08 September 2014

Build a Network: No Resume Required

I recently received a survey that asked a number of questions regarding what areas I felt transitioning military needed assistance in. There was a theme that emerged to me after taking the survey – there is this belief that: 

a) We need financial assistance and education.
b) We need assistance writing resumes and conducting job searches.
c) We all want to start a business.

I'm not sure why the civilian world believes we are all clueless about financial matters (at least the perception that we are more clueless than the general public), but that's another topic for another day. What I really want to talk about is writing resumes and job searches. Yes, this blog has had several posts about both as does a number of other online resources for transitioning military. So, I won't bore you with more of the same as I'd rather offer a somewhat contrarian viewpoint.

First, a side story. I had been self-employed for about five years until one day a client of mine called me up to see if I would meet with a friend of his who was looking to hire a programmer for his company. I told my client I was not a programmer - he insisted on the meeting and I eventually relented. When I met with this friend the first words out of my mouth were “I'm not a programmer.” At first he seemed disappointed, but then we started to talk and by the time I walked out of his office I had a job offer if I wanted it – in a brand new position that didn't exist on the organization chart prior to my arrival. I ended up taking this position and worked there for a few years prior to my military entry.

In the past 15 years, the closest thing I've had to a resume is a LinkedIn profile. I'm not confident in my resume writing ability– I've never really needed to refine this skill. I believe this is because there is truth in that old saying 'It's 90% who you know and 10% what you know.' I think it goes deeper than this, as the 90% of who you know totally depends on a couple of things. One, how much effort you put into building and expanding your professional and personal relationships. Two, the things you have accomplished which draw attention (from people worth knowing) and demonstrate capability (proven track record). Three, the perception of what you know (not necessarily what you actually do know). Fourth, a bit of luck and timing. 

Another side story. Three years ago I had a phone call with a long time friend and mentor. I was making my transition from full-time Reservist to traditional and I told my friend that I had no network in my community. My friend scolded me to get off my butt and get out there and meet people. Three years later I'm a phone call, handshake, or email away from just about any connection in my area. It takes effort and lots of time to build a network, but you need it far more than you need a resume, a job fair, or even a suit (but get one anyway). Resumes are busywork for HR departments – focus on the network.

So, my point is just because you are transitioning or soon will be doesn't mean you need to write a resume and attend job fairs if you don't want to. Sure, they can be handy if you need to jump right now, but if you have the time – build the network. It will eventually be far more valuable to you than just a job source.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

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