My decision to become a Marine Corps recruiter was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my military career. It was a path of sacrifice, hard work, and dedication- consistently working late into the evenings, weekends and holidays is not for the faint of heart. As I am preparing to close out the Marine Corps chapter of my life, I can’t help but reflect back on a few business lessons I learned along the way.
I am responsible for my own success… and failure.
Finding America’s next generation of Marines isn’t an easy task- or at least as easy as it may seem from the outside looking in. I distinctly remember a time when I was reprimanded for missing a recruiting quota, after feeling down on myself I decided to quit groaning and do something about it. Whenever I fell short, acknowledging my deficiency by seeking solutions and training was crucial to reaching success. With a meager Corporal salary, I went out and invested 100 hard earned dollars on audiobooks from industry leaders like Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, and Dale Carnegie.
Transparency and honesty always prevails.
Canned, half-truthed one-liners such as the “they say this, then you say that” approach embraced by some of the old school recruiters seemed to never work. It was my responsibility to represent the Marine Corps as honestly and transparently as possible to ensure applicants had real facts to make the most informed decision possible. As an introvert, learning to communicate well took a lot of practice on my part. More often than not, this technique of effective communication skills coupled with transparency and honesty worked out to everyone’s advantage.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Success is fleeting; in order to be consistent you must pay your prospecting dues every single day. You have to be engaging with your market in a meaningful way – consistently. In my case, effective communication was a perishable skill and it never took long to get rusty. I made the mistake early-on making my monthly goal early, then resting a little too long. I became comfortable and recruiting conversations seemingly became harder than they once were. Out of my groove, I quickly realized the necessity to stay engaged with prospects to stay sharp and prevent future lulls.
Have courage to change the way things have always been done.
In 2010, I was beginning my second tour as a recruiter supervisor. Unlike before, it became increasingly evident the effectiveness of the cold call was dying every single day- a practice we relied on heavily to reach prospective applicants. I felt I had a responsibility to do more in the sense of finding a solution to reach our market.
Our team realigned from making cold calls to freshening up our public speaking skills, we felt it would be advantageous to bring dynamic presentations to our high school students. We spent the summers diligently preparing career talks about what it’s really like to be a Marine and a leader – with real life experiences.
This approach created a positive first impression and attracted more of the right people; on top of that we brought an inspiring message to our high school students. Trust was earned and students were honest about their interest, many voluntarily provided their contact information. In turn, we made less cold calls and closed more business. With much opposition, we also pioneered social media; bringing a personalized dynamic to the recruitment process involving the community with the Marine Corps. Challenging the status quo is hard. It takes humility and grit to look at business processes and recognize what is no longer working; and requires courage to innovate and find solutions.
Always go the extra mile.
Applicants looking into the Marines undoubtedly have other career options; whether it’s other branches of the military, going into the workforce or off to college. Businesses aren’t any different, customers have choices too – a lot of them. It’s imperative to differentiate your business from the competition. When features and benefits of your product or service are similar to the competition, going the extra mile to provide the best experience possible for stakeholders will separate you from your competitor.
Invest in yourself to enrich the lives of those around you.
I used to commute 30-45 minutes a day to and from the office. For a while I listened to the radio during the drive. I quickly realized there wasn’t a shortage of bad news in the world; it messed with my mindset and bled into my communications with my team. I would arrive at work feeling far from my best after hearing about the latest robbery. Consequently, I was incapable of bringing out the best in my team and those around me because of my neglect of personal development.
I recognized my pitfall and changed my routine by listening to audiobooks, I started to look forward to my daily commute. After listening to business classics like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Napoleon Hill and dozens of other audiobooks; I found myself sharing insights with my team from things I learned during my drive, and learned better ways of doing business. I began to see my educational investment enrich the lives of those around me. This is a ritual I continue to do today.
In addition to audiobooks, there are hundreds of inspiring podcasts you can listen to expand your perspective and help bring your best to each day.