Networking Can Help (or Hurt) Your Military Transition Preparation

Jason C. Anderson

As a military member getting ready for transition, you’ve probably heard from different people about how important it is to “network” to have a successful transition. In fact, within social media circles in particular, there may be such an emphasis that it may sound more like, “network, network, network” and when you are done with that, “network” some more.

OK, point taken. Data indicates the vast majority of you will seek employment post military. So, the idea of creating a network, then leveraging it to help you bridge the differences between the public and private sector employment field is sound advice. For example, from LinkedIn you can search for and reach out to potential employers or other veterans to learn more about companies of interest.

In our new, highly connected digital world there are so many people, and so much information, at your fingertips that it’s no wonder veterans’ advocates and influencers are steering you down this path. It can be very effective, if done properly.
What is not discussed is the other side of the coin—networking done improperly, which can be counterproductive and actually hurt your chances of success.

How Networking Can Hurt Your Chances of a Successful Transition

Before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge that military transition is a very stressful time of life. Whether you’ve been in four years or forty, you’ve grown accustomed to a public-sector military ecosystem that is significantly different from the private sector. Thus, a number of unknowns may come into play. To begin addressing them, you’d be smart to reach out to a more knowledgeable person on, for example, LinkedIn.

Let the networking begin!

Within about ten minutes of basic searching on LinkedIn, you find a contact within a company you think you might be interested in—and he is a veteran. You click on the message button next to his name and, perhaps a bit nervously, type in, “Hello, my name is _______ and I am transitioning from the military soon. I heard about your company and have some questions about some job openings. Can you help me out?”

Simple enough, you think to yourself.

Within an hour, he responds with, “You bet! Want to get on a call in the next couple days to chat?” You respond back in the affirmative and the call is set for two days hence—a 30-minute block.

Flash forward two days and it’s time for your phone call. After you both exchange some pleasantries, the conversation goes something like this:

Him: “So, how can I help you?”

You: “I’ve been looking around a bit and your company keeps coming up. Can you tell me about open roles you might have right now that might be a good fit for me?”

Him: “Well, have you checked our job boards?”

You: “Not yet, but I will be sure to do so soon.”

After another ten minutes of questions and some small talk, you hang up the phone feeling good about what you did. You ventured outside your comfort zone and began interacting with the employment world outside the military.

All of that is true; however, there is another perspective to think about: the person you spoke to. What do you think his impressions were? Should you care? The simple answer is yes, you should care. The reason is that this individual has a life of his own. Despite obligations he has, he’s taken time out of his busy life to talk to you. He may also be a manager at that company or on a team, and his input might be sought for hiring recommendations. You just don’t know, but you need to be aware that is certainly a possibility.

Back to the brief phone call. Depending on the individual you spoke to, his takeaway will likely range from forgettable to a bit negative. In his mind, he took time out of his day because he wanted to help you. The expectation, however, was that you’d be more prepared for the conversation and ask some very specific and targeted questions about the company. You might well come across as being unprepared and wasting his time a bit.

Here is the tough part to swallow—you probably won’t get this feedback from him, even if he is a veteran. This doesn’t serve you well for a couple or reasons. First, you are not getting valuable feedback that can help you make a course correction. The world we live in has changed. People—including that person you spoke to on the phone—would rather not confront you with that information, and frankly, would not be obliged to. Second, because you were not given feedback, you will move on to your next phone call and probably change nothing.

At the very least, this is inefficient and you will continue spinning your wheels in surface-level conversations that aren’t targeted and are not helping you move the needle. Worse off, it can be very unproductive, as that individual may be part of a team that will be asked about hiring you into his company. What will that person say to the general manager or hiring manager?

So, while the intent behind the mantra of “network, network, network” is sound in one respect, it means nothing unless you are putting in the work before you network and know what specific questions to ask. By not doing the work
beforehand, you may be hurting yourself more than you think—and no one is telling you.

Be Ready to Productively Network (and More) with PreVeteran

At PreVeteran, we not only want you to put your best foot forward while networking but want to see you successfully transition into the job role that meets your requirements and is also meaningful and fulfilling. But this doesn’t just happen. It takes a framework and multiple purposeful actions to get you moving in the direction that is best for you.

We can help you with that. We’ve created an Employment Prep course that provides that framework and supported activities that help you overcome the multiple unknowns you face to help you find the employer and role that meets your requirements. Part of this course is specifically designed to help you get the most out of these interactions with subject matter experts within companies.

Don’t miss out on this preparation—click here to sign up for our next Employment Prep course.

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