One unintended and negative consequence of military service is that most individuals come out of the military with an inadequate professional network. Close personal connections supported you through training, assignments, postings and missions. But those military connections alone can’t match the impact of having the kind of rich professional network that most civilians rely on to identify opportunities, land jobs and build careers. In civilian life, 80 percent of people, on average, land their next job due to a connection in their network.
Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations, services and best personal practices that can help you build a valuable professional network as you transition out of the military and throughout your career.
One of the best networking moves that a veteran or transitioning service person can make is to connect with former commanding officers and former military colleagues who have already left the service. They are frequently valuable sources of information about how to manage the transition and conduct a civilian job search. They also know your skills, strengths and interests, so they can be informed sources of career advice and leads on job openings.
Reach out to other personal connections as well. One standard piece of advice for civilian job hunters is that when you are looking for a job, tell everyone! Mention your job hunt and your efforts to build a new civilian career to family members, friends, former employers, former teachers, old buddies from high school or college, etc. You never know who might have a great lead on a job or a connection that links you to a sought-after employer.
Leverage the power of the Internet to build your network. LinkedIn is the go-to site for building and working professional networks. The basic service is free. However, paying for professional membership on LinkedIn, even if it’s just for one month, can be beneficial and greatly enhance your ability to make key connections to individuals in the careers, industries, jobs and companies that you are most interested in.
Consider doing some face-to-face research. Try to arrange an informational interview with an individual who is currently doing the type of work you are seeking with an employer that you are interested in. An informational interview is not a job interview. Rather, it is a discussion to learn more about that job/career. Topics discussed could include:
Connecting with an individual for an informational interview takes some effort. But some targeted networking can lead you to those interviews. That networking can also provide you with job leads, market intelligence, career advice and personal connections that can help you throughout your career.
Military Corps Career Connect provides transitioning service members, active-duty spouses, and recently separated veterans (non-retiree) with a customized set of services that allow them to successfully transition careers. C3 also connects Maryland businesses with qualified veterans and active-duty spouses.
Heroes Linked is a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans, transitioning military and Gold Star families with career guidance, professional development and mentoring. Their service includes matching veterans to mentors who are engaged in the types of jobs/careers that the veterans will pursue.