Growing your professional network will help you at any point in your career journey. Whether you’re a few years out from your military transition, or you are already in the civilian workforce, networking is a powerful way to keep your options open, help others to do the same, and just keep learning and growing professionally.
MH: Who are you, and what do you do?
Brian: Good afternoon everybody! This is Brian Arrington with Vets 2 Industry Foundation, Inc. Vets 2 Industry is a free, virtual library of all the free resources for veterans, military spouses, dependent children, Blue Star and Gold Star family members and caregivers. We currently have over 1,000 free resources on the website, and it’s updated every month with more free resources as we vet them, curate them, and put them out there for people to view. It’s also a community library, so you could actually put resources for us to look at, and put it on there yourself. You go to vets2industry.com. That’s Vets, the number 2, industry.com. We also provide free networking events every three weeks where we bring veteran advocates along with recruiters, veteran service organization and veterans and military spouses together to meet, network, and find opportunities and hope. Thank you!
MH: Let’s talk about networking. What tips do you have for introverts?
Brian: Networking is a big point right now, especially if you are an introvert. You have to really find your place, your desire, and you have to be a little bit capable of reaching out. You don’t have to go out there and message everybody possible, but if you can get on LinkedIn, maybe a couple times a week, and you send a cold message out to individuals in the industry that you might be interested in, and send them just a quick little message, saying:
“Hi, I see that you are a veteran, and I’m interested in learning more about the career field that you are in and the industry that you are in, and how your transition was into that field. Do you have 15 minutes to get on a phone call with me?”
And that’s as easy as it can be. And you do that to multiple people, and you can do LinkedIn searches for specifically veterans, in the location that you are looking at, along with the career fields that you are looking at, so it’s really tailored down. If you want to find somebody—if you are in the Navy, and you want to just look for people in the Navy that speak your language, or if you are in the Army, you can go as granular as that. So that’s one way of actually expanding your network. Then of course, you can always come to a V2I networking event, where we put you out there and give you the ability to talk within a safe space with people that are going through the same process as you, and you can be transition buddies, that you can go through this together, and really support each other through the transition.
MH: What’s your approach to networking?
Brian: Absolutely. So one of the things that I loved during my transition journey, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I ended up reaching out to multiple people in different industries that weren’t even in the industries that I was interested in. Just because I didn’t know if, 1- it would help me, but also, I had a lot of friends that were going through transition, and anyone that I could talk to that might have been of value to them, could be helpful. And so many times throughout my transition, I actually had contacts in other areas of benefit to transitioning service members that were going through it with me, and I was finding people jobs while I was still on active duty—it was amazing! And even still to this day, with Vets2Industry, I gave everybody a tool during these events where you actually rate everybody that you come in contact with, with a asterisk, a plus, and a minus. And those with a minus are people that you don’t think that you have anything to connect with, but they are still important people for you to connect with, because you have no idea if there is something in your network that can be provided to them that can be supportive or something that maybe one of your friends could benefit from, or somebody in your network.
MH: How do you strike up a conversation at networking events?
Brian: I would start, because my personality is very open, so I think it really determines on the comfort level that somebody has in speaking with others, and then you try to…what I like to say is…you listen first. Because it all depends on this…the environment that you are in. So if you are going up to a group of people, don’t just go in and start talking. Sit there, listen to what the topic is going on about, and see if you have any kind of connections or anything that will add value to that. And then you can start talking about that. “Oh, by the way, my name is Brian, I am student at Syracuse University, I’m actually pursuing my MBA in Marketing, and an MS in entrepreneurship. I really found this topic to be really interesting…do any of you actually do this full time, as you career?” Boom! And then you are drawing something that they have found important, because they were talking about it, so it was important to them, and then you are opening it up to discussion to talk about something that’s important to you—finding a job! So you have to be creative in your approach, but listening is most important in your approach, I think, before you start speaking.
MH: What should you NOT do when networking?
Brian: Don’t be inconsistent with your messaging. So when you are commenting or you are posting on LinkedIn, make sure you stay consistent and authentic with what your values are. Don’t mix it up. Make sure that you don’t treat LinkedIn like Facebook, or like maybe Twitter, or something else that you might be into, or Instagram, as it is a professional platform. Also, when you are connecting or sending messages out to people in industries, do not ask them for a job, do ask them for a career. what you are doing is, you are asking them for some time, to discuss their career, or their transition, or what a role is like. And, what you are trying to do is turn that person into a mentor, and then hopefully, turn that mentor into an internal referral at the company that you are interested in. Now, if you get really lucky, you can turn that internal referral into a super booster or a connection to a super booster, which will then not only get you an internal referral in the company, but will actually hand-walk you resume into the desk of people that will get you hired or potentially to other companies and put your resume, your name, into the hand of people and friends of theirs at other firms. So that’s the steps you need to take, but the first step is: Don’t turn people off by asking them for a job or a career, because that’s immediately and ask. It’s a transaction, and you don’t want to start a relationship with a transaction.
Attend the Vets2Industry 12th Virtual Networking Circuit:
Saturday, Dec 5th 2 PM to 7 PM EST on Zoom. Come and go as you please. This is an online event and it’s free to register.
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