Tagged: transition to civilian life

Phases of Individual Transition Planning

Posted by Debi Teter
Many professionals in the personnel industry have published guides on career changes. These show that everyone undergoing a career transition seems to go through the same fundamental stages. This section describes the activities and outcomes of the seven phases of individual transition planning. Phase One: Assessment Who am I? What talents and experiences do I possess? Why would someone want to hire me? In this phase, document your portfolio of knowledge, experience, skills, talents, and abilities. For starters, create a list using your personal Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) document, DD Form 2586. This document is available to you online at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/tgps/. Contact your supporting Transition Office for assistance if you are unable to access the VMET On-Line website. Your VMET outlines the training and experience you received during your military career. It is designed to help you, but it is not a resume. Add anything else you can think of to this list. In essence, you are now creating an “asset bank” from which you can draw later when called upon to write a resume or attend a job interview. If you need help, use the professional guidance available through your local installation Transition Office or Education Center. Or refer to the self-help section of your local library or bookstore for useful career planning books. The investment you make now in conducting your assessment is very valuable. It will bring the “professional you” into clearer focus, and it will have a major impact in making and implementing your career decisions. Phase Two: Exploration What are the current and emerging occupational areas that are attractive to me? Do these jobs coincide with my values and aptitudes? How do I find such jobs? With your assessment in hand, you probably have some ideas about what you want to do. Now is not the time to limit your opportunities. Expand the list of job titles and career paths that appeal to you. Broaden your geographic horizons to include several places where you might like to pursue your career. Many resources are available to help you explore your expanded set of options. Do your homework. The Transition Office can help you focus on jobs that employers need to fill today and will need to fill in the near future. Transition staff can help you identify the geographic areas that have opportunities in your fields of interest. Your state employment office is another good resource during this phase, offering such services as job interviewing; selection and referral to openings; job development; employment counseling; career evaluation; referral to training or other support services; and testing. It can lead you to information on related jobs nearby and can introduce you to the Department of Labor database, DoD Job Search, which has listings of thousands of jobs across the nation. Many other assets are available; your Transition Office can tell you about them. Use the library too; the Reference Section has helpful publications. And, do not forget about the unlimited number of resources found on the Internet. Phase Three: Skills Development How do I prepare myself to be an attractive candidate in the occupational areas that I have chosen? Do I need additional education or training? As you continue through the exploration phase, you may find some interesting opportunities for which you feel only partially equipped. Your local Transition Office and Education Center can help you determine the academic credentials or vocational training programs you will need and how to acquire them. Phase Four: Trial Career Programs/Intern Programs Do I have the aptitude and experience needed to pursue my occupational interests? Are there internships, volunteer jobs, temporary services, or part-time jobs where I might try out the work that interests me? To learn about intern programs, inquire at your Transition Office, your local civilian personnel office, or the state employment office. Some government-sponsored programs, such as obtaining teaching credentials, can provide income and training in exchange for guaranteed employment. Check local and base libraries and the education office for books containing intern program information. Temporary agencies are also a great way to become familiar with a company or industry. Explore internship possibilities with private employers: Many companies have such programs but do not advertise them. Don’t necessarily turn down an interesting volunteer position. Volunteering increases your professional skills and can sometimes turn into a paid position. Phase Five: The Job Search How do I identify job requirements and prospective companies, find networks and placement agencies, and generally increase my knowledge and experience in the job market? How do I write a resume, develop leads, conduct an interview, and complete a job application?  Once you have selected your future career, you must now begin the challenge of finding work. Millions of people are hired all across the country every year. Employee turnover opens up existing positions, and entirely new jobs are created every day. Nevertheless, the job market is competitive. The best way to improve your odds is to play your best hand: Seek the opportunities for which you are best prepared. Work hard at finding a job. Network! The vast majority of jobs are filled by referrals, not the want ads. Use your network of friends, colleagues, and family; as well as the job listings provided by your installation’s Transition Office, the local personnel office, or even the nearest community college. Take advantage of job-hunting seminars, resume-writing workshops, and interviewing techniques classes too. Attend job fairs and talk to as many company representatives as possible. Phase Six: Selection How do I select the right job? Although it might be tempting, you do not have to take the first job that comes along. Consider the type of work, location, salary and benefits, climate, and how the opportunity will enhance your future career growth. Even if you take the first job offer, you are not necessarily locked into it. Some experts say employers are biased against hiring the unemployed. A shrewd move might be to look for a job from a job. Take a suitable position – and then quickly move on to a better one. Phase Seven: Support How do I make a smooth transition to a new career? For your transition to be truly successful, you should manage the personal affairs side of your career change with the same professionalism and care as your job search. Things like out-processing, relocation, financial management, taking care of your family, and coping with the inevitable stress are important too. Your ITP provides an opportunity to integrate these issues with the career-oriented activities that are the central focus of your transition effort. You are eligible for transition assistance for up to 180 days after your separation.

The Education You Need for the Job You Want

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
education for the job you wantWhen a major retailer announced last week that it would increase salaries for its hourly employees, many people took notice. Whether the move was a byproduct of pressure from lobbyists or unions, no one but the decision-maker truly knows. A spokesperson for the retailer stated that this long-awaited increase was driven by the desire to retain, and attract, good employees and reduce costly turnover. This move is yet another indication that competition for jobs is fierce – and it’s also a signal that companies want to attract well qualified people – hiring for good-paying, career-building jobs. That’s good news. So what does it take to find a one of these jobs?  That’s a great question, and if we had a guaranteed solution, we could retire early. Based on a look at some of the top employers’ most sought-after jobs, the most common denominator is a bachelor’s degree. Among the top five employers from the Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list, a look at their websites reveals that they are actively hiring for a variety of roles: administrative, engineering, and human resources to name a few. Let’s take a look at what kind of responsibilities are entailed, and what kind of education is required to qualify for an Office Manager position. Administrative Roles:  Office Manager The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes these tasks as those performed by office managers or administrators regardless of the business:
  • Oversee the purchasing, storage of distribution of office supplies
  • Manage all administrative and clerical personnel
  • Oversee the budget for contracts, equipment and supplies
  • In factories, overseeing the maintenance and repair of machinery and electrical and mechanical systems.
  • Office managers also often keep track of environmental and health regulations and make sure a company adheres to those standards.
Education:  College degrees are not always required for entry-level roles in these positions, but in leadership roles, a bachelor’s degree is a requirement. A master’s in business administration can boost chances for promotion.   Engineering Roles: Industrial Engineer The BLS Occupational Handbook states that Industrial engineers typically:
  • Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand methods and activities in manufacturing and services
  • Figure out how to manufacture parts or products, or deliver services, with maximum efficiency
  • Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
  • Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
  • Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
  • Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
  • Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects
Education: A bachelor’s degree in industrial, mechanical or civil engineering is a must for these roles. In addition, applicants may want to become licensed so they may carry the designation PE (professional engineer). Licensure requires:
  • A degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
  Human Resources:   Labor Relations Specialist The BLS Occupational Outlook states that Labor relations specialists typically:
  • Advise management on contracts, worker grievances, and disciplinary procedures
  • Lead meetings between management and labor
  • Draft proposals and rules or regulations in order to help facilitate collective bargaining
  • Interpret formal communications between management and labor
  • Investigate validity of labor grievances
  • Train management on labor relations
Education: Generally speaking, labor relations specialists usually have a bachelor’s degree in a human resources or business field with coursework in human resource management. However, the level of education and experience required can vary by position and employer. Some organizations prefer specialists who have had coursework in mediation.  There are universities and colleges who offer labor relations certifications, as well as a number of professional associations that offer coursework and supplementary certification programs. The next step is to evaluate your own competencies and interests. It’s important to know where your expertise can be best applied, and where you may need to seek additional education, training or credentials. Do your qualifications make you well-suited to the type of jobs employers offer? If not, education is often the best first step toward reaching your career goal.   References: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2014/11/11/the-top-100-military-friendly-employers/ http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/02/25/tj-maxx-marshalls-to-follow-wal-mart-in-raising-pay

https://www.linkedin.com/company/military-veterans-employment-network-mven

By Christine A. Shelly #militarystudents #bachelorsdegree #mastersdegree #getthejobyouwant

Use Your Battlefield Training to Help Transition from Military to Civilian Life

Posted by Admin
military-authority_battlefield-training-helps-transitionTransitioning from the military to the civilian workforce is both an exciting and challenging new adventure. It can be a challenge for veterans whether moving to a classroom or to a workplace. However, the following will tips should help in their transition process. The military skills you acquired are very valuable in the workforce. Your military training and discipline will increase your value within an organization, making you a good choice for promotions and additional opportunities. Employers value problem-solvers. Applying the tools, training and analytics skills you’ve received to your work’s problems and offering solutions can help your employers yield better results. That will be noticed and result in positive performance reviews. Identify your plans and goals. Your military lifestyle was undoubtedly very structured: training, work details, meal times and other things were planned out for you. Transitioning to civilian life means freedom from all the structures you are accustomed to. That newfound freedom may cause setbacks for you if you don’t identify your plans and goals. Create structures for yourself that you can follow on a daily basis. This will help you maintain your focus, be more productive, stay on track and reach your goals. Your Military Life Story. Be prepared and don’t get offended if new civilian coworkers ask questions that are military or war-related such as “Why are we still fighting in the Middle East?” or “How many people have you killed?” Prepare sets of answers for anticipated questions so that you can exit the conversation easily if you don’t want to discuss those things. Or try to steer conversations towards the education and work experience you gained which are helping you with your new job. In time, even people who may not like or appreciate military service will see that you are a valuable employee and stop asking offensive or intrusive questions. Take time to discover and explore. Transitioning from military to civilian life can be disorienting. Take some time to discover and explore the world you lived in before you entered the military. What interests did you have that you had to put aside during your service? You may decide to start a simple business or go back to school to acquire more skills to pursue those forgotten interests and dreams. Seek Help and Guidance from Family and Friends. You have a support system with you from your time in the military service – your spouse, family and friends outside your military life. Transition will be difficult if you are undergoing some post traumatic stress disorder or some combat stress. Get counseling, take part in veteran-to-veteran conversation groups, maintain healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, and practice stress mitigation techniques. There are also valuable resources out there that can help you with the processing of your Veterans Affair claims, treating stress, finding employment, and starting college programs. Each veteran going through the transition to civilian life can be successful, especially if he or she remembers to use the discipline, military training and experiences acquired over the years. Use them to your advantage to make yourself better and your life a happier, more fulfilling and satisfying.

Leaving the Military: Finding a Second Career After 50

Posted by Debi Teter

finding a job after military retirementTrue retirement from the military isn’t financially realistic for many service members. If you’re like many prospective military retirees, you probably wonder if finding a meaningful job after a career in the service is possible. Like anything else, finding an encore career takes some time and effort, but it can be done.

At the end of the day, what you want is a job that helps smooth your transition, offers financial stability, and lets you continue to sharpen the skills and abilities you already have. At the risk of sugar-coating a bleak economic outlook, a candidate with the kind of work ethic, skillsets and experience that you get in the military has a solid chance of finding employment. You may have to be willing to accept a lower starting salary and rise quickly, but when thousands of people are simply giving up their job search, a job with potential is better than no job at all.

Aside from your experience, expertise and military know-how, one of the strongest qualities a soon-to-be military retiree can bring to the table is flexibility. This means you are able to look at your skills with a new perspective, and you’re open to repositioning yourself in a rewarding field you might not have considered. For example, if you trained squadrons on equipment, methods or procedures, you might be thinking of a second career in education – but you might also think about becoming a corporate trainer, technical writer, or human resources associate.

Before you start scouring the internet, take some time to write down your interests and do an inventory of your skills. When you do your job searches, use keywords related to your skills instead of job titles or industries. Keeping an open mind and exploring new opportunities might just bring you closer to the kind of smooth transition and stable employment you seek.

If you’ve tried completing skills inventories and have re-written your resume more times than you care to count, you might try picking other people’s brains for ideas. For example, several groups have published their top lists of jobs for veterans, military retirees and military spouses. If you can get past some of the stereotypes they employ, many of the opportunities they list are quite thoughtful.

Another option is pursuing an area of interest that you’ve never tried before. There are a number of online programs that let you take coursework on your own schedule. Many military retirees take advantage of their education benefits to help them launch a successful second career.

The bottom line is this: you’ve enjoyed one successful career, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have another if you want it. The current economy might make it more challenging to attain, but you have what it takes to meet the challenge head on.

Veterans Can Find Jobs Through Transition Offices

Posted by Debi Teter
militaryauthority.com_veterans-use-transition-offices-to-find-jobsService members leaving the military are often reluctant to initiate their pre-separation activities because they dread the thought of finding a job. It’s a common part of American life, though, and shouldn’t be feared. Most people change careers at least three times in their lives. Most Transition Offices have programs and counselors to assist you and your family members in seeking employment in government and the private sector. Job-hunting assistance is available at your Transition Office. Some of the services available at your Transition Office are listed below: • Counseling: The Transition staff provides individual career development counseling, comprehensive assessment of employment skills, and identification of employment opportunities. • Services: Transition Offices offer computerized listings of jobs, career workshops, and training opportunities, as well as automated resume writing. Many Transition Offices also provide access to a mini-reference library, word processing, and copying equipment to assist in job search preparation. • Job banks: Job banks provide information and referrals on temporary, permanent, part-time, and full-time positions in the federal, State, and private sectors. Separating service members are strongly encouraged to start their job search by using the following websites: DoD Job SearchTransition Assistance Program  and Public and Community Service. Whatever you do, start by putting your resume online in the Department of Labor’s job bank under the DoD Job Search website. Employers who are registered with the Department of Labor looking to hire former military personnel go to this website to look for resumes. • Workshops and seminars: A variety of workshops and seminars are available through your Transition Office to help you and your spouse become more competitive in the job market. Topics include enhancing job search skills, goal setting, and preparation of standard and optional forms for federal civil service employment, resumes, and interviewing techniques. • Training: Some locations offer occupational skills training for those seeking entry-level classes in typing, word processing, and data entry.

Because There is No Crystal Ball

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
Because There is No Crystal Ball: Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans  By Christine A. Shelly career-path-crystal-ballThe situation I’m about to describe is probably one you’ve heard before. It could resemble your own story, that of one of your children, or perhaps you have a friend or two that fits the bill. Reflecting on college graduation day as if it happened only yesterday – a bright, energetic 22-year-old with an enviable grade point average and a respectable job offer already accepted, the young lady accepted her hard-earned diploma the same way she earned it: With determination. She had the next two years of her life planned almost to the day, and was poised for an exceptional career in public relations. Her path was calculated, precise, and meticulously planned. Then, the adventure really began. Funding cuts. Layoffs. New relationships. Car accidents. New jobs. Breakups. The tide of life that carries you ever forward, until one day you look back and the shoreline is gone. This young lady, who had once known exactly what she wanted and how to go about achieving it, became adrift in a sea of indecision and uncertainty. Ten years after graduation day, she decided to pursue her online MBA and now owns and operates a health spa. Her story is not uncommon. In fact, it’s rare for a career path to be neat and tidy, and even the most organized and well-crafted career plans can quickly get sidetracked. More often, the enjoyable places that we land are a result of a messy combination of hard work, life situations and surprising timing. Most of us at one point or another find our career paths in the middle of the mess. As you consider your future path, your answers to these five questions can help you find your way:
  1. What types of jobs are available where I live now? Am I able to move?
  2. 
Is it possible for me to work odd hours (if you want to start something new and work your way up) or take on new responsibilities (required for leadership positions)?
  3. Are there degree or certification programs I will need, and are they well-suited for my financial/family/current employment situation?
  4. Is it reasonable for me to leave any of my current employment benefits? (pay, seniority, schedule, medical/dental, or others?)
  5. 
What would happen if I delayed making a change (either in career or educational pursuits)?
There’s no question that our life paths and career paths are intertwined, and that one can affect the other in numerous ways. The decisions that you make may require taking risks, but calculated risk and well informed decision making can lead to rewarding opportunities for success and accomplishing new goals. What has helped you make life or career choices? Tell us in the comments below.   References:

http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/07/11/how-much-should-your-life-path-influencedictate-your-career-path-essay#ixzz37TNv5lGO

http://guides.wsj.com/careers/managing-your-career/how-to-change-careers/

http://www.salary.com/when-is-the-right-time-to-take-a-career-risk/

#highereducation #careerchange #takearisk

Do you have an Individual Transition Plan?

Posted by Debi Teter
Individual Transition Plan for ServicemembersReturning to civilian life is a complex undertaking. Many steps must be taken, and many questions must be answered. Transition assistance staff, personnel office staff, relocation specialists, education counselors, and many others can help, but only you and your family can make the critical decisions that must be made. A good beginning is for each departing Service member to develop an Individual Transition Plan (ITP). The ITP is your game plan for a successful transition back to civilian life. It is a framework you can use to fulfill realistic career goals based upon your unique skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities. It is not a Department of Defense form. It is something you create by yourself, for yourself. The ITP identifies likely actions and activities associated with your transition. Your Military Service has samples of ITPs that can help you. Check with your nearest military installation Transition/ACAP or Command Career Counselor (Navy) to review them. You can start developing your ITP by answering these simple questions: 1. What are my goals after I leave the military? 2. Where do I plan to live? 3. Do I need to continue my education or training? 4. Will the job market, where I plan to relocate, provide me the employment that I am seeking? 5. Do I have the right skills to compete for the job(s) I am seeking? 6. Will my spouse and family goals be met at our new location? 7. Am I financially prepared to transition at this time? If you are uncertain about your future plans, now is the time to obtain all the assistance and information you need. Professional guidance and counseling are available at your Transition Office, as are workshops, publications, information resources, automated resources, and government programs. Take advantage of each one that pertains to your unique situation. It is your Individual Transition Plan: It is your responsibility and your life. In addition to creating an ITP, you can determine what actions are associated with your transition by consulting with your Transition Counselor and using a document called the Pre-separation Counseling Checklist, DD Form 2648 for the active component and DD Form 2648-1 for the reserve component. The checklist allows you to indicate the benefits and services about which you wish to receive additional counseling as you prepare your ITP. You will then be referred to subject experts who will gladly answer any questions you may have. Work through each element on the checklist, but select for further exploration only those resources that are appropriate for you. #militarytransition #greentogray #ITP

Swapping Boots for Suits

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com from boots to suits military transitionDefense contractors and those within the industry itself can usually comprehend military communication quite well. But if the next job you want falls closer to corporate operations than field operations, you’ll need to think through the way your experience and skills are represented on your resume. Otherwise, making that leap from MRE to water cooler might be trickier than it needs to be.

Luckily, there are a few standard words and phrases for which a trail has already been blazed from tank to cubicle. Test your civvyspeak translation abilities by taking the quiz below:

If your resume currently contains the word “mission,” the best civilian employer equivalent is:

  1. Task
  2. Function
  3. Objective
  4. Initiative
  5. All of the above

AI, translated for a civilian resume, means:

  1. Artificial Intellectualism
  2. Additionally skilled in
  3. Alternatively increasing
  4. All about international

If you led a squad or platoon, you want to refer to the squad or platoon as a:

  1. Class
  2. Congregation
  3. Team, section or group
  4. Collection of like-minded individuals

MOS (military occupation specialty) should be referred to as:

  1. MOS
  2. Master of Science
  3. Service organization
  4. Career specialty or specialty

The civilian equivalent of reconnaissance is

  1. Game of Thrones and/or A Medieval fair
  2. A Scouting trip
  3. Data collection and analysis
  4. None of the above

Answers to the quiz are here (answers are at the bottom of this post). So how’d you do? 

In some career fields, like medical patient care, record keeping and accounting, the skills and protocol are fairly universal. If this is your field, you may not need to translate as much as say, a tank crew member. 

And remember – even though you are highly capable of managing your own career transition, you don’t have to go through this alone. Contact your transition assistance office, your service branch career and alumni program, or your installation’s family services and support employment readiness office for guidance or low/no-cost classes.

 

 

ANSWERS:

  1. E  
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. C


Three Networking Rules to Ditch Now

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com 3 networking rules to ditch nowThe prospect of networking is enough to make most people a little uncomfortable. But there’s no denying the power of relationships when you’re competing for a job or a promotion. At www.Grantham.edu we’ve made it our mission to make quality education affordable and attainable for working adults. As a result, most of the students we serve are already working at least part time – many are working full-time in the military, federal government, private sector, as law enforcement or first responders or entrepreneurs

But if you’re working and serving full time and going to school, where are you going to find time to build your professional network? That’s a question we hear a lot. The good news is that since you’re working, you’ve already begun building your network. You’re off to a great start!

There are lots of resources available that offer networking tips and guidance. Many of them are exceptional. But there are a few pieces of advice that should be taken with a grain of salt. Three commonly-followed rules that you should break (or at least bend a bit) include:

Rule #1:  Be Aggressive.

There’s a lot to be said for setting goals and going after them with enthusiasm, persistence and confidence. But when you’re trying to build a professional network, there’s a fine line between persistence and stalking. 

You SHOULD: 

  • Do your research and identify people who are connected with your desired field of employment.
  • Join professional associations that are relevant and well-regarded in your field.
  • Not be afraid to introduce yourself to new people and ask intelligent questions about their industry or line of work
  • Ask your contacts to introduce you to people with whom you might have common goals, backgrounds or interests.

You SHOULD NOT: 

  • Doggedly contact people you’ve never met with requests for information, introductions, or job interviews.
  • Bombard professional groups with spam, blanket-send your resume to boards of directors “for their reference.”
  • Under any circumstances just “show up” at someone’s place of business without an invitation or prior appointment. That’s a pretty good way to earn yourself a restraining order.

Read Christine’s other 2 tips on Google+ and leave us your tips in the comments.

Six Rules of Professional Networking

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com networking for a post military jobMention networking to most people and you’ll be met with reactions that range from an audible groan and an eyeroll to a blank stare. But landing a new job today is tough, and relationships matter. After all, that’s precisely why sites like LinkedIn and their ilk exist.

In a completely-unscientific survey of people I know, four out of six got their current job through a personal referral. The referrals were not necessarily from a “friend,” but from a contact, people they met at a conference, a professional organization, and even a former employer. The other two were contacted by corporate recruiters who had viewed their resumes on a service like Monster or Indeed.

When you’ve been in the military, you have not only the network of people with whom you served, but connections through your spouse, your family, and the instant recognition that comes from having the US Armed Forces on your resume. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue developing and expanding your network once you’ve left the service.

Most people don’t get excited by the prospect of networking. But if you can think of it less in terms of “do they have a job opening for me” and more along the lines of “how can I help someone,” you can find it becomes a satisfying part of your professional life.

There are tons of resources out there offering networking tips and relationship-building guidance. At the risk of bogging readers down with loads of advice, here are six simple rules of professional networking that can help you get off to a great start (or pick up where you may have left off).

 

Rule #1: Be a giver, not a taker.

 

People can spot a taker right away. He or she is a familiar face at group gatherings, with a fist full of business cards and a permanently plastered over-wide smile. This person collects (and drops) names like others might collect baseball cards: they’re neat to look at, but he only spends time on them when he  want something out of them.

When you’re building a network, you are really building a group of people you trust – and who trust you. You want to be someone your group can rely on to listen and deliver results. Focus your effort not on trying to sell yourself, but on getting to know what other people seek. When you listen, follow up and add value to their goals, they will remember and respond in kind. You have to cultivate trust – that’s not something you gain with a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

 

Rule #2: Be thoughtful.

 

Shakespeare said, “There are no small parts, only small players” about the theater, but the same can be said about building your professional relationships. No one is irrelevant, except for those who would treat people poorly. Be deliberate and thoughtful about the associations you join and events you attend. Consider people you already know as well as people you’d like to know. Both are important. You might think twice before dismissing a small group of local business owners  – it’s the quality of people in your group that matters, not quantity. It’s better to have 5 people you know well and who are willing to help each other than to have 305 contacts who don’t know much about each other or you. First think about what your contacts need and how you might be able to help them achieve their goals. Then think about your own plans.

 

Rule #3: Use your ears more than your mouth. But use them both wisely.

 

We’ve all been trapped at parties with someone who insists on telling you their life story, interrupts anything you have to say with a “one-up,” and offers unsolicited advice on problems you didn’t know you had. Don’t be that person. And if you encounter them, don’t put up with them too long, either.

Before you go anywhere there might be an opportunity to network, prepare two or three questions as conversation starters, and prepare graceful exit lines for those situations where it’s clear the other person is a “taker” (see Rule #1).

There’s a reason villains always monologue. Heroes are too busy helping other people to talk. If your conversation partner seems like more of a Joker than a Batman, make a graceful exit. Networking is about building a mutually-beneficial, trusting relationship. You have to demonstrate you’re there for the good of others as well as yourself.

 

Rule #4: Keep it professional.

 

It’s true that networking can happen on the sidelines of your child’s soccer game as easily as it can happen at a professional meeting. But if you’re reaching out to people with the sole purpose of giving or getting professional advice or advancement, keep to a professional setting. Don’t hound contacts on the playground or grocery store. Some day a friendship could develop, sure, but until everyone involved is comfortable with that, keep professional boundaries at all times.

Professional boundaries include taking steps to prevent unnecessary gossip and inappropriate assumptions on other peoples’ part. Don’t meet outside the office with people of the opposite gender. It might seem old fashioned and a bit absurd, but people tend toward speculation and gossip, and your professional reputation is too important to risk. Lunch with the boss or co-worker in a well-lit, busy restaurant could be acceptable, but no dinner/drinks/dessert in any quiet, dark place that might suggest you’re trying to hide something.

Having said that: If someone’s behavior makes you uncomfortable – if they’re calling or emailing too much, perhaps acting like they’re a bit too familiar with you, set them straight clearly but gently. And let a friend or family member know what’s going on so they can help if needed.

 

Rule #5: Spread wealth and expect nothing.

 

Just because you’ve had a great conversation with someone doesn’t mean they are obligated to do anything for you. In fact, now that you’ve had a great conversation, the ball is in your court to follow up – not theirs. Once you’ve made a connection, it’s time to start learning more about them. Your new contacts’ interests, challenges, and needs all offer you an opportunity to demonstrate your value. Follow up with a brief, specific email or phone call that shares something worthwhile and shows sincere interest. Here’s some ideas for following up after a connection at an association function:

Email: John, I enjoyed our conversation Thursday about your widget project. The attached article on widgets 3.0 caught my attention and I thought I’d share. Would like to hear your thoughts on it when you have a chance. Best regards, Jamie

Phone call: Hi John, this is Jamie – we met at Thursday’s AWA meeting and talked about your widget project. I’d love to send you a copy of an article I just read on widgets 3.0 – would that be okay?

Delivery: Pick up a copy of the publication or copy the relevant article and either drop it off personally or send it in the mail to your new contact with an attached note similar to email above.

The very best thing you can do to grow your network is share information. Whether it’s something you’ve read, a tool you’ve acquired, or music you’ve heard, share something with your connections that’s relevant and useful to them. Your contact may or may not respond to your attempts. They may even say “no, thanks” when you offer something. Don’t take it personally. Simply chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. Either way, you gain information and practice. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Rule #6: Networking is a lot like brushing your teeth: You must do it daily for best results.

 

Networking is a habit. When you do it a little bit each day, it doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming and the results consistently pile up. Make no mistake, though: Networking is often disguised as work. Volunteer opportunities, group projects, committee activities – all are great opportunities to meet some fascinating people and learn about them. You can also make a habit of introducing two people with the same backgrounds, interests, or goals. What happens next is up to them, but do this a few times and you become the go-to resource for people in your network who seek to meet new talent.

Now what?

Getting started is a lot simpler than you might think. Consider who your network is and think about who you want it to include. Pick up the phone, use email, or go to an event or activity. Be sincere. Listen. Be useful. That’s pretty much it, and it’s not so scary when you think about it that way.

Do you have any networking strategies or stories to share? We’d love to hear them. Dish them out in the comments below.