Veterans: Before You Connect Online, Do This First

Photo courtesy of Technology Talent Network (nj.gov).

Question:

During a transition seminar, I was told to connect with as many people as I can online. I send lots of connection invitations, but many people aren’t accepting. What am I doing wrong?

Answer:

While you are correct that a large and vibrant network of contacts is valuable as you transition and build your civilian career, quality matters more than quantity. Connecting with colleagues, influencers, employers, fellow service members and others is important, but how you connect determines whether others want to be part of your network.

Before you send (or accept) an invitation to connect, remember my top 10 tips for connecting online:

  1. Identify who you need to know – research key decision makers in companies you want to target.  Learn who the hiring managers are for the positions and departments you would be a fit for. 
  2. Value your network (and put value into who will you connect with.)  This goes hand in hand with number one above. Always consider quality over quantity.
  3. Personalize the connection invitation.  Introduce yourself with a personal note, and let them know why you would like to connect with them. 
  4. Customize each connection invitation message. Don’t copy and paste the same note.  Make each invitation unique, starting with the first name of the person you wish to connect with. Refer to their work history or accomplishments to let them know you’ve done your research.    
  5. Evaluate your logic for each invitation. Did you recently meet this person at a social function? Have they looked at your profile? Do you know people in common? This will provide a framework for your personal connection invitation, and is a natural way to make an introduction.   
  6. Consider whether you can create a mutually-beneficial relationship. Ask yourself if there may be a win/win opportunity. What can you provide in return – can you prepare their taxes, or help with a home repair project?  What are you good at, that may be useful to them? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but let’s them know you are sincere in your gesture and asking for their help.
  7. Search for common ground. Did you each serve in the same branch of the military?  Are you targeting the company they currently work for? Once you identify a common interest, use that as your springboard for connecting.
  8. Evaluate who you already know. Once you build your online presence, you’ll be surprised at how many people you can connect with immediately. When you do, you’ll have access to their network of connections.
  9. Wear your heart on your sleeve. When reaching out, don’t be afraid to be authentic with your message. Let them know what your goals are, and how you think they might be able to help you achieve them.  
  10. Show your gratitude. Whether someone can help you today or not, always remember to thank them for connecting. You will soon find out that the civilian world is a small place, and your paths may very well cross at some point in your bright future. 

A final thought: I’m not suggesting that you offer to mow lawns for everyone you meet. If you remain selective and strategic about your network, over time - not overnight - you will reap great rewards.   

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