. In my case, first day of the job, I rolled in there at 7:30 with my coat and my tie on and everybody else was rolling in about 8:30 or 9:00. Because I didn't have a laptop computer at that point and there was almost nothing that I could do, because everything was online. So it took them a couple of days to get my account set up and to get a computer in place. Then after that, virtually everything else was online, with the exception of a couple of face to faces that are mandatory. Like I-9 verification for example, but everything was very much online. My boss wasn't there. He was on travel, so it was like two or three days before I saw him. So I was halfway through the workweek really before I did a face to face with my boss.
John Millander: So yeah, I would say based on my experience talking with other folks, that there's not a lot of companies that really do a good job of onboarding. I would say probably with the exception of Apple, I've got a friend of mine that landed at Apple and they had an exceptional onboarding experience out there, where they actually flew everybody to Cupertino and put them in a room for a week. It was pretty cool.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So we kind of brushed on the networking resume and how once you hit the send button, you don't know where it'll go. What else can you tell us about how you used, or employed is probably a better word, your network to help you reach your goal?
John Millander: You could probably turn it into an adult beverage game by every time somebody says network, but it really is critically important. It's one of the things that I don't think I did very well as I was transitioning out. When I started my transition, people told me, "Network, network, network," which I kind of interpreted to mean, "Okay, go out and tell everybody that you know that you're looking for a job," and that's not really what it is. It's just letting the people in your network, letting the people that you know, know what your plans are.
John Millander: After I got out, because I took about four months I think of terminal leave, after I quit work, which I highly recommend at least taking some downtime and some time off in between jobs, there's ... you're about to join the biggest fraternity and sorority that exists out there, and that's the fraternity and sorority of retired military officers. I never experienced, I mean, every single person that I asked for assistance, either just five minutes, "Let me buy you a cup of coffee. Let me take you out to lunch. Let me pick your brain about this whole civilian employment thing." Every single one just bent over backwards to try to help in my transition. There's lots of people out there that want to help. All you have to do is ask. We shouldn't feel bad about that and the only caveat I would put to that is, as soon as you do make your own transition, turn around and help somebody else up over the wall. So that's what I've been trying to do for the last eight years or so.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So, as I think most people know listening, I run a financial planning company so I have to at least touch for a second on money. Again, without getting into specific numbers or anything, any thing you learned or that surprised you on the money side of things as you made the transition?
John Millander: I think it's probably already been mentioned by some of your previous guests, but the tax man's coming, try to prepare for that bitch. She came and it's hard. Now, I think hopefully that will get a little bit better with the new tax law that was passed last year. I guess we won't know until April or maybe the next year or two, how much that's going to help. I would encourage folks to the extent that they can make sure their financial houses are in order. You need to have an emergency fund, at least three months, maybe six months, maybe 12 months of living expenses. If you're going to do a refi on your house or something like that, do that before you transition out because retirement sounds a lot like unemployed to a lot of banks out there. So everything that you can do financially to kind of get your financial house in order before your last day will really help you out and maybe reduce some stress while you're in that transition period.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Well, on the tax law, and I know how geeky this sounds, but I did a two-day tax review to prep for this year and the course. The instructor mentioned several times that he didn't know if the new tax law was going to be good or bad for America, but it was going to be good for everybody in the room. Although we've tried for simplification, there's a lot of things that aren't nearly as simple as one would hope. It's kind of interesting when you look at they've ... not that anybody files on paper anymore, but they've cut the 1040 down to half a page on two sides, but to capture all the information that used to be on the 1040, they've added six schedules. So it's a pretty typical IRS and Congress, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Any resources that you found particularly useful, either, a course, a book, online web website, anything that you thought was useful?
John Millander: Something that I used quite a bit both in the salary and compensation package phase and then just in the quest to kind of learn about companies, it's a pretty good website called glassdoor.com. You can go in there and search by geographical area, or you can search by actual company, and get some reference points on salaries and bonuses. Then maybe more importantly, you can get people go on anonymously and essentially review the company that they're working for. So you get some pros and cons and kind of get an insider's view, which is something kind of to remember as you're going through that interview process. It's a chance for you to learn about the company as much as it is for them to learn about you. So make sure that you have some good questions to ask.
John Millander: It may be that they have a pretty, pretty strong compensation package. It may be their corporate environment or their work environment is not something that you're looking to do. I mean, you need to go a different direction and you can learn about that company, how they set you up for the interview, how people treat you, those kinds of things. So glassdoor.com was something that I used a good bit.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, and we'll link to that in the show notes. So if you go to clsheldon.com/blog/episode7, that's one word, episode7, and using the number, we'll have a link to it as well. Or obviously you can just type in glassdoor.com. Okay. Any big surprises that you ran into, or not necessarily big, but anything that surprised you during the transition process?
John Millander: Something that was a little surprising to me, and I've talked about this with other retired military folks as well, is in the military, if I'm ... well, use an example, say in the Pentagon, if we were working on a particular issue in our division and maybe half of it, or at least part of the issue had to do with another division, we would just walk over there and talk to someone. Maybe we knew someone in that other division, lay out the issue and almost always they would kind of jump on it, go, "Yeah, that's in our swim lane. We'll help you with this," or, "Okay, here's our piece of it, here's our deliverable," those kinds of things.
John Millander: It's not really that way in the civilian world. People, particularly people that are not ex-military, are very kind of structured in their swim lane for the most part, at least in the companies that I've dealt with. People have a boss, people have a supervisor, and they pretty much only answer to that supervisor. Just because something might be in their swim lane or you think it would be a good thing, maybe a little project for them to take on, if their boss doesn't want them to do it or whatever reason, if their boss doesn't tell them to do it, a lot of times they'll just ignore it and drive on. That took a little bit of getting used to for me at least.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Yeah, that is a little bit different. As is typically the case, I find that most 0-6s like to pontificate just a little bit. So I'm going to open up the floor for you to talk about anything you think you'd like to pass on.
John Millander: Okay. Well, I appreciate that. I'll keep it short and sweet. I think one of the things I'd like your audience to know, as they're transitioning out, don't feel like you have to make the exact right decision on what job you're going to take the first time out of issue. The reality is, most of us jump around at two or three different jobs within the first five years or so. The good news is that that's perfectly okay. Jumping from job to job is perfectly fine. There's no stigma attached with it. We used to joke about it in some of the ETAP classes I used to talk at, is that the best time to look for a job is when you have one.
John Millander: The other thing, unless you're with a major defense OEM, one of the big metal benders, for the most part, other companies, for the most part, the people that you work for and work with are not really going to understand what it is you did in the military. We all know the sacrifices those of us who wore the uniform, we know the hardships of deployments and combat zones, and all the other sacrifices that we had to make and our families had to make on our behalf, but folks that haven't been in uniform really don't know how to value that. So they're going to care much less about what you did or where you did it.
John Millander: The good news is that the things that made us successful in the military, and the character traits and the work ethics and the ability to do on the job training and learn as we go and ask the right questions, those kinds of things, the things that made us successful in the military are things that corporate America is very hungry for. So even though they won't understand your military service and won't appreciate it the way another vet or another retiree would, they're going to value what you bring to the table. That's, you know, going through this whole interview process and resume building and salary negotiation, and all of that stuff, it all kind of leads down to what value can you add to that company. If you can articulate that in your resume, in your interview process, in your face to faces, those kinds of things, then it's going to be a successful transition for you.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Is it okay if folks reach out to you on LinkedIn?
John Millander: Absolutely. In fact, I would prefer that they do through LinkedIn. The only thing I would ask is that if they do, to reference this podcast in there. Like a lot of folks, I get a lot of LinkedIn requests from people I don't know and people I've never met and I genuinely generally don't accept those. Don't really know if those are real people, if those are bots, from a foreign country or something. So if folks would just reference this podcast, then I'll accept it and that'll be a great way to communicate.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Thanks. Thanks a lot, and that's probably a pretty good idea from an OPSEC standpoint, if certainly if ... Now, conversely I take just about anybody because I'm in business, but so if you ... One last question that I always ask in each podcast, so imagine back to there, I guess it'd be January of 2010 or June of 2009, six, 12 months before you retired, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
John Millander: We've already kind of touched on it, and I guess I'll win the drinking game this afternoon. I would have started the networking process a lot sooner. I didn't really start that until I was almost out the door, but I would have started probably 12 to maybe even 18 months in advance to let everybody ... just kind of refresh those in my network maybe I haven't talked with in a while, haven't reached out to in a while, refresh that network and I just let them know kind of what our plans were. I think it's been said, probably more than half of the job openings out there are found through a network versus through some other way, surfing website or something like that. It is true, once you hit send on that networking resume, it's going to popcorn around and you don't know where it's going to end up.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, Red. We'll wrap up and I want to thank you for taking the time on relatively short notice to chat with me today. Again, thanks a lot and have a great new year.
John Millander: Well, thank you very much, Curt. I appreciate the opportunity and I'm glad the timing worked. It's raining down here in South Alabama and the fish aren't biting, so I thought it would be a real good opportunity to sit down and try to share a few golden nuggets with your audience. So happy new year to you.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Thanks again.
Speaker 1: It's not easy balancing the demands of active duty and searching for your second career. That's why we put together a retirement financial checklist, tailored for senior military officers. With it, you'll organize your financial affairs and avoid mistakes when you retire. The best part is, it's free. You can get it at clsheldon.com/eagles.