Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Veteran Spotlight: Ben Shakman,
New Year's Resolutions for the Workplace,
Congratulations to This Month's Winner,
Easy Ways to Limit Stress,
Connect with Orion
Veteran Spotlight: Ben Shakman
The Bullseye recently caught up with Ben Shakman, a retired Major in the Active Guard & Reserve program, who found a career through Orion with Nalco, a the world's leading water treatment and process improvement company, as a District Representative. Read on to learn about Shakman’s decision to enter sales, his career since, and his advice for his fellow veterans.
When it came time to decide what field to enter, Shakman knew that performance-based compensation was something he desired, so that ruled out public sector employment. Because he did not know what industry would be right for or even what he particularly wanted to do, his job search was largely unstructured and directionless for the first few months.
“The real turning point was linking up with Orion, and attending the October 2012 Hiring Conference in Chicago. It was during the preparation for the conference that I realized business-to-business sales were going to be a good fit. Orion helped me focus my approach and then put me in front of the right people with the right companies,” explains Shakman.
Shakman now sells specialty chemicals used in steam and cooling systems to a wide-ranging customer base, which includes light manufacturing, government, healthcare, and food & beverage plants. He partners with customers and prospects to ensure asset preservation and efficient operation, while providing solutions which reduce their overall impact on the environment in terms of water and energy consumption. In addition, he works with raw and wastewater treatment customers to achieve very specific quality goals.
Shakman candidly tells us that his new career is not even remotely similar to what he did in the military. He goes on to explain, though, the ways in which his time in the service has informed his new career: “My military experience prepared me in more indirect ways for my second career; things like work ethic, my approach to problem solving, being able to communicate with people at all levels in an organization, and collaborative abilities are the biggest help.”
“A veteran’s work ethic is invaluable in the civilian workforce. I know what I need to do, apply time management strategies, and prioritize to get it done. I see a lot of my counterparts wasting significant amounts of time and energy on low priority initiatives,” continues Shakman, “I wish that I could coach them to do the first things first, but that is not really my place as the new guy.”
Shakman’s customers appreciate this ethic, too. “My customers really appreciate the fact that I do what I tell them I will do and that I speak honestly to their issues. I can't fix everything for them but can usually point them towards a solution. Also, I gain tons of credibility for telling them when my product or solution isn't the best fit and recommending someone else's instead,” says Shakman.
Specifically, Shakman’s military background is a big benefit, especially with some of his clients, including a military installation. Shakman understands "end-of-year money" and how fourth quarter spending works in the military and was able to leverage that specific knowledge to sell enough product to them at the end of the fiscal year that they are in great shape, even with the lack of a FY14 budget and the shutdown that occurred in October.
Shakman and his new career remind us that while veterans may not always have the knowledge, skills, and abilities that exactly match the job description, they have an unbelievable ability to grow and learn if afforded the opportunity and are properly mentored. “Veterans understand mission accomplishment like nobody else in the world. We exercise considerable creativity and initiative to attain our goals,” says Shakman.
Read more about Shakman’s veteran transition and career
Test Engineering Manager
Orion placed me as a Propulsion Test Engineer with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in December 2009. I had an overlap between the military and my new career, as I took a leave of absence soon after beginning with SpaceX to train as an Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer (AMDO) in the Navy Reserve. I returned to SpaceX fulltime in March 2010. They were incredibly accommodating in allowing me to start work for only a couple of weeks then take a leave of absence.
I now work in the Aerospace Engineering industry, more specifically Test Engineering. A combination of hard work and good luck has given me the opportunity to advance very quickly at SpaceX. I was hired as a Test Engineer and have been given continually increasing levels of responsibility including two promotions within the first two years. I am now a Test Engineering Manager and responsible for all test related activities for the Dragon Spacecraft and its systems.
While my military background was not directly applicable to my new role as a Test Engineer, it did build the basic foundations that have ensured my success. Overall, I feel that I am better prepared to handle difficult decisions and stressful situations than many civilians in similar positions. My military experience gave me a wide variety of hands-on skills, as well as an appreciation for hard work and dedication to the overall mission. These abilities help me every day. Working on a multidisciplinary team all working towards a common goal requires the same communication and collaboration skills that I learned while on active duty.
New Year's Resolutions for the Workplace
It’s the beginning of a new year, which means it’s time to make those New Year’s Resolutions. According to a study by the University of Scranton, 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, while 17 percent infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions, and 38 percent don’t make New Year’s Resolutions at all.
While the most common resolutions for 2014 were to lose weight, get organized, stay fit, etc., not many addressed resolutions that could be made for the workplace. If you are one of the 45 percent of those who do make New Year’s Resolutions, check out the list below for some resolutions to take into account for this year.
Learn how to delegate and do more of it. If you are in a manager role or own a small business, learning how to delegate can save you time, money, and your sanity. Learn to let go of certain tasks that you usually do yourself and entrust them to a capable employee.
Do the best job you can each day. Make a conscious effort to put 100 percent into your work each day, regardless of outside issues that are beyond your power. You are in control of the quality of work you produce daily. Strive to create content that is valuable to your company, and be on your way to a more satisfying year.
Avoid excessive complaining. The office environment can be notorious for less than uplifting banter. Try to end negative thoughts and conversation, and focus on the positive. If you find yourself part of a pessimistic discussion, try not to feed the negativity, and find a discreet way out of the conversation.
Learn something new. Learning something new that is related to your company will add to your skills and make you a more valuable asset to your company in the long run. Plus, you’ll get the added feeling of accomplishing something that is outside of your comfort level.
Make the best of your commute to work. The average daily commute for Americans is 25.5 minutes one way, which means that there are a lot of you who spend at least an hour every day in the car. Try to make your commute less of a chore actually something to somewhat look forward to. Love listening to music? Get a satellite radio subscription to listen to more of a variety of music. Love to read? Start listening to books on tape. Your time in the car each day should not feel wasted.
If you aren’t very good at seeing your resolutions through to completion each year, you’re not alone – only 27 percent of those who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving their resolution, while 24 percent never succeed and break their resolution each year.
To help your success rate for your workplace resolutions, focus on just one resolution at a time and continue to build from there, or just concentrate on one resolution. Regardless of what you decide, these resolutions above will help you become happier, healthier, and more productive in the workplace.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!
Congratulations to This Month's Winner
Easy Ways to Limit Stress
It seems that in today’s workplace stress is almost inevitable. And it’s killing us – according to the American Psychological Association, stress can result in headaches, muscle tension, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, lack of focus, irritability, depression, eating problems, addiction…the list goes on.
However, there are ways to combat stress, even in today’s overly connected, cutthroat society. Follow even just some of these six steps and find yourself – and your employees – significantly relaxed, calm, and most importantly, stress free.
- Create an Oasis. In today’s business world, the presence of social connectivity creates a pressure to work, or at least be available, around the clock, creating oceans of stress. An easy way to combat this is to shut down your computer and cell phone an hour before you sleep and an hour after you wake. In fact, studies have shown that the artificial light from cell phones and other electronic devices are the main factor of sleepless nights, according to a poll from The National Sleep Foundation. While this may prove difficult for those in the habit of checking e-mail, texts, etc. late at night, your body will get much needed sleep, resulting in a more productive work day and less stress in the morning.
- Find the “Sweet Spots.” While creating a to-do list may seem like a good idea to beat stress, an overly long list can actually backfire, making you feel like you can never get all the tasks completed. Instead, categorize each task by difficulty and then by potential impact. Once your list is categorized, you’ll probably find there are a few “easy” tasks that will have a big impact. Tackle those projects first, thereby taking the pressure off. For a bigger stress relief, ignore those tasks that are hard and have less of an impact.
- Renegotiate Your Workload. High and unreasonable expectations of what you can accomplish are a big source of stress, whether or be from yourself, your employees, or your customers. The cure? A reality check. Get serious about how much time you have to spend, versus the amount of work that needs to be done and based on that, be realistic about what is actually going to get done.
- Turn Off the News. The media makes money by generating strong emotions in its audience. It’s no surprise that those emotions are almost always negative: anger, fear, anxiety, dread, and frustration. While this is not necessarily work stress, it still adds unnecessary stress in your life. Listening to the news to unwind is counter effective. Whenever a news story starts to affect your negatively, do yourself a favor and change the channel.
- Disconnect from the Uncontrollable. There are events that you cannot control – the economy, traffic, other people’s emotions, customer decisions, etc. Worrying about things that you can’t control will not make a difference in the long run, and will only create extra stress that you don’t need, not to mention the amount of wasted energy you spend thinking about it. Focus on things you can change and don’t sweat the other stuff.
- Avoid Stressed People. Your body is programmed to mirror the physiology of the people around you, even when you don’t realize it. Just like you can catch a cold, stress is also infectious, too. While it may not be possible for you to avoid stressed people all the time, try to limit the time you spend around those people, at least until your stress is in control. What can happen is the same infectious quality – your calmness will have a positive impact on those stressed out individuals, creating a more peaceful work place.
The important thing to remember is that stress does not have to control your life, and can be managed. Nip those stressful urges before they begin and you’ll find your workplace transform into a calming environment.
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