Networking: It’s part of our warrior ethos.
Simply explained, networking is asking someone you trust to help you; and networking works best when you proactively help someone first. (Never leave a fallen comrade.)
Once, I mentioned I was excited to work with our new commanding general – I didn’t realize my fellow warrior had previously worked for the general. Early the next morning, my boss asked me if I really wanted to be our commanding general’s aide-de-camp.
Hmmm … how did this happen?
Ten years later, I really wanted a job. I remembered my experience with the general, so I found a peer who had an association with the hiring authority and asked him to help me. It worked again.
Another ten years passed, and I wondered if this method might simplify my transition. And it did.
Networking helps create opportunities. It may not be what gets you the job, but it will certainly move you one step closer.
Here are the 10 steps I used to effectively build a network concentrated on my targeted career field.
1. Ask former military colleagues or those whom you are debriefing for an introduction.
Be precise. Be selective. Ask someone you trust to connect you to people in your targeted career field and companies.
2. Join professional or trade organizations associated with your career field.
Attend events and meet professionals with a similar career focus to learn more about companies and their culture, and to open more doors.
3. Actively participate on social media.
Remember, your posts can be seen by the world forever, so be neutral and non-controversial. Ask to connect with and/or follow relevant individuals to expand your network and join relevant companies/groups to learn about their initiatives, culture and opportunities.
4. Volunteer for an organization.
While doing work for a good cause, you will find people with similar interests.
5. Be transparent and authentic, but remember you are building trust.
Be open and clear about goals and aspirations, but don’t dwell on frustrations and challenges. You are initiating new relationships; there is some risk here.
6. Willingly share your resume.
Leaving a copy of your resume with a new connection may lead to an introduction to someone else. Always have one.
7. Always follow up.
Immediately provide anything promised (your resume, contacts, event dates, etc.), and always send personal thank-you notes.
8. Stay in contact.
Don’t connect without having a purpose. Keep a running dialogue with those you meet; keep them informed of your progress.
9. Don’t just collect business cards; share yours with everyone.
Don’t take a card from everyone you meet; just from those whom you can trust will help you. Do be sure to offer your business card, though – it may make its way to your future boss.
10. Be a resource for others.
Reciprocate with something of value. Find ways to help your new contacts. Also, remember your warrior ethos and share what you’ve learned with others struggling with transition.
My debriefings (informational interviews) helped me learn more about my targeted career field, but my networking opened doors, opened my eyes to the importance of company culture and introduced me to job opportunities within that career field. And, when I also helped others, the assistance I received was even more effective.
Networking helped me build friendships with people whom I can trust, and with whom I still maintain a meaningful, ongoing dialogue six years after landing my dream job.
Get more tips on each of these steps in Koch Industries’ Veteran Transition Guide.
This excerpt was formed from Transition War Stories: Lessons from the Front Lines, a series of seminar presentations and articles based on the experiences of John Buckley, manager of outreach strategies at Koch Industries. John is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served for 33 years commanding infantry soldiers in combat and peacekeeping ops and directing two of the Army’s most prestigious schools.