Having an action plan – or what is commonly known in the military circles as a POA (plan of action) – is a critical first step when pursuing employment in today’s competitive market place.
Last week in “Underemployment the new employment for Veterans in 2015,” I highlighted a few tips that were shared by Colonel (ret.) Garland Williams, who now serves as the University of Phoenix’s Military Division Associate Regional Vice President. Having an action plan was one of two key components in helping Mr. Williams transition from a 28-year career in the military to employment in civilian life.
The other key component? Establishing and leveraging a support network.
We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” and this rings especially true in today’s job market. With 61 percent of past service members saying they have previously been or currently are in civilian jobs beneath their skill sets, just sending your resume in hopes of landing in the “perfect” job isn’t going to cut it.
According to John Bennett, director of the Master of Science and executive coaching and assistant professor of behavioral science at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte, “60-80 percent of jobs are found through personal relationships.”
Who you know is key. So what exactly does it mean to “establish and leverage who you know in your support network?” First off, it goes a bit beyond emailing a few friends and posting on Facebook that you’re looking for work.
Here’s what we mean:
- You have friends and family and they, like you, have a desire and incentive to see you get hired – and not just in any job. Why? Well, your friends don’t want to be covering your drinks forever, and your family wants to preserve the integrity of their couch. So, invite them out to coffee (more affordable than lunch), ask them about their industry, what they like, don’t like, etc. If you uncover a field of interest, ask for a connection – and permission to use their name when applying.
- LinkedIn is a powerful tool when used correctly. If you’ve not established a network of friends and associates on LinkedIn, do it. Once this is done, identify the industries of interest and see who in your network emerges as associated. Reach out and build a relationship with that individual whether in person or via email. Find out what key topics are important inside the company so you can highlight your knowledge of that topic should you get an interview.
- Speaking of interviews, as Mr. Williams said in our interview – the interview is your time to shine, not practice. Part of leveraging your network is establishing times to do mock interviews and get feedback. When you land an interview that means your resume grabbed their interest and your qualifications got you past the gatekeeper…now you need to let your personality shine. This is also the time to mention the individual who may have helped you get to this point – as long as you know your connection has a good reputation with HR.
Bottom line: Whether you are a veteran transitioning from college or an active duty service member transitioning back into the civilian market, leveraging your network is a critical step to viable employment. Be sure to have a follow-up plan with your support network. Your support network is only as good as your followup.
Here’s wishing you success in 2015!
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.