By Patra Frame
You probably have heard that you have to network as a part of returning to the civilian work world.
And many military members are very successful at doing so within the military - yet cannot see quite how to do it for transition.
You can't get through TAP or open a business publication without seeing something about networking. Why?
Studies show regular networkers are more successful in business and in life.
It's not rocket science or millions of people wouldn't be doing it so successfully. And you know how to do it, too, if you take the time.
Start with a plan. As usual! What do you need to do now and what will you do once you are in your desired civilian location? What do you want to get from your networking efforts in terms of your job search and future success?
When you look at building your network, it is often smart to start with military friends and peers. You can probably still find many, if you have lost touch. Some will be valuable references, others may be able to tell you what they did best and worst in their job search. If you are returning to your original hometown, re-connecting now with people you know from school or work is smart.
While you are on active duty, you can begin to build your civilian network through LinkedIn and its interest groups, Twitter, alumni organizations, and professional associations too. This will help you learn more about civilian opportunities and find people to help you to the right job/career.
Here is a "cheat sheet" of categories – build your networking ideas list from it:
Don't just go to events, send email or have coffee with friends and call it networking.
Define what you need, what you offer, and what you will do in fairly specific terms. Numbers alone are not worth much. You want quality connections for mutual benefit.
LinkedIn has a number of groups designed to help transitioning military - and many people on them who really want to help.
However, keep your online comments positive. Ask for the help you want, but do not whine about the difficulties of your search. No prospective employer is going to be impressed if they see a litany of negative comments.
Never go to an event without a plan, just like every other "battle" you ever participated in.
It could be to meet specific people or to learn something specific in talking with many people there. Remember to talk with others there about the market, your job interests, and other things you want to know. And remember to learn about them, and offer any assistance you can!
Have a goal when you meet with an individual or small group too. What do you want out of the meeting? What are you offering in return?
Keep going! Networking builds on itself. If you build good connections and are helpful in return, you will find it easy to maintain your network consistently over time. Pick a process, make a plan, and execute it for your transition success - and beyond!
Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial. Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and PatraFrame.com where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra's ClearedJobs.net job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.