Shifting from the military to a civilian career is rarely easy, but networking with the right people can make the transition smoother.
“Knowing people is such an important factor, especially in a people-driven industry like HR,” says Amanda Crowe, a senior recruiter at WWC Global. “Networking with other HR professionals while you’re still active duty allows you to lay the groundwork for professional relationships that you can cultivate today.”
Here are three ways that networking can help you transition to your post-service HR career.
Finding the right connections to bolster your career takes time, which means you need to begin networking during your service. “Don’t wait until you’ve completed your transition,” says Sarah Cobb, an independent career coach for veterans and their spouses. She suggests you start at least a year before you leave the military to avoid extended unemployment during the transition period.
Crowe agrees: “Get your name in front of people before you transition,” she says. “Build contacts that you can approach when your transition is coming up.” Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself or ask people in your network for introductions — especially at organizations where you’re interested in working.
“Service members are very used to having a mission,” Cobb points out. “Networking will help you identify your personal mission and will bridge the gap between you and your post-military career.”
Networking with other former military members can help you pick up the primary differences between military and civilian HR. Former service members who have earned HRCI® certifications can be particularly beneficial when transitioning to civilian life and help determine which certification is right for you.
“Practice learning the jargon of civilian HR and talking to people about the professional goals you have after service,” Crowe says. Seek out mentorship opportunities with other former service members who made the switch to civilian HR. Practice your elevator pitch with them as you prepare to network with leaders in civilian HR.
Many recruiters and hiring managers struggle to translate military skills into civilian workplaces. Learning how to interpret military skills and their application in civilian life gives you a competitive edge. “Be direct about what you’re looking for and when you expect to transition,” Crowe says.
You never know where you’ll meet the connection to your dream job in civilian HR, so try to network wherever you are. “It’s easy for us to look at places we live as temporary,” says Crowe, a military spouse. “Embrace each locale to the best of your ability.”
For example, local chambers of commerce often host networking events, with some specific to veterans and active-duty personnel. Consider joining young professional groups and local chapters of professional HR organizations.
Finally, don’t hesitate to take advantage of resources designed specifically to support military members in transition. “Networking is about getting to know people who can help you,” Cobb says. “Build circles of people who want to help guide you and are putting themselves out there wanting to help.”