Networking Your Way into a Civilian Career

Networking at Joining Forces Job Fair

Any group of people that has gone through adversity together has formed special bonds. This is particularly true for those in the military who have stood side-by-side and risked life and limb as a unit. Although the tour of duty eventually ends, the bonds are never broken.

After serving in the military, it can be quite an adjustment and transition back into civilian life. Finding work, in particular, can be a daunting task. Still, returning servicemembers can help themselves immensely by leveraging the bonds they forged in the military. Networking with those who have already found employment is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Of course, veterans should also leverage the many skills they acquired while serving, in particular leadership, a quality that can help put them way ahead of the job-hunting pack. The military offers opportunities to assume tremendous levels of responsibility at an early age and those experiences can be effectively utilized back on civilian soil.

Networking Techniques and Tactics

There are many networking techniques and tactics that job hunters can use to get the attention of employers.

In most markets, there are more jobs available than just those listed on job boards and through corporate recruiters. Often, employers prefer to conduct their own candidate search quietly so as not to be overwhelmed with unqualified applicants. Knowing this, it's a good idea for candidates to form a list of companies that align with their skills and values and call up the human resources manager at each business in order to make an introduction. The company can learn more about the candidate and the candidate can determine where in the company he or she might fit best.

The evolution of the World Wide Web, and in particular social media, allows a much more robust method of job hunting. Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great resources for candidates to spotlight their portfolio and background, as well as search for employers' contact information. Taking part in industry and professional discussions can also help job hunters to make new and helpful connections.

Many job applicants travel the path well-taken when it comes to getting their foot in the door. This tactic can lead to a dead-end, however. A better route may be to go straight to the top and try to get time with a company's chief executive; there is no harm in speaking with the CEO's assistant and asking for an audience. After all, if nothing else, there's a good chance the candidate will get referred to the human resources department – and that referral will mean much more coming from the C-suite than a referral from a job board. And there is always a chance the CEO will get on the phone – so be ready to impress.

Online Resources and Networking Opportunities

The Internet is full of useful sites for job seekers, including resources that specifically target servicemembers preparing to enter the civilian workforce. For example, at websites such as VetJobs.com and Military.com, veterans can post resumes, search for jobs, network with other veterans and get additional employment assistance.

Employment assistance and networking opportunities are also available through service-related organizations.

The Military Officers Association of America offers a slate of resources to its members and their families, including career consulting, networking contacts, resume feedback, career fairs and job listings.

The National Military Spouse Network, meanwhile, provides mentoring, networking and other professional and personal development services to the spouses of active duty and retired servicemembers. The organization's members can also submit business plans for review.

There's no question that transitioning into civilian life can be a stressful time for military personnel and their families. However, there are numerous resources available to help returning servicemembers to highlight their unique skills, network with other veterans and find military-friendly employers who have the highest regard for the sacrifices of our nation's heroes.

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Jason Monaghan writes on education topics for military and veterans. He also writes on topics such as business administration and corporate sustainability for a number of universities through the University Alliance. 

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