Today we’re talking about networking. While a lot has changed about how people are networking due to COVID-19, the basics still apply. Today I’m going to discuss the basics of networking and highlight just how important it is. If you don’t have LinkedIn, I recommend you get one now (This is not a specific post about LinkedIn or any specific platform, but there may be a LinkedIn resource feature in the future). Regardless of how soon it is until you separate the following three things will help set you up for success:
1) Start Now
You shouldn’t wait until you’re deciding to get out to start building your network. Let me say that again.
You shouldn’t wait until you’re deciding to get out to start building your network.
You need to be building those relationships now, in your daily interactions with friends and co-workers. One day a perspective employer will be reaching out to the people you knew from active duty, and you don’t always get to decide who they ask. What will those people say about you? This gets somewhat beyond networking, but being an authentic and good person pays off in the long run. Start networking now and begin to focus on where you want to end up. Join military/veteran support groups or non-profits as far out as you can and start attending their virtual events now. It is a great time to see what is out there without having to travel much or spend time and money doing so.
2) Start With People You Know
When most people hear networking they think of meeting strangers or some sleazy smooth talker who talks a good game, but doesn't really offer much. But it's better to start with the people you already know. Initially most of your network will be people you know from your job or your base. But what else do those people do besides their job? What are their interest and hobbies? By getting to know more about your current network you can begin to expand those connections by getting introduced to their network. A lot of people focus on coming up with the perfect elevator pitch or routine for meeting strangers. I've found that often the most impactful networking takes place by discussing your ideas and goals with people you know first.
3) Focus On Developing Relationships
The bottom line is real networking is about building relationships, not just asking strangers for help. People in your network should be in a give and take relationship with you that helps both of you out. No one likes the guy (or gal) who asks to connect then immediately starts to ask for everything. This was my hardest lesson learned when it came to networking and why it makes the first two points so important. If you start now and start with people you already know, you won't be jumping on the connect and ask for help bandwagon that so many people jump on. I'm not saying that you shouldn't ask for help, I'm saying connect and try to get to know something about that person before you just ask for a favor. Now that I've started to look at networking as the process of building relationships I've felt that I'm making more meaningful connections. You can read someone's bio or profile all you want, but until you talk to them (virtually or in-person) it's much harder to understand their diverse background. I can tell you that I've learned more from reaching out and building relationships than I did when I was first starting out and sending cringe-worthy LinkedIn invites.
I'll leave you guys with this:
Let me know what you think in the comments below or on social media. Up next I'll be starting on some useful resource features.