Networking, a way to build and nurture professional connections and relationships, is considered one of the most effective ways of finding a job - particularly in challenging economic times. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, networking leads to 70 percent of all jobs. Through networking, you can uncover job opportunities that might not yet - or ever - be posted on job sites. In fact, some jobs are not even created until the right person shows up. Networking, along with employment readiness self-marketing skills, may just open the door to a lasting and satisfying career path for you.
Types of networking events
As a jobseeker, you should spend a signiﬁcant amount of time networking - talking to people, and then asking those people for names of others to talk to - to learn about any available positions. Networking opportunities may exist in a variety of formats. They enable you to learn about different industries, career options, organizations and job opportunities. It is not simply acquiring business cards and adding contacts to your ‘LinkedIn' account - it is taking the time to get to know people in the your areas of interest and staying in touch with them throughout your career. Types of networking events may include the following:
- Career fairs provide an opportunity for job seekers to meet with representatives from a variety of companies in one location. Employers may be recruiting for specific job openings or may wish to connect with participants to provide information on their company and future employment opportunities.
- Chamber of Commerce groups hold regional events like mixers, workshops, fundraisers for local charities and business card exchanges. These events provide an excellent opportunity to meet prospective local employers, business partners, clients and suppliers.
- Hiring our Heroes, a campaign led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is designed to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment in hundreds of communities across America. Throughout the year, Hiring Our Heroes sponsors exclusive military spouse hiring fairs, focusing on career opportunities for spouses of active duty and reserve component service members.
- College career-networking events are events for alumni and students that may take place on campus or in various cities with a significant alumni population. Specific events may be held for certain industry groups. Check with the career services or alumni affairs office at your alma mater for a schedule of events. These events can be structured in many different ways but generally give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, hear the introductions of other alumni and students and connect with those who share your interests and needs.
- Community service groups like Veterans Service Organizations and Military Support Organizations (many are DoD Partners) provide the opportunity for volunteers to staff direct service activities, social events, and fundraisers where you will interact with those who share an interest in the mission of these organizations. Your volunteer experiences can often serve as a bridge to employment opportunities.
- Women's groups and other diversity groups based on gender, race or ethnicity recognize the value of networking and typically integrate this component into their schedule of activities.
- Meetings, workshops and conferences for professional and trade associations often include formal networking events. They also offer many opportunities to make contacts during the course of their meetings and workshops. By volunteering to help organize a conference, you can gain visibility and display your work style. Presenting workshops provides another vehicle for exhibiting your knowledge and skills.
- Membership in professional and trade organizations can also provide you with opportunities to stay current with trends and best practices within your career field. These organizations frequently offer workshops and courses for keeping your skills up to date. For example, the Blue Star networks, created in conjunction with Hiring Our Heroes, are a place for all military spouse professionals to share information, network and get the scoop on state licensing requirements across the country. Blue Star Families provides an incubator for military spouse professionals to form grassroots networks in the military spouse community and develop peer-to-peer mentoring within the spouse community. The networks work in conjunction with the private sector, the Department of Defense, and state and regional stakeholders to shape the future of professional military spouses. The networks include Blue Star Educators, Blue Star Health Care Professionals and Blue Star Entrepreneurs.
Employment readiness skills
The Military Spouse Employment Partnership offers the following career advice:
- Network extensively by attending industry events and reaching out to friends, family, former classmates and colleagues. Check to see what career resources your alma mater has to offer. Many colleges and universities provide extensive student and alumni services to help their job seekers at no cost.
- Make the Internet your friend. Use career-focused social media portals like LinkedIn to connect with former colleagues and bosses. Join industry relevant groups. Request recommendations from past supervisors. In addition, don't forget to make sure your digital presence is squeaky clean!
- Reach out to companies you're interested in working for directly to inquire about career opportunities and current openings, in addition to posting your resume on the MSEP Career Portal.
- Don't be afraid to work for free. Volunteering and interning are great ways to get your foot in the door and can be a tremendous learning experience.
- Make a great impression in an interview. This means arriving on time, appropriately dressed and having thoroughly researched the company and position you want to apply for.
- Bring along your business cards in a case or holder.
- Keep a polished and up-to-date resume on hand at all times.
- Have a well-rehearsed elevator speech - a short summary of your skills, experience and goals - about 30 seconds in length - to help you talk about your professional accomplishments or background.
- Write a descriptive, but brief, thank-you note within one to three days to each contact, which includes where and when you met them, any follow-up items and your contact details - phone number and email address.
If you would like to know more about employment readiness skills or the benefits of networking, visit MySECO or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a SECO certified career counselor.