Like it or not, you know in your gut that the oft-cited networking cliché rings more true than false. It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.
So, military-to-civilian job seeker, exactly whom do you know in the know, so to speak?
According to mainstream cultural beliefs, you are a mere six steps or less away from being introduced to anyone who could possibly help you land your next job, even Kevin Bacon. (Feeling Footloose, anyone?)
As you know from your many uniformed travels, ours is a highly global and mobile world. It’s clear that connections can easily be made on or off line today. It takes a little more effort on your part to make quality connections, however.
Quality connections, in this case, are those connections that are closest to the job you seek. In other words, the closer you network on the inside of the industry or the organization you fancy, the better.
To network effectively on the inside, consider the following strategies:
Forget the body count. Accept that numbers aren’t important here. It doesn’t matter how many people you know. It matters who you know. Focus on building a few genuine business relationships with others within your profession, in your current place of work or in the one you want to eventually call your own.
Know the deal. Someone with an impressive sounding job title, a corner office with a spectacular view or a personal driver may have clout but you may have to go through lowly (and yet highly connected and perhaps influential) gatekeepers for access. When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated.
ID your existing A-List. Take the time to identify those who are already in your network. Learn more about them and create opportunities for partnering with them. Try to look at everyone in a new light. How can they help you? How can you help them? Create opportunities for a genuine win-win relationship.
Grow your A-List. Identify those people in your industry that you want to add to your own network and make a real effort to meet them. These are the power players you don’t know personally but you should know. Connect the dots between your known contacts and the ones you want to have on it. Ask for introductions. Be the savvy civilian you know you can be.
Be the consummate professional. If you want to take a few minutes of a busy contact’s time, politely ask for it first indicating how much time you will be taking up in the process. Briefly explain the reason for your conversation as well. Avoid any temptations to grovel, brag, or beg. Never expect to the center of their universe even if that is the way it should be.
Have an agenda. Know what your end game is before you begin to play ball. Is it your goal to meet a specific person that you can only get to through via another person? Is it to pass your resume on to a hiring manager? Is it to learn more details about a soon to be announced job? Is it to become a known quantity in a particular organization? Clarity of thought will serve you well before you fumble the proverbial ball.
Become indispensible. Whether you are already employed or not, you can make yourself valuable to the organization you hope to eventually call your own. If the company is rooted in your community, then be an active community member with a reason to connected to the company. Your community could be a brick and mortar one or a cyber one. Jump in feet first and make a splash.
Join the club but not just any club. If you want to get closest to those who know about job vacancies before anyone else or you can help catapult your career efforts, then join and actively participate in professional organizations relative to your career field. Be selective and join only the one that you feel will best support your professional aspirations.
Reference your references. Don’t forget your references after they’ve agreed to say nice things about you. Continue to build your relationship with them and ask for their help in linking to others who they think could help you out as well.
Return the favors. Networking isn’t a one-way street. To be truly effective, you have to be willing to give as well as take. Focus only on what networking can do for you and your network will be weak. A weak network won’t do you any favors in the job search process.
Janet Farley is the author of the soon to be released Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job and the Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide both published by Jist Works, Inc. Follow Farley @mil2civguide for timely transition tips.