Military members in transition hate the verb “network.” You think it is a synonym for bothering people. For making ‘The Ask.’ For begging for a job. You’d rather work, thanks—especially during a worldwide pandemic.
Still, as a career coach who works with senior military members in transition, I’ve got to point out there was never a better time for a network than right now.
OF COURSE, I’m NOT advising you to take on awkward (or cold-blooded) networking activities. I’m also NOT advising you to work on your resume or search for job listings right now. Those activities depress the hell out of people and we all need to keep our spirits up.
Instead, I’m saying that because the Coronavirus closings are happening to all of us at once in an unprecedented way, it is a time to reach out to our own networks. Responding to crisis is what networks are actually meant to do. Our social and professional networks are meant to be the way we sustain each other.
“Network” is not a transition verb right now. Network is a noun. It is something that already exists. It is the thing you built by years of military service, by decades of reliability, by all those times you chatted with new neighbors or volunteered on a sports team or attended the donut hour at church. Now is a time where you do what you are most comfortable with—you serve your network.
So set aside that time you would usually spend on your commute or in long meetings to call, connect, and commiserate with friends and family. Find out who is working from home. Find out when the kids are supposed to go back to school. Wonder aloud together about the economy. Think through the elderly in your neighborhood or at-risk families you know to see what you can do to help. This is the network.
If your conference or convention or business travel has been cancelled, it wouldn’t hurt to send an email to the people you expected to see there and tell them that you were looking forward to catching up. Send an email to the organizers and recognize their hard work and let them know you hope they will reschedule. This is the network.
Sit down with your spouse and kids. Instead of searching for more news updates, take this time to talk through all the transition stuff you have been putting off. Talk about what you want to do now, what you want to do next, and what you want to do last. This is your most important network.
These next few weeks of the Coronavirus crisis will pass, but the transition will still loom. What I hope for you is that you will look back at this crisis as a time your network came to life--and let you do the job you were meant to do.
Jacey Eckhart is a career transition coach known for her ability to connect senior military (officer and enlisted) to their next high-impact career. Trained as a military sociologist, her professional focus is on veteran employment, spouse employment, and long military marriage. She has more than 20 years of experience designing workshops for active-duty members, reservists, and the National Guard, including Navy SEALS, Army Delta Force, and all their wonderful families. For more information, visit No Regret Military Tansition or email Jacey.