More Insights on Transition & Networking

In a Military-to-Civilian Transitioners group with almost 20K members I belong to on LinkedIn, I read a post on 5 Things Veterans say are ‘Extremely Important’ during the Transition.

Because “Networking” finished at the top of the list, I decided to delve deeper.

What follows are more insights I would like to share with veterans on transition and networking.

MMBA - GettyImages_134467128I have a couple of comments on networking during transition. I see that networking tops your list as “most important” among veterans and impacts many other factors on how you successfully transition out of the military.

I received the following feedback from an Army Captain, “I am certainly guilty of underselling my service. One reason is that humility (in the military) is instilled from day one. The team and mission have more precedent than the individual.”

Veterans are humble and often need some help with transition at this level. It’s infinitely harder to effectively network unless you share what you know and are about with other people.

Suggestion #1 – Reframe the Purpose of Networking

If building a network seems awkward to you, please consider this activity to be more about establishing rapport and building relationships. This allows you to reframe the purpose of networking.

You can do this by taking the “I” out of professional network. Rather than talk about “yourself” directly, focus on using your knowledge, skills and experiences to help other people out.

This will allow you to build relationships and if you can build relationships you will build a network.

Suggestion #2 – Don’t Completely Leave the Military Behind

According to Reid Hoffman (Founder and CO of LinkedIn), “The best way to meet people is through the people you already know.”

Many former service members view transitioning out as starting over. However, when starting over you don’t want to leave either your military career, skills or network behind.

While you may be leaving the military your initial network will come from the people you know in the military. You can also engage with new people by working with, and through, the people you already know. This makes it easier to identify groups of new and existing people who carry over with you into civilian life.

Suggestion #3 – Identify Ways to Help Other People

One way to help other people is through mentoring. In the military you have led and been led. You understand better than most the ups and downs of mentorship . Therefore, you can simply share what you know with others. Doing so is a way to build a network through mentoring, which maps to one of your strengths. And, don’t forget that mentorship works both ways. You can find someone to mentor and then ask someone else you respect to mentor you.

Suggestion #4 – Cement Common Cause & Areas of Interest by Learning Something New

Disclosure: I work in Higher Ed and know education is an area of interest you have in common with other people both in and outside of the classroom. Because of this, sharing an interest in learning is one of the most relevant ways to get to know new people and grow existing relationships.*

Common cause and areas of interest are not exclusive to formal education . However, both are inherent in the process of learning something new. It opens you up to new possibilities and meeting new types of people. You can also bridge your network of military friends by finding new interests you share with others and expand upon these existing relationships in new ways.

So, try to learn something new or expand upon an existing set of skills/knowledge you want to advance. Doing so will allow you to not only grow through learning, but through social relationships which surround learning.

Networking on these levels will help you transition naturally and effectively. Please reach out to me if you have any other suggestions, comments or questions.

* This is especially true when it comes to MBA and graduate business degrees, which during the past 12 years I have seen many NCOs and officers pursue. Along with learning new skills and higher potential for earnings, building a network is a top 3 benefit of obtaining an MBA degree. Connecting students to other students, employers and alumni is a high-priority objective in most of the top MBA schools we work with and have studied. This means education is opportunity for you to build relationships which can turn into a professional network.

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