Your Network, is your Net Worth.

Networking, you’ve probably heard of this term before and if used correctly can be very powerful, and can lead to vital connections and relevant industry in-points, is undeniably the best way to do that.

Networking events are responsible for around 80% of jobs due to its ability to create personal recommendations and put your skills at the forefront of employer interactions. In this article, we discuss how networking as a veteran could be your secret weapon when it comes to securing your second career. Ready? Let’s jump in.

What is Networking?

When you think of networking, you likely imagine suits, champagne glasses, and small talk. However, you might be less aware of what networking actually is, or what it aims to achieve. By definition, networking is the process of making connections and building relationships.

Those connections can serve to provide you with both industry-specific advice, and connections that may lead to your consideration for unadvertised roles.

Networking amongst the right people may also boost your standing in a recruitment drive where you’re surrounded by seemingly more qualified applicants. Networking can prove particularly invaluable in securing jobs for veterans.


This is because networking allows you to actively translate your military skills for civilian employers who might not necessarily notice them on paper. Building a network over time could also see you considered for suitable roles that you might not have known to look for otherwise.

Types of Networking

There are many different types of networking. The best of these will largely depend on things like your skill set and targeted industries. Building a network across a few different formats can lead to the largest pool of opportunities for securing work. The most common types of networking that you’ll want to consider include:

  • In-person networking: In-person is the most common kind of networking, and can include networking events like career fairs and business seminars. In-person networking may also include arranged meetings with influential individuals that you’ve reached out to.
  • Online networking: It’s also possible to network online, as is most obviously seen from social platforms like LinkedIn. Online communities like Facebook and Discord can also see your involvement in industry discussions or simply just connecting with other Veterans.

Personal or Professional Networking

Networking can also be either personal or professional, either of which could help you to secure a new job. Most obviously, building a network with business owners and experts in your chosen field can lead to industry advice and an increased awareness of opportunities.

Many veterans also find it useful to build a more personal network of fellow veterans. These individuals may work in your chosen industry or may simply have some understanding of the adjustment from service to civilian life. Either way, this level of support can prove invaluable when you’re re-entering the working world.

In-Person vs Online Networking

So with two choices you might be asking yourself “Which type of networking is best for veterans?” Well, it largely depends on your reasons for networking and your chosen industry or interests. The majority of networking still happens in person at events.

At face to face networking events, you’re able to make a personal connection and show skills like your ability to communicate upfront. This can lead to a lasting impression that you might fail to make online.

Online networking for veterans

That said, online networking can also be useful for creating specific connections with chosen industry figures. It’s also a great way to ‘test the water’ of groups you may wish to network with further. Some offline events may even invite you to an community online to stay in touch etc.

Online networks also have the benefit of allowing you to search for old military connections who may already work in industries that you’re now considering and may be able to advise or recommend you. Unfortunately, it can be harder to present yourself as a stand-out candidate in a sea of online faces.

A combination of the two is best

For the most part, effective networking as a veteran should see you using both in-person and online networking opportunities. For instance, you may make an initial in-person connection at a networking event which you could then develop through an online platform like LinkedIn or be invited to an online group on Facebook.

This makes it far more likely that you’ll stick in people’s minds as someone worth recommending for a job, or worth offering a job for veterans to upfront.

Remember, first impressions always count, and if someone you are networking with can see you are well presented, can hold a conversation and have good interpersonal skills, it will make it easier for them to be comfortable in talking to you, and ultimately recommending you or connecting you to the right person.

Why Should Veterans Network?

Estimates suggest that you’ll need to dedicate roughly several hours a week to networking before it’s likely to secure you a job. This is because, unlike simply applying for a job role in a matter of minutes, networking requires your attendance at various events, as well as follow-ups like online connections and subsequent meetings.

This fact may leave you asking one pressing question – why should veterans network at all? In truth, everyone should network, not just veterans. However, there are some specific networking benefits for veterans, which include:

1. Building confidence:

It can be difficult to feel confident in your skills when adjusting to an often unfamiliar civilian life.

Networking can be an effective way to build your confidence, by creating connections with professionals who then have the power to see and appreciate what you can do upfront.

veterans networking

2. Building community:

Community is key to helping veterans resettle, and your network can ensure access to like-minded individuals who are always willing to offer advice. This is especially true if you network amongst fellow veterans who are now working in your chosen industry. These individuals will understand any doubts or struggles and will be on hand to help you through.

3. Understanding your opportunities:

It isn’t always easy to understand the opportunities available to you when you leave service. When you start networking, you’ll be able to discuss this directly with people who can tell you where your skills are needed, and how you can break into those roles.

4. Finding motivation:

Building connections with individuals who are already in roles you aspire to can be incredibly motivating. This motivation may help you to keep going even through additional requirements like qualifications. Seeing first-hand how your civilian life could look may also help you adjust initially after leaving service.

5. Gaining access to resources:

Varied networks can open up resources which may include applicable job training, or simply company information that could help you secure a position down the line.

6. Earning yourself recommendations:

Often, it isn’t an individual in your direct network who will secure you a job. Instead, you may find that it’s the knowledge those people hold, or the connections in their own networks, that are most useful. For instance, if a member of your network spots a job in the company they work for, or simply a company they know of, they’ll inform you and will likely also be able to recommend you.

Networking Tips for Veterans

Ok, by now you should start to get an understanding of why networking is important for veterans, but how exactly can you network in a way that allows you to enjoy those benefits?

Always be Yourself

This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s easy to feel like you need to act a certain way when attending a networking event, especially if you’re surrounded by corporate figures.

In reality, though, disingenuous networking is useless because it creates connections on a false premise that’ll never help your career. Instead, be authentic when seeking connections, specifically concerning things like your military experience and your personality.

Rob presenting at a networking event

Seek Veteran-Focused Events

Veterans and military personnel face some unique challenges when entering the civilian workforce, which is why it can be valuable to look out for veteran-focused events like the ones held by the University of Maryland Global Campus.

These events may not be industry-specific in all cases, but they can help you to develop a network of individuals who are in the same position as you. If you’re uncertain of the right civilian career to choose, this network could lead you to unexpected opportunities and job openings.

Research in Advance

If possible, researching who will be in attendance at a networking event can help you to understand whether you already know anyone, and also who you most want to talk with. This makes it possible to develop a plan for great conversations that lead to lasting connections. Resources like LinkedIn can be especially useful for this purpose, revealing who the attendees are, where they work, and even some of their interests or experiences.

Craft an Elevator Pitch

Networking events can be busy, so you may not have long to make an impression on the individuals you choose to speak with. Research can help with this as it allows you to more specifically tailor your conversation openers. However, once you’ve found that in-point, an elevator pitch that outlines three basic points:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do (or did in the military),
  3. What sets you apart, can be invaluable.

Instead of simply outlining these things straightforwardly, try to get them across with a memorable story, or a relevant anecdote as this make you rememberable.

Showcase Your Military Strengths

Networking should put your military strengths on display, so make sure you’re doing that in key ways. Showcasing things like your ability to communicate, or your mind for critical thinking, can all help to provide you with an edge during any networking event.

You can showcase these skills both through your interactions themselves, and through the stories you tell of your work during those discussions. Simply make sure your stories are relevant to the conversation, and that you always bring things back around to the industry or group in question.

Network Strategically

Networking events can be overwhelming, and if you try to connect with every attendee, you’re unlikely to develop any lasting connections. Instead, use your research and industry understanding to tailor networking towards the best prospects for your needs.

This could include individuals within a certain company that interest you, or simply industry authorities who stand to teach you the most about the field you intend to enter.

Following-Up From A Networking Event as Veteran

Networking events themselves may be great for making connections, but you’re unlikely to earn yourself a job offer on the spot. Instead, you need to follow up on your networking in the right ways to ensure its use.

This is where you’ll open opportunities, and develop lasting and loyal connections that lead to recommendations and advice. Exchanging contact information with the individuals you’ve spoken to at the event is the first vital step here.

After an event, you should aim to follow up within no more than 24 hours, so that your conversation is still fresh in that individual’s mind. You can generally follow up via either a phone call or, more typically these days, a personalized email. Within your follow-up communication, you should:

  • Reference who you are, and the conversation you had
  • Offer something of use to that individual, such as a link to an article about something you discussed, or a connection you have that could be of use to them
  • Connect on LinkedIn with them. It’s a great professional network which will help you build your online network.
  • Suggest a further meeting to continue your discussion

This opens the doors for ongoing communication and a lasting, mutual connection that’s far more likely to result in a job later on.

You know it’s going to be uncomfortable, just start networking.

Returning to civilian life, and particularly re-entering the working world, can feel like a significant challenge for veterans. Networking can open you up to both important job opportunities, and invaluable support.

Both of these can make those veteran job hurdles easier to cross. Whether you have an intended career in mind or are simply interested in seeing where your military skills could land in a civilian sphere, well-chosen networking events are always worthwhile.

Simply make sure to network strategically, follow up on your connections, and utilize that network to secure the best-suited jobs for veterans moving forward.