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Networking Strategies

While on active military service, relationships and contacts are established primarily by proximity (geography), rank, and role. Networking in civilian life is often different than networking in the military.

A network of viable contacts is critical in a competitive business climate. Your network serves not only as sources for your job search, but also as a sounding board, support system, and news source. Your network, when planned and managed, is the “circle of influence” that will guide you through your career.

Think About It - You Already Have a Network

Each one of us has a family, friends, and people we associate with, personally and professionally, during our military service and after. Your network is that group of contacts you specifically maintain and nurture for the mutual benefit of all. This type of network is a win-win relationship based on rapport and trust.

Who Should Be in Your Network?

Most people often try to meet and network with decision makers. They can hire but they are often the most sought after individuals and can get overwhelmed with inquiries.

Think outside the network box by networking with people who may not have the power to hire or promote but that might bring some unique industry information or insight that could make you more competitive and relevant. When you meet someone who is potentially a valuable information source, network with them as if they are a decision maker. All contacts are valuable.

Organize and Nurture Your Network

As you begin to establish your network, start listing all the people you already know. You should consider those with whom you served in the military; alumni from high school, college, or graduate school; colleagues and co-workers from current and past employment; people you meet at events, functions, and gatherings for whom you have contact information. Organize this information into a database for future reference.

Keep track of meetings, phone calls, email, and other contacts within your network. Include everyone. If you haven’t spoken to someone in a while, send them a note saying hello with an update about your employment or job search. When you meet someone new, enter them into your database. Make it your goal to help those in your network just as much you would like them to help you.

Get the Most from Your Network

As you build or enhance your network of contacts, consider that everyone you meet will potentially enter your network in one of many possible ways. In every case, for every category of contact, certain success tips ring true:

  • Be authentic. When you are genuine, people want to get to know you and help you.
  • Join groups with people of similar backgrounds. No matter your background, joining alumni groups, industry organizations or even groups with interests like yours can open up a world of opportunity.
  • Make an effort. Joining groups and using LinkedIn won’t do any good without effort. Networking takes initiative and requires a time investment. At the end of a long day, the farthest thing from your mind might be attending that after-hour networking event. When in doubt…Go! A colleague invites you to dinner? Go. If you don’t, you could miss a networking opportunity that could change your life.
  • Reciprocate. For every favor you ask (e.g. introduction to a job lead), be sure to return with something of perceived value (e.g. returned job lead or handwritten note of gratitude).
  • Bring something to the table. Be willing to share your own experiences and to provide others with insight into your job search successes and failures.

Networking is not easy, but when done right, it can help set you up for a lifetime of fulfillment and success. Good luck!