12 September 2014

Networking: A Necessary Evil Veterans Struggle With

Before I was a veteran, when I was on the computer my girlfriend would ask what I was doing and I would answer, “I’m playing Facebook.” Now that I am a transitioning veteran the usual answer is, “I’m playing RallyPoint or LinkedIn.” That game analogy has helped me be able to start professionally network since it was so foreign to me as a transitioning veteran.

Let’s face it, the military breeds us and gives us all the skill set to be a huge success in corporate America, but the culture causes us to be completely inept at networking. We are usually very humble, focused on service to others, do not usually ask for favors, and don’t like to promote ourselves. Normally the system lets our performance and actions speak for us. We struggle to speak for ourselves- at least I did.

Terms like 'personal brand' and 'elevator speech' were completely alien to me. I wasn't sure what my personal brand even was, I only knew that I was a United States Air Force Officer. In case you are wondering, your personal brand is your story and what skills you have to bring to the company. An elevator speech is how you can express your personal brand and story in less than 30 seconds (the estimated time you have with someone in the elevator). This is actually pretty difficult.

You are trying to be relatable, memorable, precise, calculating, and personable all while being charming and charismatic within a short period of time in order to meet one goal: to make a connection. This is what networking boils down to. From the very beginning, networking challenged my way of thinking. I always viewed it as “what can you do for me?” but in reality it means “what can we do for each other?” The connection or relationship has to be mutually beneficial, otherwise it is not really networking.

So in the end, networking is still a necessary evil in my mind. Regardless of how you feel about what I said or about the situation in general, the facts don’t lie. According to a report from ABC News, “80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking.”

It is all about who you know. When you think about it, it does make sense. Would you rather vouch or trust a resume with a name you have never seen, or a person you made a legitimate connection with? That is when networking makes a difference. Creating mutual professional relationships now can make all the difference now and in the future. The benefits are clear and that is why I continue to play RallyPoint and LinkedIn on top of my regular dose of Facebook...no matter how much my girlfriend busts my chops for it.

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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