If you’ve had a successful career in the armed forces, you’re already an accomplished networker. As you transition out of the military, remember that personal connections can lead to opportunities in the civilian workplace. Here are some tips about how to network effectively.
1. Start early.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve noticed among service members is waiting until you have just 30 days left in the military before you start reaching out to civilian employers. As busy as you are in your day-to-day job, make the time to attend employer days on base and sign up for the career counseling classes the military offers 60 to 90 days before you are available. Whether you meet them in person or not, be proactive about introducing yourself to recruiters at companies that interest you. Acquire civilian certifications (PMP, CCNA, PHR, A+, etc.), even if you don’t need all of them in the end. These are industry-known certifications that could put you over the top in your job search.
2. Create your pitch.
Boost your chances of making a good first impression by practicing a 30-second introduction, also known as an elevator pitch, that includes your name, how many years you were in the military, your most recent military occupation specialty and what you want to do. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Speak with confidence and enthusiasm, wear business attire and have an error-free resume with you.
3. Use online resources.
There are nearly 400 million reasons to actively maintain a profile on LinkedIn. That’s how many members LinkedIn currently has. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful this tool can be to connect you with people outside the military.
You have to be smart about how you use LinkedIn. Think of it as a platform for expanding and personalizing what’s on your resume. It’s a place where you can be specific about the skills you acquired in the military and mention any medals and awards you won while in service. Photos are good, but be sure they’re professional (for example, no holding a rifle while in camouflage). Use a resume guide to help you translate your military experience into civilian equivalents for your LinkedIn profile.
4. Do your research.
Sometimes a job seeker approaches me at a Verizon event and asks, “What do you have for me?” That’s no way to impress a potential employer. Instead, show how serious you are by doing some research about Verizon. Don’t focus on what Verizon (or another company) can do for you but on what you can do for the business, and be specific enough to show that you’ve done your homework.
5. Tap informal relationships.
We all know that job fairs, networking symposiums and LinkedIn are ways to connect with people who can help successfully conclude a job search. But the truth is that birthday parties, softball games and church functions can also be great venues for networking. Word of mouth among friends and friends of friends can lead to your dream job. Spend time with professionals informally. Introduce yourself to them, and if they’re receptive, mention your job search and seek their advice. Wear a military pin on your lapel, and thank other veterans for their service. They may be able to help you in your search for that next great opportunity.