Networking – What is it? Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting. Networking is about building a relationship, beginning with establishing a rapport with others. At its heart, networking is built on trust, common interests, and shared personality traits. Networking is a give and take that requires nurturing and work. Remember, it’s a relationship—it is not a one-time activity or event.
Transitioning to civilian life is a process that takes time. Not only are you getting used to a new way of life and a new career, but you’ll have to navigate different types of relationships and make decisions in a way you didn’t have to until now. But once you know what you want to do in the next chapter of your life, you can take actionable steps and live your best post-military life.
When military members begin to take a step towards exiting the military, they’re often told to network. Because this was not a critical skill development for most in the military, many are at a loss, or even worse, misunderstand the idea of networking. Some military members consider networking done because they belong to an alumni Facebook page. But it’s much more than just a “like” on a social networking platform. Networking is a system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups with a common interest. In other words, networking is the deliberate time spent dedicated to creating this group. Developing it early and dedicating time to it is often critical to transition.
LinkedIn as a Networking Platform ~
If you do not have a LinkedIn account, get one now. LinkedIn is a social network that focuses on professional networking and career development. You can use LinkedIn to display your resume, search for jobs, and enhance your professional reputation by posting updates and interacting with other people. Your LinkedIn profile is your resume that anyone can review and can help present your personal brand. Most companies Human Resources Departments will use it as your resume when you apply for a job. Unlike a resume LinkedIn is a one size fits all, so everything goes into it.
LinkedIn offers U.S. veterans a free one-year Premium Career subscription when they meet all eligibility requirements. It’s a more robust version of a basic LinkedIn account. Being a Premium Career member, you get access to LinkedIn Learning’s library of more than 10,000 free courses and insight into companies that you are interested in working for.
Developing Your LinkedIn Profile ~
A good first impression is always important when you’re networking in person, and it’s the same for online networking. Before you start networking with your LinkedIn account, make sure your profile is filled out and fully optimized. Every section of your LinkedIn profile should be complete, with no obvious blank spaces or gaps. Never take for granted the impact of a first impression. Make it look professional by updating all fields of your profile, especially your headline that includes keywords to give people a better idea of what you do.
Once your profile is finished keep it updated. The more frequently you update your profile, the easier it will be for you to rise in LinkedIn’s search engine, therefore increasing your chances to connect with people who are interested in what you can offer.
Connect on LinkedIn ~
My number one piece of advice for networking on LinkedIn is to make sure you’re connected with people you know, including friends, family, and colleagues. These are the people who likely know you best, can speak to your work ethic and who you are as an individual. Check out the “People You May Know” feature on the “My Network” tab on LinkedIn as an easy way to find and connect with people who went to the same school as you, who work in similar roles or industries and based in the same city.
You might also reach out to people you may not have spoken to in a while can feel uncomfortable, but there are easy ways to break the ice. Consider reaching out via a message on LinkedIn acknowledging the time gap with an introduction like: “It’s been a while since we last spoke, I hope you’re staying well in light of the current circumstances.” You can also engage with their content on LinkedIn by “liking” or commenting on their posts to show your support. Take every opportunity to grow your network. Use the “Add Note” feature when requesting to connect on LinkedIn.
Connect with people with whom you’ve had professional interactions, even if limited. You never know where the next opportunity will come from, or whom you may be able to offer an opportunity. Networking, like mentoring, is a two-way street. In your current job…don’t just look up…also look across and down the organization.
What Next- Share your insights and stories by posting ~
A great way to network on LinkedIn is by sharing your experiences and ideas, and you can do this in a few different ways. Consider re-sharing a connection’s LinkedIn post with one or two of your key takeaways. Share a few learnings based on your experience and ask your network for their tips—possibly opening a conversation in the comments section of your post. You can also Run a Poll to get insights and perspectives from your network and use responses to start a conversation.
Try to post on a regular basis and include relevant hashtags with your content to extend reach beyond your first-degree connections. If you’re job seeking, this could prompt hiring managers or other professionals to reach out to you directly. By connecting with people, you know on LinkedIn, you’ll not only see more relevant conversations in your feed, but you’ll also have visibility into your connections’ professional networks.
Networking is all about building lasting relationships – interacting allows your network to grow. The more you interact, the more likely it is that you’ll be noticed and remembered. Participate in discussions within your Groups, answer questions that showcase your expertise, and share relevant content. Remember that groups are about community. And of course, keep sites like LinkedIn professional.
For a more personnel connection you might also join a local Foundation Chapter in your area. To find a Chapter near you, contact the Chapter President for more information through NavySupplyCorpsFoundation.org.
~Article by CDR Bob Dolan, SC (Ret.) – Transition Committe Chair