Veteran Connection: Networking, the Key to Finding Your Next Big Opportunity

In these last few years, with budgets being diminished and a reduction of force in full swing, most service members have had to develop networking skills out of necessity. In order to get their current military jobs completed, essentially doing more with less, networking has become a workplace staple. Luckily, networking is a transferable skill that is invaluable. Learning to use those same networking skills when looking for employment is no different. It is the key to finding multiple employment opportunities. Service members can benefit from the following basic guidelines while still serving, upon separation, or shortly before retirement to obtain civilian employment.

Make a List

In the workforce today, the same old adage still applies. It isn’t always what you know but who you know. Of course, your skill sets are the basis to employment but it is also important to contact people that you actually know for those employment opportunities. Look at your cell phone, your emails, current and former employees or colleagues, wrack your brain and recall everyone that you can remember. Even if the person you know isn’t the most well-connected person, you might be surprised at who they are related to or who resides next door to them. Make a list and illustrate on paper for your own eyes the names, numbers and email addresses of those you identify, and contact them.

Contact and Connecting

One of the first rules of putting yourself out there is knowing what to say. If you are emailing people, it is always good to follow up with a phone call. But, you need to know what to say. The more value one can add to themselves with their words the better. For example, it is important to sell both your hard and soft skill sets. Hard skill sets are the tangible skills you possess. If you are a mechanic, I can ask you to diagnose an engine and use tools to fix it. Soft skills are the intangibles. If you tell me you are an exceptional leader and I ask you to show me, it’s much harder. You must use your words to describe how you lead. It is important to also provide real world examples of how you have successfully lead others. This will help paint a picture for the listener so that they better understand your soft skill sets. Don’t be afraid to tell a story. Your words are a powerful ally in helping those who might employ you understand how much value you would bring to their open positions.

Social Media Musts

Social media sites can be your best resource for reaching a larger audience. It is important not to resist social media a necessary piece to your employment networking arsenal; nevertheless, always remember to protect your right to privacy with what you decide to put out there for all to read. With that said, using sites like Facebook and Twitter can and will expand your reach with finding many employment opportunities. A well-crafted paragraph that highlights some of your best qualities will get responses. Your social media paragraph should not read as a desperate plea, rather, as an articulate and professional request. It will surely attract responses for job leads and possibly the eyes of potential employers.

Link in to get LinkedIn

Finally, Linkedin.com is a site with boundless possibilities and opportunities. It is known as the Facebook of the business world. By creating an account, you will open yourself up to many potential employers and it is an excellent site to network! There are numerous job opportunities on this site as well. Creating a well-crafted, grammar and spelling-error-free page, with a sharp picture of yourself (out of uniform) in professional attire; a collared shirt and tie or a blouse, you can attract many employment opportunities. Following these simple rules can entice potential employers who have professionals searching LinkedIn for the right employee for their company. Also, service members rate a free one year premium upgrade with LinkedIn too, so be sure to contact them once your page is complete.

Eye to Eye

Put yourself out there! Attend community events, volunteer, and go to areas where you can strike up a conversation with someone about employment opportunities. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to sell yourself when the opportunity presents itself. Ask people, “how long have you worked in your current position?” Question them about how they landed their current job and enquire about how they found their job. And most importantly, ask if they currently hiring! Over 80% of today’s jobs aren’t advertised, according to Howard Popliger, owner of human-resource company Epic Development & Evaluations. Knowledge is power and most of the time people are happy to talk about their employment situation, so strike up a conversation.  Always keep an extra copy of your resume in your car and print yourself some basic business cards (with your LinkedIn profile name) so that when the opportunity presents itself to network, you will be ready!

Now GO, Network!

Networking is what you make of it. By following the basic networking strategies above, you’ll surely get the gears of many new employment possibilities moving!

Rebecca Meyer, a valued contributor for ACI’s Employment Assistance Program and SOAR Student Assistance, is a champion of veteran’s causes.  She teaches classes for transitioning service members for the Department of Labor, recruits for unique educational and employment opportunities for Upper Limit Aviation and volunteers for USMC Life as a base ambassador.  She also volunteers her time to help veterans with their resumes, interview skills and job search. A veteran herself, she is also a spouse of an active duty Marine and stays busy supporting her husband’s career all while raising their 3 year old daughter.  Rebecca can be reached on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccasmeyer.

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About ACI Specialty Benefits

ACI Specialty Benefits ranks in the nation’s Top-Ten providers of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), corporate wellness programs, student assistance, corporate concierge, and work/life services to corporations worldwide. ACI partners with clients to Perk Up employee engagement and performance with benefit programs that improve morale, productivity and the bottom-line. With a 95% customer retention rate and over 7 million lives covered. ACI remains a privately-owned specialty benefits corporation, headquartered in San Diego. For more information, visit www.acispecialtybenefits.com or call 800.932.0034.
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