As someone who served my country and transitioned out after a ten year career, I know how difficult it can be to secure a civilian job. While I enjoyed a rewarding US Naval career, I was both excited and apprehensive about beginning a new chapter in my professional life. Although I attended the required transition workshop provided to me at the time, I found that the tips that I received regarding my job search were not enough. I was instructed to visit the local employment development office to network with individuals who could help me secure civilian employment. While that was the best advice at the time, I knew there had to be a better way. I learned the hard way that building up my professional connections by networking with friends, family and attending professional conferences, is a much better and more direct path to securing the type of employment I desired.
That was then; today, transitioning service members have the advantage of social media sites like LinkedIn to connect with like-minded professionals who can assist in your job search. As with any operation, having a strategy is important to achieving success.
1. Strategy – Have One!
As with any operation, having a strategy is important to achieving success. Whether you are considering creating a LinkedIn profile or have already done so, you must have a plan for marketing yourself and managing your profile.
2. Profile – Get Found!
To be considered by potential employers, you need to make yourself findable online. Likewise, you need to have a platform and a profile in order to market yourself. LinkedIn is the place. To begin your LinkedIn profile, you will first need to create an account.
Veteran Job Seeker Account
- LinkedIn offers a free basic account when you sign up. However, as a Veteran you are entitled to a complimentary upgrade of your account. To take advantage of this, visit the Veteran Mentor Network group after you have created your LinkedIn account. On the right sidebar click the link to the Job Seeker Subscription sub-group. Click the yellow “Join” button to signal your interest in upgrading to the Job Seeker subscription.
- Next, many people also ask what kind of picture should they use on LinkedIn and the answer is select one that represents you in relation to the career you want. Remember, LinkedIn is not Facebook. Don’t use a picture of your dog or kids as your profile picture.LinkedIn is meant to connect you with like-minded professionals. Aim for a photo that aligns with the civilian industry you hope to enter. For instance, if your goal is to secure a position as a sales executive then choose a professional headshot photo as sales positions involve face-to-face interaction. Or, if your goal is to secure a fitness trainer position select a photo that showcases you as a personal trainer. The idea is that your photo should represent you in your civilian profession.
Employment, Education & Volunteer Experience
- The next step is to build your profile showcasing your employment, education, and volunteer experience. Remember, your LinkedIn profile is more than just a resume, it is the online representation of everything that you have to offer. You should strive for building a robust profile that tells your professional story.
3. Experience – Capitalize on Yours!
You served your country and gained valuable experience. Share that with your audience. Be confident and proud of your military career and share that on your profile. Don’t downplay what you have done; just make sure you keep your audience in mind when telling your story. Remember – you are seeking employment in the private sector. As such, communicate your knowledge, skills, experience and abilities using terms that correlate to the private sector. A great place to start is to use the Military Skills Translator provided by Military.com in partnership with Monstor.com.
4. Employers – Research Them!
If you are currently serving, start researching employers at least one year before you transition out. If you have transitioned, you can start now. Think about what you want your next career to be and begin researching companies you are interested in. You can follow the company and connect with their recruiters on LinkedIn. Many employers are using LinkedIn to announce job openings as well as screen candidates. Part of your transition plan should include researching the type of position you want, learn what the requirements are, filling in the gaps with training if needed, and connecting with individuals who can assist with securing your dream job. The Jobs link on the main ribbon is your source for searching job postings. Last, remember that acquiring new skills and knowledge to share on your profile makes you more attractive to employers.
5. Virtual Footprint – Build It!
Join groups and be an active member. However, keep in mind that you don’t want to get lost in the preverbal black hole of LinkedIn. There is a plethora of groups on LinkedIn, so be selective. LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups and 50 sub-groups. However, don’t overwhelm yourself. Seek out groups you feel will be key to building your network as well as keeping you engaged. Search for groups related to your desired career field or personal interests such as connecting with other Veterans.
The Power Of LinkedIn Groups
Another positive aspect of joining groups is group members often share job postings, and you may be able to connect with that person to help with a personal introduction to the hiring manager. Who knows? The person posting the message may even be the hiring manager. Last, you also want to be an active participant in the groups you join by starting discussions or participation in discussions. Doing so builds up your virtual footprint, establishes you as a content creator, and builds your credibility. Be a subject matter expert!
5. Your Network – Expand and Engage It!
If you are currently developing your transition plan or are now a civilian, expanding your network is important to your strategy. Over the years, I have developed a wide professional network that helped me by providing great mentorship, introduction to others, or connecting me with hiring managers.As a professional, LinkedIn recommends that you connect with people “you know and trust and only join groups you want your name associated with.”
Remember, LinkedIn is a professional networking tool. So, make sure you focus on quality instead of quantity. Don’t use LinkedIn like Facebook and try to collect as many ‘Friends’ as possible. Instead, connect with professionals in your career field and remember that there are 2nd and 3rd degree connections which could be your next hiring manager.
Last, an important tip to remember is that keywords in your profile facilitate connection recommendations to other LinkedIn members. When people send you connection requests, don’t immediately include or exclude them from your network. Review their profile and determine if having them as a connection makes sense. Again, remember if you exclude a connection you are also excluding their network of 2nd and 3rd-degree connections.
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