Many networking events are often held in hotels, with recruiters in attendance, the usual finger foods and a beverage selection. Although somewhat archaic, mundane and uncomfortable, if you get that one contact or that one piece of good advice, it could turn a stagnant job search into an incredible opportunity.
1. There’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face.
Most often, due to our deployments, overseas status and the convenience of today’s technology, we as veterans have grown accustomed to accomplishing most tasks online to include networking and applying for post military employment.
The opportunity to engage and make a professional connection comes with first, leaving your comfort zone (barracks, ship, home), dressing up, learning about the companies attending the event, and bringing the best you there is.
One thing you must remember as servicemen and women is that you’ve learned how to look sharp in your uniform and can easily translate that concept to business attire as you outshine your civilian counterparts. Once that military bearing bursts through your “new” uniform, you’ll find yourself walking taller and feeling more confident about everything you do!
2. Instant feedback.
Although the benefits of networking may often take time; in-person networking provides an opportunity to not just socialize, but listen and learn the language of the civilian workforce. Learning these “cultural details” can help de-militarize your language, resume and interview style.
As a transitioning veteran, you may feel a lot of pressure to lock down a job right away and often even before you actually transition. Spending time and effort for so little upfront and “instant” reward can be frustrating since very few of the people you meet will become or remain contacts. However, a potential online contact may ignore your connection request on LinkedIn or your email, but it’s hard to avoid looking you in the face and shaking your hand in-person.
3. Ability to follow up with a personal note about your interaction.
The first time you meet someone in a particular industry, you’ll likely only be able to ask something like “Tell me about this job.” Later, you’ll be able to speak with familiarity about products, services, companies and even people in that same industry. All of this helps a conversation turn into a meaningful contact.
One of the important things to remember about networking of any kind is that the more contacts you have, the stronger and more helpful your network will be.
It is key that you present yourself as the same person to everyone you meet when it comes to networking. And more importantly, you should strive to present something that sticks — something other professionals will remember. A big part of your brand will probably be your military service particularly as it translates to your next career.
A good network is a group of people who know you, and when they happen to talk about you, like when a potential employer asks what his network thinks of you, they all have the same positive story to tell.