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5 Steps to Networking for Veterans Who Aren't into Networking

A Soldier browsing Facebook on his laptop.

Everywhere you look you read about the importance of networking in finding a job, and in case you have not figured this out yet—it is the truth. While some people are lucky enough to find jobs without networking, that will not be the case for many of us. The hard part is that many of us have our reservations when it comes to networking. Fortunately, we live in an age of technology where networking in person is no longer the only way to establish those relationships that will land us jobs. If you are an introvert or are not comfortable with pounding the pavement and shaking hands all day, you can be as good at networking as the next veteran. Here are five ways to get out there without ever physically getting out there:

  1. Make sure your web presence truly represents the image of yourself that you want it to convey. If you have a website or online profiles such as those on Facebook and Twitter that boasts your accomplishments, people will likely come to you. Why do the hard work when you can just sit back and let success happen to you? Think of these in terms of readability and keywords. You want someone looking at your profile to think of you as an expert in your field, the perfect candidate for that job or whatever it is you aspire to do. If you have not started a website yet, do so and make sure this website tells your story perfectly. There should be no question about you or what your goals are.
  1. Build up your credibility through classes, internships, or freelance jobs. The first step does not work so well if you have nothing to boast about. If you are trying to get into cyber security but have never touched a computer, your chances are not particularly high. So take some online classes, and while you are building your resume, start a dialogue with your colleagues. Most online classes are either done via Skype or have a discussion section, so it should be easy to find someone in the class with similar interests. You may even consider full online or low-residency degree programs, though you should make sure to do your research first. Make connections with your classmates and ensure you keep in touch. Follow your new connections on Twitter and find a reason to engage with them. The same can be applied to remote internships or side jobs, where you can find other opportunities to gain experience remotely and network at the same time.
  1. Reach out to professionals in your desired field. With Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and the many other social networks out there, it is very easy to find people who are currently working in the field that you want to be pursue. Connect with them, and find a reason to strike up a virtual discussion. If she or he served in the military, you already have an in. Maybe she or he went to that same UCLA online program you are considering? Reach out and ask what she or he thought about the program or what advice they can offer for the application process. If you are feeling a little more social, ask if she or he would be willing to go out for coffee to share their thoughts on their industry. If you are not ready for this, that is fine -- try a phone call or simply stick to emails. The point is to establish that you are passionate about the industry and are not there to ask them to help you, but to establish a rapport.
  1. Follow up. Imagine a hypothetical where a job just opened up at the company of your dreams. Do you remember that person you connected with a couple of months ago, and she or he had just landed a cool job at that same company? Reach out and see if she or he can tell you their thoughts on the position. Convey that you are applying for the job and that any advice she or he may have to offer would be appreciated. The worst that could happen is that your contact does not care and ignores your email, but on the other side of that coin is a situation where your contact offer to look at your resume or even pass it on to the hiring manager who happens to be his or her friend. Do not ask for this, but follow up and hope that it will help you eventually. No one who has followed these steps has lost a job because of doing so, but a lot of us have found jobs through this style of networking.
  1. Pay it forward. This step is just as important as the rest. You may be thinking that you already have the job, so who cares? Future-you cares, that is who. One reason to help others along the way is because it is the nice thing to do. If that is not enough, remember that these people you are giving advice to may one day be in a position to pass your resume to his or her friends, or even be the one to hire you. You can pay it forward simply by responding to emails and social media requests, or you might want to start a podcast, volunteer to coordinate a Meetup.com event, or start a relevant Facebook group. However you choose to pay it forward, your kindness will be noticed and likely rewarded.

Remember, networking should not be a scary word. You do not have to go to the bar and do keg stands to meet people (in fact, it is probably best to avoid that strategy). Take the professional approach, where you can target who you are connecting with instead of playing the random numbers game. And good luck!

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