Dating is WAY easier than networking. Once you get married, you are no longer on the hunt for your spouse. You can relax. You are done. When it comes to professional networking, you are never done. Keeping your network alive and vibrant takes persistence and constant involvement, like a healthy marriage. It’s a tango of two people that’s a win-win for both parties.
In today’s professional world, people are either good at networking or terrible at networking. Military spouses who can negotiate the social tightrope of professional networking find themselves jumping from job to job like a trapeze artist. Others try and find that their network is nonexistent. Or worst yet, nonresponsive.
Networking is essential for military spouses in the job hunt. Essential. A nonexistent or nonresponsive network will kill your career faster than you can say “We’re moving in 6 months.”
Are you committing professional networking suicide?
Take this 9-question quiz. Your answers won’t tell what city you should live for the rest of your life or which Disney character you most identify with, but it will tell you if you need to reevaluate your current networking techniques.
Your current co-worker mentions that Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent is his cousin. Your spouse has orders to Fort Stewart, Ga. There is a full-time marketing position open at Coke. What should you do?
- Write Muhtar Kent as a reference on your resume.
- Ask your co-worker if he is comfortable being a job reference.
- Demand that your co-worker get you a job at Coke.
The correct answer is #2. You should always know the references on your resume. They can be former supervisors and co-workers who are prepared to talk about your professional experience. Ask for their permission to write their contact information on a job application. Doublecheck that their job title, phone number and email address is correct.
While unpacking at your new house in San Diego, your doorbell rings. It’s your neighbor. After the usual introductions, she asks if you are looking for a job. What should you say?
- Give her a brief 2-minute sales pitch about your past experience and description of your current job search.
- Complain that finding a job is impossible for military spouses.
- Stare at her blankly.
The correct answer is #1. This is your elevator pitch. Write it down and practice saying it over and over again. You want to speak confidently to anyone and everyone. Today’s world is small. Today’s neighbor may be tomorrow’s job lead.
You attend a veterans and military spouses job fair in Arlington, Va. You meet 5 potential job contacts. Two of these employers have current job openings. Three do not. What’s your next step?
- Apply only to current job openings. Never mention that you were at the job fair or that you are a military spouse.
- Throw the business cards in the trash.
- Send follow-up emails to all 5 company representatives reminding them that you meet them at the job fair and your qualifications.
The correct answer is #3. In today’s busy world, many people forget to follow-up with an potential job lead. Be the one who stands above the rest. You already did the hard part, networking in person. Vow to send a follow-up email less than 24 hours after the job fair.
You see a Facebook post about a military spouse conference scheduled at your current duty station. You consider signing up, but realize that you don’t have any friends attending. In fact, you are the new gal in town, you don’t know a soul. What should you do?
- Dare greatly and sign up today.
- Tell yourself that you’ll sign up for the next one, once you have a friend to sit with at the luncheon.
- Forget about it and send a text to your friends at your former duty station.
The correct answer is #1. Networking in a new city involves taking risks and putting yourself out there. Sure, you don’t know anyone. Yet. But put on a smile, grab some business cards and be prepared to make a friend at this conference. I highly recommend attending the Military.com Spouse Experience or the Military Spouse Career Summit.
Orders again. It’s time to move and time to find a new job. What should be your first networking agenda item?
- Plan your goodbye lunch at your current employer.
- Update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
- Spend your last 2 weeks of work looking at rental properties online.
The correct answer is #2. Potential employers will look at your social media profiles so go through them with a fine toothed comb. Untag yourself in that unflattering and potential image-damaging photo that your friend posted from the Fourth of July party. Review your narrative on LinkedIn and see if it matches your current career objectives.
You love your current job. You know your wife won’t have orders to leave Fort Hood for at least 2 years. Should you spend time with your colleagues?
- Absolutely. Networking needs to be regularly.
- No way. You won’t need these people once you leave Texas.
- Certainly not. You need to focus on your job, not on making friends.
The correct answer is #1. One blogger for the National Association of Professional Woman said networking is a lot like flossing your teeth. You must do it regularly. InGear Career, a nonprofit organization for the career-minded military spouse, said that networking is essential for finding a job quickly in a new city.
You do your research and know that you want to work as a nurse at the community hospital. You checked their job listings. Nothing. Your husband mentions that Gunny’s wife works there and introduces you to her at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. What should you say?
- Hey, I heard it’s impossible to get a job there. How did you snag one?
- Do you want to have coffee next week? I’m a nurse who would love to work at the hospital.
- Please, please, please get me a job at the hospital.
The correct answer is #2. Knowing a current employee at your targeted employer is a valuable resource. Do not waste this opportunity, but don’t expect this person to pull strings to get you a job. Take an interest in the person herself. She isn’t a pawn to be used and tossed aside. Ask her about the company’s culture and values. After this information, you may find that you don’t want to work at this company anymore.
You befriend a seasoned military spouse. You both work in the same industry. You ask her out to lunch. There is some awkward silence after you order food. What’s your approach?
- Fill that silence by talking nonstop about yourself, your education and your career goals.
- Don’t say anything. You are comfortable with silence.
- Ask questions.
The correct answer is #3. People mistakingly think that networking is all about you. Nope. Networking pros, like Heidi Roizen, recommends building relationships with those around you. If anyone knows a network of interesting people from diverse backgrounds, it’s a military spouse.
You have the opportunity to join a local Toastmasters group. While your career goal is to practice your public speaking in a safe and supportive environment like Toastmasters, you decided against membership. After all, you are a military spouse. Civilians don’t get you and your lifestyle. Agree?
- Thumbs up. Stick to military spouse organizations.
- Negative. This is a missed opportunity for networking.
- Sure. You hate answering questions about military life to civilians.
The correct answer is #2. There are many terrific military spouse professional organizations and Facebook groups. But there are also national professional organizations that will help you build your career too. Sure, civilians may ask you a lot of silly questions in the beginning, but think of yourself as their military spouse ambassador.