As you look to transition from the military to an anticipated career in the civilian sector, it is extremely important that you understand the value of building a great network. During transition, you will hear over and over again how important networking is – not only to landing that first out-of-the-military job, but also to your future civilian career path. And as a member of the armed services, you are one step ahead already! How is that? Well you know how to serve others. And while having a robust network is an important success factor, it’s important to view your professional network from a service perspective versus a “what can the people I know do for me” mindset.
Here are five, specific service-based leadership actions you can put into practice as you work to cultivate meaningful relationships with those who have potential to be a part of your network:
When you meet someone new, seek to learn from them. Leaders recognize that knowledge comes through listening to others and seeking to learn from them. Whether you are at a cocktail party or a conference, whenever you encounter a new person, recognize the valuable learning opportunity that is in front of you. Find out what the person enjoys and ask questions about their interests. You’ll be surprised at how much someone can teach you quickly about something they love.
Find common ground with others. While it’s important to have a diverse group of professionals in your network, it’s also important to share similar values, beliefs and experiences. What keeps a networking relationship strong is a common interest, activity or goal. As you connect with others, seek to determine what you have in common. Ideally we would have unlimited time to spend with everyone we meet, but this is certainly not the case.Instead, we have to be realistic in who we can actually stay connected to. By networking with those you have a variety of things in common with; you increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to add value to someone now and in the future – and vice versa.
Offer something of value after your first meeting. If you meet someone who you’d like to add to your professional network, provide that person with something of value during your initial follow up. From an article of interest, to a referral to someone relevant to them, to making a key introduction on their behalf, become a go-to resource. Create that mutually beneficial relationship right from the start.
Share your true personality right up front. Be who you are when you interact with others. By bringing your authentic self to your interactions with others you start any future relationship off on a firm foundation. Plus, when you demonstrate your comfort with yourself, you’ll put the person you are meeting at ease.
Keep in mind that you won’t connect well with everyone. Networking is an art. Sometimes we hit it off with others and can provide value to them right away. Other times we just don’t. Just as with all other types of relationships, some networking relationships will be great and last for years, others are just for the moment, event or conference. Don’t put pressure on yourself to relate well to everyone you encounter. Instead, follow up only on meaningful connections with people you enjoy.
Happy networking during your transition and beyond!