For many, the turning of the calendar page means assessing and evaluating how we're managing and directing our careers and goals. Whether you're just now exiting the military or have been in the private sector for some time, setting goals and identifying opportunities for how you show up online is critical.
Perhaps you're reluctant to share and engage with others online. During your time in uniform, your focus was elsewhere, and now as you exit the military, it might feel like everyone around you is building LinkedIn profiles, sharing personal information on Facebook, and recording dance videos on TikTok.
Not all social media platforms are equal, so here's a simplified checklist to guide you on the three big platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Active Duty -- Exiting the Military in 12-24 Months
At this stage in your transition, you're focused on what you want to do next. Social media should support your research, due diligence, networking and personal branding.
- Begin building (or enhance) your profile.
- Add certifications, awards, metrics of military work and successes.
- Research companies and industries on LinkedIn -- what do they care about? Who do they hire? Find people to meet and begin doing informational interviews.
- Reach out and introduce yourself online to people you're interested in doing interviews with -- ask about their industry, company or job.
- Follow up and thank them.
- Stay connected as your career path comes more clearly into focus.
If you've been active on Facebook, take a moment to review your profile for the following practices:
- Does your profile represent you positively?
- Are you sharing information that's unflattering or potentially offensive?
- Clean up your profile in the event it could hurt your career options.
- When ready, announce that you'll be separating.
- Open the conversation with your connections who might be able to help refer, endorse or mentor you during the transition.
- If you've not been active on Twitter, consider looking for news streams, industry associations and community groups in your possible area of interest.
- At this point, the platform might be most useful to you for insight, rather than self-promotion.
Active Duty -- Exiting the Military in 12 months or less
Your job search is more attuned and focused now. You may have focused on a specific industry, geography or even company. With an understanding of what you want to do next, consider which social media platforms people in those industries are most active on.
- Continue refining and updating your profile with keywords focused on what you'll do post-military.
- Seek to connect with industry leaders (follow them if they don't connect).
- Follow companies you're interested in pursuing.
- Follow influencers and leaders whom you respect and admire.
- Contribute ideas, thoughts and insight where appropriate.
- Personalize all connection requests and scrutinize the ones you accept -- ensure they serve your short-term and long-term positioning and goals.
- Follow groups where industry leaders are active.
- Identify and evaluate causes and issues to which your target company is committed.
- Share comments, information and insight where you feel comfortable.
- If appropriate, ask for informational interviews from online connections who could share valuable insight or leads.
- Find and follow media that highlight trends, changes and happenings in the industry you're pursuing.
- Identify and follow the influencers who share valuable content and have large followings.
After you exit the military, your online strategy should be refined to build and grow your career. Consider each social networking platform for the value it offers you to connect with your target audience, position yourself authentically and in line with your personal brand goals, and offer you the opportunity to share, contribute, serve and receive benefits.
- Continue to connect and accept connections from people who can serve your strategic network and with whom you can confidently reciprocate.
- Share updates, insights, findings and information about your career, work, employer, industry and news you're following with your connections. Always add your own perspective or thoughts when re-sharing information so your followers learn about you.
- Help others in your network by adding comments, advice, resources and insight to their posts (also in groups where you're active).
- Consider posting articles or longer pieces to develop ideas more fully.
- Curate content from others and always assign attribution, giving them credit where due.
- Pay close attention now to what you're posting. Be careful sharing images or content that could be seen as inappropriate or offensive. Peers, clients, employers and hiring managers might see them.
- Consider every post or share by asking yourself "will this help or hurt my reputation?" and then decide whether it's worth sharing.
- Continue to let your network know what you care about, who you are and what you need (and how they can help you).
- Follow your employer and key industry leaders and influencers. Engage with or share their content when appropriate.
- Always vet the content of others before you share and distribute -- confirm it is legitimate and verified.
- Remember that as you post on Twitter (and other sites) you are a representative of your employer, whether or not you post on their behalf. Keep their reputation in mind as you speak your opinions and share insights.
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