Creating a whole new circle of accountability, support, and connections can be overwhelming. Entering into the vast network of professionals in the civilian workforce can be vital in finding a job, gaining insight into chosen industries, and landing that job. But where do you even start? There is a whole world of civilian workplace social interactions to dive into. Here is the down and dirty of where to begin…
Find networking events, fairs, mixers, and/or socials that relate to you and your interests through these various outlets:
- Student Veterans’ Associations- if you’re going back to school, check to see if you have a SVA on your campus or connect with Student Veterans of American
- Veteran Service Organizations
- Campus Career Center events (also known as Career Services)
- Your Local Chamber of Commerce
- LinkedIn – it’s worth it to take a moment to create a profile and research employers online; Use the awesome resume you have now!
- Local, State, and National Professional Associations related to your target profession
- Community Service/Volunteer Organizations
For the more introverted folks, don’t think you have to suddenly turn into someone who can magically work a room. Mixers and socials are not the only ways to network. If you do go to big networking events and/or career fairs, have a realistic, preselected goal or list for yourself. Don’t try to do it all in one event. A few substantial connections are better than a pocket full of business cards.
Also, did you know your basic network already exists? Tell them what you’re up to. Ask for help from:
- Family and their friends and coworkers
- Church families
- Alumni associations
- Professors and advisors
- Former coworkers and their connections
- Even people in line at the store can be connections. Sometimes fate puts you in the right place at the right time. Strike up conversations, and let people know what you’re after.
A quick word on branding, and we’ll dive in more soon– it’s not about creating a special logo or a catch phrase. It’s about what you stand for. What can you deliver? Look back to those VIPS. Your unique VIPS will create your brand and the better you are articulating that in conversation, the stronger your presentation will be.
I am an Introverted, Big-Picture, Strategic, Career Development Research Nerd/Educator/Counselor who simply LOVES to accumulate knowledge, write about all this stuff, and deliver it in a (hopefully) fun and accessible way. I do it for free in my off time as well as in my day job. It’s fun for me. My co-workers call me Resume Beast. I wear that brand with pride. I fly that flag and shout about this stuff, so others who need me can find me. Think about what you want to be known for. There are obviously more steps involved in figuring this out (more for another blog), but in its simplest little kernel of an idea, your reputation is your brand.
Finally, always follow-up with people! Connect with them on LinkedIn, e-mail, or call the folks you meet to say thanks for their time and/or advice. Often you’ll get really nice feedback, and sometimes you’ll get invitations to future events or even information about job openings that aren’t even advertised yet!
Kimberly Watts Hoggatt, JD, MA, LPC
Assistant Director, UTSA Downtown Career Center
Kimberly Watts Hoggatt is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas and currently works as the Assistant Director of the University Career Center – Downtown Campus at The University of Texas at San Antonio. She also maintains a small private practice in counseling with The Vine Wellness Group. Kim is an Army Brat who grew up on Ft. Sam Houston and has witnessed the challenges faced by friends and family in the military dealing with major career transitions. She is passionate about bringing over a decade of career development and higher education experience to assist veterans in their career transitions.