For the job search and career advancement, we all hear about the importance of networking. What is networking? My definition of Networking: Networking is the continual process to make, maintain and grow a base of professional connections that can help lead you to your next career opportunity. A Network can tell you where the job opportunities are, what the next great industry or company is, where your skills will be a good fit, and what you need to do to make yourself more competitive for a promotion or to be selected by your top pick company.
Networking is a vital step for career switchers and those that are moving from one industry to another. This is especially true for military members and military veterans because their industry transition can be extreme as they move from service to the nation to service to an employer. Networking is a time intensive but incredibly rewarding process because it helps discover professional career avenues, creates mentor relationships, provides a source to answer difficult questions, and can lead to unexpected personal opportunities.
I ran a survey for a week in the late summer of 2015 to answer 4 questions on the importance of networking.
1. What is the importance of Networking to an effective career transition? Answered on a 1-5 scale, 5 is high.
2. Comment on Networking best practices that you want transitioning service members to know.
3. Comment on Networking mistakes that you want transitioning service members to know.
4. How far in advance should a transitioning service member begin Networking? Answered in the number of months in advance of transition.
The answers surprised even me. Here are the major results:
1. What is the Importance of Networking to an Effective Career Transition:
- 35% stated that Networking is the most important to career transition.
- 52% stated that Networking is one of the most important items to an effective career transition.
2. Examples of Networking Best Practices:
- “Branch out to as many people as possible to give yourself the most opportunities to find a new career.” – Anonymous
- “Finding a professional association of the targeted profession, industry and/or function is key.” - Walter Tieck, Eagle Soar High Coaching.
- “Follow up with new contacts within 48 hours.” - Rick Myskey Jr, Millennium KI, LLC.
- “It is critical that you define two things in your career transition: what impact are you looking to make on your new organization? Second, what skills and capabilities do you bring to the new organization to add value to their mission?” - Jacob Kulzer, Ecolab.
- “Networking value comes when you meet new people outside of your comfort zone.” - Anonymous.
- “Seek out people in the field you wish to enter in the geographic area where you want to settle.” – Brian Byrne, AmerisourceBergen.
- “Stay in contact with the contacts that you meet.” – Darrell Jones, transitioning service member.
- “Tap into the Company Veterans network and grow your new professional network and never stop!!” - John Phillips, Boots to Loafers, LLC.
- “Treat all with respect regardless of where they are in relation to you - I'm still amazed at folks I've served with that I don't even remember but recall how I've treated them or my approach.” – Anonymous.
- “Your network is what will get you into your next career.” – Anonymous.
- “Your network is your brand; life truly is more about who you know.” – Anonymous.
3. Example of Networking Mistakes To Avoid:
- “Do not network without demonstrating that you are prepared to learn new skill sets in order to be valuable to a company/organization.” – Anonymous
- “Don't expect your dream job to fall into your lap. Be proactive.” – Anonymous.
- “Don't network with only veterans and "veteran-friendly" companies. See a job you want at a company you want to work for? Go for it!” – Aaron Perkins.
- “I under estimated the willingness people would have to meet with me and offer advice.” – Jacob Kulzer, Ecolab.
- “Know something about the organization you hope to join. You are making a mistake, if you do not review the latest news releases to discover challenges and leadership changes.” - Dr. John Altland, Community College of Denver.
- “Never under estimate your value and ability to help others. Always follow up to show people you are still at their service to help.” – Anonymous.
- “Recommend ensuring your social media brand portrays a professional and corporate-like appearance.” – Lee Fennema.
- “Seek out people who can serve as advocates for you and the transition. Use all the resources, get away from the computer and speak to people.” – Walter Tieck, Eagle Soar High Coaching.
- “Starting the process early will give you many more opportunities to find the right job for you, and will help you find out which contacts might be able to help you the most.” – Anonymous.
- “Thought I could do it alone. Need assistance if nothing else someone to talk too.” – Larry Morris.
- “When you introduce yourself, talk about who you are and what you've done - much deeper than a job title.” - Anonymous.
4. When Should You Start Networking?
- Overwhelmingly, 76% of respondents stated that you should start networking 12 months or more.
- Another 10% stated that 9 to 12 months was the ideal time to begin Networking. A clear consensus states that 12 months before transition is the best time to begin networking.
Networking is an important and vital part of the military-to-civilian career transition, perhaps the most important part. Networking is just as important if and when you decide to find a new position in your same company or in a new company. No matter where you are in a career transition or your current job, it is never too late to begin Networking to advance your career and demonstrate all that you can do.
Resources for Networking:
5 Tips for Maximizing LinkedIn in Your Military to Civilian Transition
USAA Guide to Leaving the Military
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About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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