Transitioning members of the military hear it constantly in job search workshops – “Network!” Professional sites such as LinkedIn have built an entire industry on helping people connect. Trackers tell members how many connections they have, who has viewed them, and provides a list of possible new contacts.
At times, it may seem to the job seeker that the networking process is a popularity contest, with the winners who have the most contacts being crowned with the job offer.
Job search experts sometimes make it sound like networking is a skill in which everyone should excel. The problem is, not everybody likes to network or is particularly good at it. You may be shy, an extreme introvert, or extremely private. You may have good reason not to want everyone to know you are seeking a new position — from not wanting to discuss it with your current employer to simply exploring what other opportunities are available.
Military members with experience in cybersecurity, information technology, intelligence analysis, foreign languages and other highly sought skills may find that just listing themselves as “transitioning servicemember” on sites such as LinkedIn can result in interest from recruiters.
Others who attend job fairs may find themselves being offered jobs on the spot, all because they have the right set of education, experience, certifications and clearances needed for a job. Veterans who have a polished resume and a polished appearance can stand out at a job fair.
A modified approach to networking is necessary for military members who may lack the broad-based networks that are so advocated by transition instructors. Besides creating the best resume and dressing for the desired role at a job fair, you should place your resume on particular job sites, such as Dice or Clearedjobs.net for servicemembers with clearances. Seeking out job sites that focus on a particular industry can work, especially if you have sought-after skills.
If you are an alumnus of a particular school, see if they have an alumni placement service. Many schools will provide assistance, even if you didn’t complete a degree with them, and some hiring managers may be more likely to give an interview to a fellow alum. Going to veteran-oriented job fairs, such as those hosted by organizations such as the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is also a great way to find companies who are hiring veterans.
At many job fairs hosted by veteran-friendly organizations, you don’t have to be a member of that particular group. For instance, MOAA fairs are open to all veterans and their spouses, regardless of rank.
Once you are at a job fair, you should make the attempt to connect with the firms that interest you. Networking at a job fair may take on the feel of speed-dating, but it can be less challenging than attempting to link up with long-lost colleagues on LinkedIn, only to find they never return your invitation or are not prepared to advocate for you to a potential employer. You don’t have to talk with every recruiter in the room.
Instead, focus on four or five that are of particular interest. If you can, take advantage of the free resume reviews that are often offered at job fairs. These five or 10-minute discussions can give you new insights on how to improve your resume. Hand out your resume to every company that interests you. You may hear back days or even weeks later from a recruiter who comes across your resume and likes what they see. Set yourself a goal to talk with a certain number of recruiters.
If you are particularly shy or uneasy about meeting new people, try attending a smaller job fair. Many posts offer job fairs that may only attract a dozen or so potential employers. Hone your interviewing skills in a quieter setting, and then go home and write down notes from what you learned. If you stumbled over an introduction, practice talking to yourself in the mirror or a friend until you feel comfortable in introducing yourself and presenting your resume to a recruiter.
It is important to utilize all of the tools available for job searching. With the right combination of social networking, in person networking and resume building, the path to obtaining the right career for you is one of less resistance than before.
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