The cavnessHR podcast – a talk with Melissa Washington
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Social Media links for Melissa Washington below!!
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Free 15-minute consultation with Melissa Washington. Contact her using one of the Social Media links above.
JASON: Hello welcome to the HR podcast. I'm your host Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Melissa Washington. Melissa, are you ready to be great today?
MELISSA: Yes absolutely.
JASON: Melissa is the president and founder of the Women's Veteran Alliance. She’s a service disabled veteran, small business owner, speaker, author, broadcaster and Award winner who is passionate about connecting women veterans across the nation. Melissa served in the Navy and rather than shoulder the burden of a service family.
Jason: She decided to leave the military early to pursue a career. While her husband spent 21 years on active duty. She earned her bachelor's degree in Business Management and transitioned into a successful career in recruiting and human resources for more than 10 years working for both boutique agencies and for Global 500 company’s global Fortune 500 companies.
Jason: However, she was laid off from a job in 2009 and this marked the beginning of a nearly two year journey. A career reinvention that allowed her to use her passion for helping others. It all started with holding LinkedIn workshops for job seekers at a dining room table. In 2011 she started Melissa Washington Incorporated which offers consulting services to businesses and individuals using LinkedIn for researching, recruiting, job seeking and collaborating. Her journey took a little detour for four years.
Jason: She was asked to work at LinkedIn. Where she planned global corporate media and events. In 2014, she authored the book “Get back to work smart and savvy road strategies to make your next move”. Melisa has been featured in newspaper articles, TV and radio. She's a go-to person for media when it comes to Veterans. She's married to her Marine husband for 20 years. Melissa, you are definitely doing a lot and doing it all well.
MELISSA: Thank you so much. Thank you.
JASON: What would you like to talk about now I mean, because you doing so much. I know you have so much to offer the listeners from your perspective.
MELISSA: Absolutely. I'll just go back to 2009 when I when I got laid off from my job in Corporate America. We all know how the economy was during that time not it had to and… the thing was with me as my company had just relocated me a year prior to the Sacramento area. So getting laid off made it very difficult to start making some additional connections in the area. So, in 2010 I got involved with a jobseekers group and one of the topics from this particular group was “how to use social media to find a job”.
Melissa: They talked about how to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So when I started to do. I sort of started holding workshops at my dining table for jobseekers. Since 2010 I would ask them to bring the laptops and I would set up a two hour hands on workshop. I would show them how they could set up their profile, how they could utilize LinkedIn to find opportunity. I was networking and doing online networking again even now it's 2010. I mean the economy is still, I mean it has not started to pick up especially in Sacramento.
Melissa: We were kind of towards the end when the when the economy tanks we go first because then the town that we are so having it come to pick up, so I let people start connecting with people now because you can utilize those connections when the economy does start to pick up and new opportunities start to happen cause most people know that 80 percent of jobs and the people who said it's all about working.
Melissa: LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for networking and connecting with people out there. So that now was pretty much 2010. I was… I don't like to use the word unemployed it has such a negative connotation to it and I was pretty much on a journey of career reinvention. I mean I am still going on interviews, still talking to people. I ended up being the director of active job seekers of America.
Melissa: We had several groups and I was active in that because during that time people needed to communicate and connect. Even though the person sitting next to you may not have a job you never know who that person might know. So that's kind of where my story starts. Granted I started a long time ago but that's really where the big change in my career path went.
JASON: Yes, and I also want to thank you Melissa. I retired in 2015 and Melisa was one of the people I reached out to on LinkedIn and she was a great help. It was very beneficial.
MELISSA: Absolutely. In a way, it is. I'm sure the people we connect with I mean, if you look, you know how long we've been connected online. Then finally getting to meet you know in a sense face to face via the Internet. But how important it is to establish connections and you don't have to have meet the person to establish something on the Internet. Because we're in a global work place in the global economy and we should be able to connect with people. It's why people call me the connector. I love to be able to connect people with people.
JASON: Yes. So, what's your philosophy on this? There’s some people on LinkedIn who will take a connection from anybody the don't care who it is. Other people you have to like write a 20 page dissertation. What's your philosophy on when to request connections and when to accept one?
MELISSA: That is always my number one connection question. Whether I'm speaking at a conference or doing team training or one on one. That’s usually one of the top three questions. I look at connections as your choice of who you want to connect with. If you take a look at of people it's the same thing. Now if you take that and you go offline and say you are at a networking event you're still networking. Doing the same thing you would be doing on LinkedIn.
Melissa: So it’s guaranteed you could meet the person when you connect online. But again we're in a different age, It's 2017. The workplaces again, it's like different… the different place connecting with people .It's your choice to connect to them.
Melissa: I’m not an open connector, I don't have 10000 connections. I probably have close to 5000 since I've been on here for 13 years. I’m very particular on who I connect with on LinkedIn. One of the things that I don't connect with, are people without photos. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. Because again it's just like during in-person networking. If you can’t see their face. Do you want to connect with them?
JASON: Probably not.
MELISSA: Right! So, it’s same thing as having a photo. People are visual, they want to see who that person is and make that connection. That's one of my things, so that they automatically get rejected
JASON: I can imagine you get a whole lot of them too.
MELISSA: I do. I do. It's interesting. One time there was this trend. I was receiving all the requests from North Africa. I don't know what it was, if my name was going around or what. I pretty much connect with all, especially our transitioning military or veterans and because I can help them, maybe not directly, but I can help connect to other resources.
JASON: That’s the important thing
MELISSA: That's important to me and you know, I can take a look at their profile to see if there's there is a connection that we can make. It's all about how you leverage your connections. It doesn’t mean you have to connect with everyone. I think I've gotten a little bit more lenient in the last couple years.
Melissa: I love when people personalize requests. So, my process is, no photos ignore. Next one is who's personalized it. But there's other people, I could see where they're copying and pasting from something else, another generic request. Like I came across your profile and I see a lot in common. Then I go to their profile and I don't see what we have in common. So that’s just kind of my thing on connection request.
JASON: I pretty much accept all the request I receive. My pet peeve is when within 10 minutes, they are trying to sell me something. Then I block them. At least say thank you for connecting blah blah blah and send me two or three messages before you try to sell me something.
MELISSA: When I connect with someone, t I reply back and thank them. I also have a LinkedIn newsletter. So, I asked them if they like to receive my newsletter. I don't automatically just put them on my newsletter list. I do make sure that they say yes before I do that.
JASON: Now there’s so many organizations out there helping Veterans. Some are good, some not so good. I mean literally hundreds of them out there. How does a transitioning Veteran know the right organization for him or her? How does a Veteran get past all the noise and information overload that they have when they get out.
MELISSA: The biggest thing is finding a mentor. Just finding a person that you can connect with and that can connect you with an organization. So that's the best thing. I do like to know the importance of making those connections before you even get out, and look at opportunities. Again, you know a lot of jobs aren't posted. So, it's making sure you connect and making sure that it's the right company for you. I know the last few years, it's all these companies, they put up these banners. We want to hire 10000 veterans and their spouses.
JASON: Most of them would say we’re going to hire ten thousand Veterans in two years. But I think Starbucks was the only one that actually came back at the end of two years with “We hired X out of our goal of 10,000 I give Starbucks a lot of credit for that. Because most companies did not do this.
MELISSA: Absolutely what’s interesting, when this first little trend started coming out a few years ago. First, they just said military and then they opened it up to spouses as well. Which makes sense as far as hiring. You know another thing too which is interesting is, some companies don’t track veteran status. Also, a lot of women don't consider themselves Veterans.
JASON: That is interesting. Do you think they answer no to if they are a Veteran, because they think it will held against them.
MELISSA: Possibly, but a lot of people that have served do not consider themselves Veterans They don't connect those dots because they weren't in combat, they may not have been overseas. So, there's different reasons why they feel that way. Again a lot of Veterans I’ve served with in the 80s during the peace time. Don’t think they are Veterans. So what happens if you don't consider yourself a Veteran. You don't take advantage of the benefits that are out there and that you've earned. That's where I make sure I educate t our men and women that serve even the spouses. These are the benefits they are entitled to because they serve their country.
JASON: Very interesting to know that. I don't know if have you heard this stat that says 80 percent or 60 percent of Veterans leave two jobs within two years of leaving the military.
MELISSA: I see those statistics. What's interesting is a lot of our transitioning members that just take any job. That's why we find mentors for transitioning Veterans. We also need to educate employers on how they can best work with Veterans. Because I've come across employer where some don't want to hire Veterans. Because of the stigma which is very unfortunate.
MELISSA : Employers need to understand and respect that and they also need to understand that if a Veteran is utilizing the V.A. for mental health that it's important that our Veterans get the time off to take care of themselves. They just they just need to make sure that they have time to help them heal from whatever may have happened.
JASON: That’s very true Melissa. Now let's move on to your successes. I’d like you to talk about the success you had in the past. What you learned from the success and what we can learn from the successes you've had.
MELISSA: Well I wrote a book. I'm not a writerr. I hate to write and that was very painful for me to put that book together. It didn't get started off right because the first publishing company that I started with one went out of business.
MELISSA: So I had my I had most of the manuscript done you know, going through the whole process.
I know they knew it when I started with them. It was kind of at that point where do I just say OK just forget it. Or do I find another publishing house and continue. So, you know, I found another one and I did kind of a semi quasi self-publishing. I didn't want a full publisher. I like to be in control of things. Also I wanted to learn and understand better the processes of writing a book.
Melissa: That was a good lesson learned. The reason I wrote the book is because, it started when I started working with job seekers. They would ask me “what do I need to do to find a job?” So, I always write down these same things. Are you on LinkedIn? They would be, what is that?” I just go through the same things and I was like I have to make this a checklist. The checklist is in the back of my book. I took that checklist and I explained each of those items into chapters in the book. I figured if I can get my book in front of more people and it's a very thin book. The more people it can help.
JASON: That is great!!!
MELISSA: Something else, you have to take care of yourself.
JASON: You go for an interview tired and haggard, it's going to be a bad impression.
MELISSA: Absolutely, I was a recruiter for over 12 years and I sat on the other side of the desk and interviewed thousands of people. you know and I know what that looks like.
JASON: One thing to know as a job seeker, you are going to hear hundreds of NOs, but you just haves to hear the right yes one time.
MELISSA: I tell people when you’re job seeking a job, you're the CEO of you. You are the product you're selling and marketing. You're going to get told No like people in sales get told NO. Just keep going until that right opportunity comes.
JASON CAVNESS: You answered this before. But expound a little bit more on how do you add value and solve problems.
MELISSA: The biggest thing is listening. Be able to listen and truly understand what their needs are and to be able to connect them with people. I will say connect with people especially when we get into the Veterans space. Because so many people are quick to say ‘oh call the V.A’ or ‘call this number.’ I don't like to talk that... I want to say call my friend Jason here's his phone number or e-mail.
JASON: Plus, it seems like you know what you are talking about. You know an actual person in that organization.
JASON: Melissa you've helped about a lot people through these last years. I want you to tell us somebody who has helped you out in the past how they helped you.
MELISSA: Let's see, who can I talk about? Let talk about the people that help you that you don't know that they're helping you.
JASON: That’s very true. That's a great point
MELISSA: You think you're all alone out there and there are truly people out there, that are helping you. You don't even realize it maybe till it's done or it could be months later. I think that, being a great leader is knowing that you have people that are to help you.
JASON: Next talk about something that most people don't know about you.
MELISSA: I'm pretty much an open book. My daughter, we adopted her from foster care when she was two months old and she’s 12 years old.
JASON: That's great.
JASON: Melissa I understand you have something for our listeners.
MELISSA: I am very busy. I'm always on the go. But, I want to offer a free 15-minute consultation. We can talk about starting a business and of course if you want to hire me after, that’s fine. I am more than happy to donate 15 minutes of my time. I love to pay it forward as much as I can.
JASON: Thank you Melissa. Next can you give us some of your social media platforms so people can get in touch with you?
MELISSA: Absolutely. Really. I’m on all of them except snap chat, I’m a little too old for that. The best way to find me is you can actually just Google my name with Melisa Washington. I'm on LinkedIn, I'm on I'm on Twitter. I'm on Facebook. On Instagram and Pinterest, so I'm all over. I'm on Google Plus. So you could definitely find me if you just type in my name in Google.
JASON: Even Google plus that’s impressive .
MELISSA: Yes. Yes.
JASON: So for our listeners, we will have the links to everything on the show notes. Melissa, do you have any last words of wisdom or advice for everybody?
MELISSA: The biggest thing is just find a mentor.
JASON: Yes very good point. Melissa, thank you very much for being on the cavnessHR podcast. You gave a lot of value and you're doing great things for Veterans and just people in general. Thanks, you for everything you do.
MELISSA: Thank you so much Jason for me being on podcast.
JASON: To our listeners. Thanks for listening. We really appreciate it. I know your time is valuable too and remember to be great every day.
Social Media links for Melissa Washington below!!
Free Resource Below!!!!
Free 15 minute consultation with Melissa Washington. Contact her using one of the Social Media links above