Many, like most military members, are reluctant to build a professional social media account. That is completely understandable! Operational security is a daily consideration during your military Service. Social media, to include professional or business-oriented social networking is often frowned upon. But as you begin your transitional journey, know that a professional networking account is essential to your job search and is serious business. Further, it is a critical tool when you desire to develop connections and build a powerful virtual network.

Why A Professional online Profile Is Necessary

Online networking (like on ClearanceJobs.com😉) is a key way to build connections and stay in touch with those you’ve served alongside. These sites allow you to create a profile and develop “virtual connections” to other professionals in an online social network, leading to many real-world professional relationships and potential work. Members can invite anyone to become a connection, allowing for easy engagement of previously unknown professionals in the field you desire to pursue.

The first step is to create a quality professional profile, if you have not done so already. You need a professional looking photograph, sans uniform. You want to optimize your profile so that you stand out with a focused brand, making sure it depicts who you are and what you want to do. The profile should be reflective of your resume, capabilities and where you intend to go and grow professionally.

If unsure about your future profession, figure it out. You do not want to have a resume or professional networking social media profile that says “Jack-of-All-Trades”. Translate your previous military positions into civilian terms, using knowledge gained by studying professionals in your career field. While you are developing and refining your resume and profile, remember to engage professionals from your field for assistance. Like your resume, do not use military jargon or unit nomenclature on your profile page (For more on this, check out The Transitioning Military Series at Gr8Transitions4U.com).

How to Make the Most of Your Virtual Network

Once you have a profile, you will want to gain an advantage by finding and further developing your civilian connections. A great way to start finding civilian connections, is to join and participate in professional network on-line groups within your professional interest areas. ClearanceJobs has dozens of groups according to job type, geography, branch of military served and many others. This will allow you to view and learn from articles, postings and conversations with established leaders in your field; while enabling you to make important connections with people who are in positions to assist with your professional growth.

As you physically meet other professionals during your transition, it can be incredibly valuable to connect with them on professional networking sites. You can study their profiles and continue to expand your virtual network through requesting introductions to their connections within your career field. Consider writing a good personal letter to professionals you connect with online. You will not get a response from everyone, but you can make some strong virtual connections in this manner.

A warning about virtual networks

But a word to the wise: be careful about who you connect with online. China, Russia, and other adversaries continually use sites like LinkedIn to entrap security clearance holders. That stranger you met at a career fair or random connection request could be using you to gather security information or build credibility through connections with security-cleared individuals. Always be on your guard. Here are some ways you can keep yourself – and America – safe on social media. 

As a final note, communicate and build upon your virtual network and relationships. Do not be afraid to ask your professional network connections for career field advice or assistance. Generally, civilians are interested in helping military members make a smooth transition into the corporate world. Allow your connections to know your desires and concerns. Let them know how much you appreciate their input. This dialog will strengthen your virtual relationship with these professional connections over time. Further, they may take a strong personal interest and assist in finding your next position.

What percentage of jobs are found through networking?  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. Expanding your network to include numerous virtual connections very virtuous indeed.

Have you started building your virtual network yet?  Wishing you a successful and lucrative transition.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.