There is an old saying in the military:
The more weapons and ammunition you bring to an engagement, the more likely you are to win said engagement. In other words, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. So what does all of this have to do with networking veterans? Simple. In today’s hyper-competitive job market, networking is your number one weapon for landing your dream job. Without having a strong network in your arsenal, you are in effect bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Let us explain
In today’s “high speed, low drag” era of technology, social media, and automation, the traditional paradigm of job hunting and resume building just no longer works. In fact, according to one study by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it showed that over 87% of jobs now use online automation to screen applicants. That means human eyes never see your resume – it’s all handled by computers.
Think about that for a minute. Unless you are an expert at crafting your resume and making sure your KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) line up perfectly with the job you are applying for, your resume will never get into the hands of the person that needs to see it.
That’s why military veterans must absolutely network
Veteran networking is the new paradigm. By working hard at establishing a deep network of individuals, you know personally, you can practically guarantee that your resume is going to get in front of the right person. In other words, the new paradigm is this: it’s not what you know… but who you know. Think we are making this up?
Well, in an article published in the New York Times entitled “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is A Prospect, Indeed” they reported that in one company alone, employee recommendations account for over 45 percent of non-entry level jobs.
And here is another quote from the same article:
“You’re submitting your resume to a black hole,” said John Sullivan, a human resources consultant for large companies who teaches management at San Francisco State University… you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.”
Or how about the article published by CNN entitled: “Is Getting A Job Really About Who You Know?“
“Connections, or networking, is more important than ever because in this down economy there are so many applicants that employers don’t have time to perform the culling and elimination processes they once did. They are also less inclined to take a chance on an employee who comes only through a traditional application process, without the endorsement of one or more valued associates or colleagues.”
And one more if you still need convincing: A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that referred candidates were twice as likely to get interviews and 40 percent more likely to be hired than other candidates.
You simply can’t argue with the facts
Networking by veterans is a critical component to any successful job search.
But the question that remains is “How do I network successfully?” It’s a great question and one that deserves a straightforward answer. It all starts with your military service.
The fact of the matter is that while serving in the military, you meet an enormous amount of people. Now a smart, active duty military member (or reserve member on active duty) will start building their network of contacts from day one. Everyone you meet should go into your address book. Because you simply never know where someone is going to wind up after their military service is over. And you simply never know who you are going to meet.
With the advent of social media, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (check out: 3 Reasons Why Veterans Must Have Linkedin), etc., it is easier than ever to stay in touch, and keeping in touch with your network is something you absolutely must do. Nothing is more self-serving than reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to in years and then asking them for a favor. Don’t do it. To be an effective networker, you need to reach out now and then and maintain contact.
But what about those of us that are no longer on active duty or in the reserves. Simple. Reach out to those that you served with. Facebook and LinkedIn make it pretty easy, and they’re great places to start building your network. Not to mention the social media sites specifically designed for military veterans, like RallyPoint.
RallyPoint is one of the newest social networks for military members. What makes RallyPoint special is that they are the “professional network for current and transitioning troops.” It’s like LinkedIn, but for military professionals. “Hire a Hero” is also a great place to start, “Vetfriends,” and “Together We Served” round out the top four.
So to recap:
start with your existing network, then grow your network. Then build your own personal brand on social media sites that matter most to you (like LinkedIn) and then when the time is right, reach out to your network.
But do it tactfully. Simply reaching out and introducing yourself is a great start. Share your experience and interests and then ask about your audience’s interest and their needs. Make it all about them and help them find the answers they may be looking for. Build that rapport.
And last but not least, remember this golden rule: NEVER ASK FOR A JOB
Simply show your network of contacts how you are the “go-to” expert in the given field you want to work in. Eventually, the power of your network will get you in front of a decision maker who needs a solution that requires the knowledge and skills you have already demonstrated and that’s when and how you land your dream job.