Whenever I travel, I make it a point to see old friends and catch up. These days the majority of those I visit have left the military and gone through the process of transitioning, so transitioning often comes up as a topic during our discussions (veterans still love to tell war stories even if they are of different flavor). At breakfast with traveling through the Carolinas recently, an old friend and fellow veteran reminded me of the importance of networking in your job search. Like many veterans, myself included, he had gotten out of the service and realized that his network was rather “green”, meaning his network was comprised mostly of fellow service members. To change the color of his network, he did all the right things.
First, he volunteered his time to assist local non-profit groups to build his network in the local area and work on his certifications. Plus, in my own experience, volunteering lets you continue to contribute to something worthwhile and helps you from feeling down about how your job search may be going. Next he took short term, local projects in his field of interest in order to establish his reputation locally and further expand his local network. Though it might not pay as well as a permanent position, it enabled him to connect with companies that might have opportunities down the road. Finally, he took advantage of unexpected opportunities that arose from his new connections by thinking outside the box. When a client, for whom he was managing a short-term project, had a shortage of drivers after expanding into a new product area, he offered to help with delivering the new product to the clients. While delivery driving seems like a step back, making the new product deliveries allowed him to build relationships with those clients and further expanded his network. By keeping himself open to the possibilities, he put himself in a great position to “un-green” his network and find the opportunity he really wanted.
Unless you are planning to live off the grid in the Yukon, most professionals agree that the key to finding right opportunity and landing the position you want is to build a strong network. It can be hard, if like a lot of veterans, your network is pretty “green”. However, if you take advantage of the opportunities, keep an open mind about short-term work and volunteer, you can change the color of your network. So while you polish your resume and practice your elevator pitch, look for opportunities to take some of the “green” out of your network. Eventually, the right opportunity will present itself because of your hard work and patience. Good luck.