What can you expect?
It is doubtful that someone will offer you a job after just one conversation so be realistic. Often, it is better to consider each interaction as one further step along the road towards building a new career. Gradually, you will gain enough momentum to discover and access better job and career opportunities, which is why you can never start networking too soon.
Networking is not just about meeting someone who can offer you advice and open doors. The whole process is your chance to discover more about yourself, the civilian career you want and how to achieve it. In addition, the best networks are where everyone gives, so consider how you can support people in yours. Does an employer want to employ veterans but is unsure how to communicate with them? Is there someone you served with needs support in their post-military career? Reach out. Never underestimate the impact of small helpful gestures.
What if you feel nervous?
Feeling nervous is normal! Talking to strangers and asking for help does not come easy but it’s why you should first get to know your contacts and talking becomes easier over time. It really is a case of practice makes perfect.
You might also feel nervous about how civilian employers perceive you. If you have spent your whole working life in the Armed Forces, it is natural at times to doubt how your skills and abilities translate into the civilian world. However, you have strong transferable skills which are highly desirable to employers and learning to communicate their value will help you. Again, veteran organisations can assist you in identifying these skills, and communicating your experiences in business-friendly language.
When do you stop networking?
Never is the short answer! You spent a lot of time and resources building your network; why close it once you have secured a job? Maintaining your network could open opportunities within your current role or help you find the next one. You can also use your network to help other veterans and pay back those following in your footsteps.
Whatever career path you choose, networking will help get you there. Remember, you cannot network alone. Best of luck!
Essential Networking Tips
In summary, here is our advice to networking success:
1. Start now. It is never too early to begin building your network. Build it before you need it. Plus, growing your network might even help you decide when to leave military life.
2. Ask friends and family for help. From bouncing ideas to introducing useful contacts, they can be more helpful than you might realise.
3. Join LinkedIn. Almost everyone in a civilian profession is on LinkedIn. Take the time to build a good profile, find useful contacts and build your network.
4. Contact veteran organisations. There are several key charities, veteran organisations and military employment groups able to offer employment support.
5. Treat every conversation like a job interview. Who knows where a conversation might lead? Always present yourself as hardworking, curious and eager to learn. Ask lots of questions instead of talking about yourself.
6. Feeling nervous is okay. This is a big step so doubts and nerves are to be expected. Try to focus on the opportunities instead. Remember, nobody enjoys talking to strangers but you are contacting people with a clear purpose.
7. Never stop networking. You really are as strong as your network, so don’t stop building yours. The more useful contacts you have, the more opportunities you can create.
8. Pay it back. It goes without saying, if people contributed to your success, you should do the same for others. Camaraderie is one of the military community’s greatest strengths and everyone benefits if you apply that mentality to your civilian career.