As an avid veteran advocate, I attend as many military- and veteran-specific events as I can, especially when they are related to employment or transition.
Because of this, I hear a lot of presentations on the same topics that I cover in my workshops, including networking. What I've noticed is that many people mention the "80% of jobs are landed through networking" statistic followed by a dramatic "How many people are in your network?" I understand that this is meant to drive home the point that networking is important, but, by now, who doesn't know that networking opens doors to employment opportunities? Instead of just telling veterans over and over again that they have to friend, connect, and tweet their way to the top, I wish that more information on how to train their network was provided.
The Bad Promoter
I am always so disappointed to hear well-meaning people say things like, "Do you know anyone who is hiring, because my brother-in-law just got out of the Army... or is it the Navy... anyway, he is looking for a job? Do you know of any openings?" I, very hesitantly, follow up with, "I know several companies who are hiring. What does he do and what is he looking for?" which typically solicits the response, "I don't know exactly. He's not picky. He's like a corporal or something high-up like that. I know he went to Iraq or Afghanistan a few times because I remember when he was away. He's a really nice guy. He and my sister have three kids and have been married for blah...blah...blah..." By then, I tune out, give the bad promoter my card, and ask them to pass it on to their family member before more harm is done.
The Selling Point
When someone in my network mentions that they are actively seeking new opportunities, I ask some pretty simple questions to make sure I know who to sell them to based on the skills they possess that will benefit those employers. If they can't provide that basic information, I know they aren't ready for me to present them to any of my contacts.
1. What do you want to do?
2. How are you qualified for that work or industry?
3. Are there any specific employers you are looking into and why have you chosen them?
4. May I have a copy of your résumé and permission to offer it to potential employers?
It's Time to Train Your Network
How many of your friends and family members actually know what you do for a living (and I don't just mean your job title or rank)? How many know which career path you have chosen upon separation or retirement from the military? Do they know the types of jobs you are looking for and how you are qualified for them?
If they don't have this basic information, how can they effectively sell your brand? Think of it this way: If someone recommends a product to you and tells you you've got to buy it because it's amazing and they love it, but they don't tell you what it's used for, how it works, what it costs, why you need it, or why they think you'll love it, are you really going to run out and spend your money on it?
People want to help you in your efforts to find employment, but you have to make it easy for them to do so.
A variation of this article first appeared at