Networking is scary enough for civilian people in their own hometown. For military spouses it is a tad more treacherous. Yet the research shows that it is through our connections that we get our jobs.
That’s why our friend and networking guru Lauren Fritsch has been helping us wrap our heads around networking, that frequently-scary and usually-overwhelming stepping stone we all face on the way to employment.
Mastering networking wherever you are comes down to five simple steps. First, you start small, working by word of mouth from the people you already know. Then, you hit the Internet and find the people and organizations in your area you’d like to connect with.
Take a meeting
Then you take the scariest step yet: you take a meeting. That’s right: once you’ve made your list of people to contact, it’s time to reach out to them.
When you do that, make sure you do so knowledgeably and with a game plan. Your goal should be meeting them in person. Yes, you want to meet even the complete strangers.
Remember, these people you are calling are in your field, too. That makes them your colleagues. Colleagues have every business being in touch with each other.
Start with an email
Reach out to your contacts by email first and then follow-up by phone and introduce yourself. (If you’re unsure of what to say when you reach out to someone, take a look at our guide for placing a cold call or writing that out-of-the-blue email.)
This email/call combo is not meant to be just a Horton Hears A Who style “I am here! I am here! I am here!” It isn’t just an introduction. Instead, this is meant to be an opportunity for you to ask a colleague to do something for you.
Write down three talking points
Have three specific points you’re ready bring up with the person on the other end of the phone or email. These talking points should be something you’ve thought through carefully that highlight not only your skills and knowledge but also your awesome communication prowess: i.e., everything they’d be stupid not to hire for.
Sometimes, these talking points can just be questions, but they should reflect some research on your end. What do you know about the person you’re contacting? (Have you Googled them?) What do you know about the company where they work? (You’ve done a thorough search, right?) And what do you know about the industry in your region? (You’ve read the news, you know what’s up!)
These three questions are your foot in the door to ask for a meeting, which is exactly what you want: the opportunity to shake their hand in person and show them how great you are.
Do NOT attach your resume
“No resume attached,” urges Lauren. This first correspondence is all about setting up meeting and making the connection. “That person’s not going to get you a job,” she says, “but someone they know might.”
When you do meet face-to-face with your new contacts, be prepared for that meeting to include an informational interview. These short meetings are an opportunity for you to learn more about an organization, the status of your field in the region, and showcase how great you are.
Don’t look at the meeting as the end goal – before you leave, ask your contact who else they can put you in touch with and if it’s okay for you to mention them by name as you continue your job search. When you ask to use someone’s name, you get to walk into your next meeting armed with your own experience and skills and their rank and local reputation.
You might be new to the area – or the profession – but they’re not. They might know just the person to get your foot in the door at the place where you’ll one day work. You simply have to ask. It can be nerve-wracking to start, sure, but you’re a military wife. You’re used to new situations and navigating tricky paths. You’ve got this.
For more information on networking, be sure to check out the rest of our networking resources and how-to’s, and take the time to visit Lauren’s website for more.