You’ve transitioned out of the military (or out of that last dreadful gig) and you find yourself trying to navigate the ever-changing job seeking obstacle course.
‘I haven’t updated my resume in ten years. Are cover letters still a thing? Where do I need to post my resume again (ClearanceJobs, duh)?’
All of these thoughts pale in comparison to actually interacting with recruiters face to face, or meeting with a potential employer. Some people excel in this area, but whether you haven’t networked since networking events were posted in the newspaper, or are just getting into the job search after active duty, remember these two very important pieces of networking: the pitch, and the follow up.
Your pitch (sometimes called an elevator speech) should be a compelling introduction about the professional you. Who are you? What interesting project did you just finish? What clearances do you hold? Why did you get into your field? Who do you do it for? What is your vision? Include important bits of information that you want to convey about yourself and make it interesting, funny, inspiring or memorable. Just don’t make it boring…
When someone approaches to “pitch” themselves and talks about the day to day operations of their job two decades ago, it won’t be very memorable. If someone is competing with 50 other people for a recruiter’s attention at a job fair, they are not going to remember your name or the position you’re looking for. Don’t ramble on and on about your entire military career or past. Talk about who you are now and do your job as a candidate by putting a face to the name. Here’s my pitch as an example:
Hello! My name is Katie and I am a connector, networker, marketing/communications guru and the queen of multi-tasking. I absolutely love people and helping them in any way: connecting them with a job, connecting them with resources, answering questions about the job search, or anything security clearance related. I’ve been recruiting in the defense sector for the last seven years and am now honing in on my news writing and blogging! My career motivations are all about veterans and I love to support them in any way I can through their transition. Fun fact: I love craft beer, crafting, hiking, and music.
Most conversations you have at recruiting or networking events are fairly quick, which means when you message someone you met, it can feel like you’re reaching out to a stranger. Remind them of your pitch, or find something to talk about by looking at their social media profiles. See what he or she’s accomplished recently and see if there are commonalities you could discuss.
It’s all about personal preference, but as a former recruiter I believe this is a great example of a follow-up email after meeting a candidate at a job fair.
Dear ______________ and Ms. Katie Keller,
It was a pleasure to meet both of you at the Springfield job fair last Thursday. Please let me know if any positions open up with your company that would allow me to use my business background. I will continue to monitor the company’s website as well. As I mentioned before, I am making a shift from clinical to pursuing more of the business side. My clearance is currently held at ______________________.
As a side note, I passed along the information to my daughter regarding the Humane Society volunteer services and the mentor you mentioned. She has a very busy fall semester but it is definitely something for her to consider in the future, especially over the summer. Thank you so much for the information!
Please let me know if there are any additional questions and/or information that you need from me. Take care and I enjoyed chatting with the both of you!
The candidate stated the company point of contact names directly instead of a ‘to whom it may concern.’ This lets a recruiter know that this person remembers a face and would instantly make anyone feel like a preferred employer. The candidate is gracious, humble, and polite: ‘It was a pleasure speaking with you.’ I cannot stress it enough that you need to clearly state your skills and career goals. Any recruiter will say “don’t give me the, ‘take a look at my background and let me know what you think’ deal”. It’s lazy on the candidate’s part, especially if they are reaching out or following up first. State your interest on what positions the company has available and show that recruiter that you glanced at their website and careers page. This candidate states that they are pivoting to business and mentions their clearance level and adjudicating agency. Like your elevator pitch, make it personal: a little anecdote is memorable, shows personality, and makes the conversation relaxed. Finally, this follow up is the perfect length (for me at least). Not a novel, and not an unfinished thought.
Maintaining this new connection is key, so make sure to touch base every few weeks. Recruiters inboxes are constantly sending / receiving.
Having clear goals in mind while networking will tie your pitch and follow-up together nicely, so know what your end game is before you begin to play ball.