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Marine Corps Emblem

Mike Brinkley - Revisited
  Providing Transition Assistance, Still


January 2014

Marine Corps Emblem


It is hard to tell if, when Mike Brinkely broke into song striding across Henderson Hall's courtyard, he was just expressing joy at life or relieving stress from the heavy responsibility he carries.

Perhaps it was both.

Seven years is a long time to perform a job that entails walking veterans into the unpredictable, dog-eat-dog, unregimented world of civilian employment.

Indeed, guiding them away from a sometimes bureaucratic, often political and yet comfortingly systematic nest of occupational surety.

Henderson Hall is the official home to the Headquarters of the Marine Corps.  This free-standing building adjacent to the Pentagon is also the only real estate owned solely by the Corps.  Staff provide administrative support to Marines at any of the seven or eight locations in the National Capitol area where Marines work in a joint-forces environments.  The setting perfect for Brinkley's calling. 

On this day he was wrapping up a week-long Transition Readiness Seminar (TRS) for retirees, most of whom were Marines.  This particular portion of the seminar focused on the how's and why's of dressing appropriately for interviews.   Local clothing designer and bespoke (individually crafted) suit tailor Sofio Barone spent the day working out the extraordinary attention to detail required to compete in the world of American executive job interviews.

The first must: a strong dark suit contrasting against a sharp light shirt - think charcoal Brooks Brother's cashmere suit with a tailored white shirt.  What did class-clown Brinkley wear?  An orange sherbet shirt with a navy and neon orange striped tie;  perfectly pressed and fitted, though.  He's coordinated nearly 150 such seminars with Barone, knows the rules inside and out, yet in pure Brinkley style being amusing is in the job description.

Also in the bulleted list of skills for his post is compassion.  As readers learned when we first wrote about Brinkley in 2010, business is business.  Nothing has waivered on that front. 

Late on that Friday before a holiday Brinkley sat across from a brilliant and extremely well-educated Marine.  Hoping for one of two desired positions at the Pentagon where she is currently assigned, questions about delivering a successful resume were analyzed in detail.

Enter the new millennium - it is all about the keyword.  In effect each resume must be nothing less than a mirror of the job posting, nearly word-for-word.  Each resume is scanned and keywords are counted.  The highest match wins: an interview.  Talent and skill are far seconds. Statistics show that far more than half of retired enlisted Marines possess Bachelor degrees.  Chump change for this Marine - not only does she have that, she has more than one Master's degree, and is perfectly fluent in five languages.  Nonetheless she has to do the labor-intensive work of creating a resume for each and every job she seeks.

 During that discussion Brinkley was not comical.  He was not charming.  He was not relaxed.  Brinkley was focused, and concerned. Although he sees Marines by the dozen each month, and speaks to most of them about their individual journey, rarely do they return to give follow up.  So he has this one shot to help them cross the bridge into civilian employment.  Not only was Brinkley open to the writing portion, he opens his heart to the confidences these warriors share.

"Many of them feel helpless," he shared regarding the frustrating and inconsistent process of job hunting.  Their livelihoods - indeed their lives - are riding on a successful arrival into a new career. Hearing their fears, their missteps, their confusion is all part of the job. 

Perhaps he will be the only professional with military experience (Brinkley served in the Army after his Norfolk, VA upbringing), working for a military department (Brinkley worked with the Virginia Employment Commission serving veterans from 2007 to 2012, including 18 months with The Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment) whose job it is to care.  Some heavy subjects were addressed in the meeting with this Marine, including interviewing issues and processing disappointment - likely the most important tools he could pass on to her. 

 Back to wrapping up the seminar with the all-necessary questionnaire, Brinkley danced up the aisle to address his attendees.  An unexpected awkwardness arose as these patriots began their good-byes to each other, knowing this may be the last time they meet for years to come. 

Suddenly Brinkley's humorous actions weren't out of happenstance - they were comic relief. 

 And very appropriate indeed.