You’ve heard it before: It’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters. The ability to successfully reintegrate into the civilian sector and find a meaningful career certainly necessitates that you have the skills, experience and talents to do the work, but your network of contacts is also a powerful ingredient!
Multiple studies point to networking as being the significant part of getting a job, keeping a job, and finding a better job. Let’s look at some of the many ways networking and networking contacts can serve you as you transition from a military to civilian career:
- People do business with people they like (and know). If you have a small network of contacts, you have a limited number of people who can help you, refer you and endorse you when asked. A larger number of people who feel positively towards you ensures your name is brought up in critical conversations when opportunities are discussed.
- Other people can short-cut your learning curve. Surrounding yourself with people who are knowledgeable, insightful and resourceful means you can lean on them to help supplement your understanding of aspects of your career growth.
- The civilian world is relational. How people feel about you influences their willingness to help you. Your network of contacts can keep you grounded by encouraging you to focus on the mission (grow your career) and building relationships along the way.
- Your network knows people. When your contacts believe in you, understand you, and appreciate your skills and talents they can introduce and directly refer you to opportunities you might otherwise not be able to access.
- You can’t be everywhere. Your network can serve as another set of “eyes and ears” to help identify opportunities for you as you transition to your civilian career. As they scope out new offers and places you can grow your visibility, your network will keep you informed.
- It’s not enough to be good at your job; you must understand the human side of doing business. Technical competence, skills and certifications don’t mean you get along with others. Your network will share insights into the human aspects of moving through your career, building credibility, and advancing your personal brand at your work.
- People will sell for you when you’re not in the room. Your network can advocate for you and endorse you for your skills, talents and goals to key influencers who are looking for someone with your abilities and character traits.
- Recruiters use online networking and word of mouth to find candidates. Having a strong and viable network online shows employers that you are well connected, liked and respected. When your network publicly endorses you (through recommendations and testimonials posted online,) they share their credibility with you. This makes recruiters believe you are what they read and see online.
- Networking empowers you to serve. After you leave the military, many of you will still want to serve. Your network of contacts can guide you towards service that is personally and professionally meaningful helping you see, for instance, which are the most visible nonprofit organizations? Which community groups will give you the greatest personal impact? Where can you meet other like-minded individuals?
- It’s fun! Walking into a room of strangers can be intimidating and overwhelming. Walking into a meeting, gathering or event where you see familiar faces is less daunting. As you build a network of key contacts, you will turn some of those relationships into friendships, and keep others professional. Regardless of where the contact ends up in your life, it’s fun to know people in different jobs, industries and parts of the world.
The concept of networking after a military career can feel unfamiliar. But when you look at the benefits of intentional networking, the costs are a small price to pay for the support, knowledge, access and insight you gain.