By the time you are a Senior O-3 or Senior E-4 you have probably mastered the art of networking, military style. You will have attended any number of events, conferences, trainings, “dog and pony shows,” and had a couple of beers with the right people and, if you are “worth your salt” when a superior asks, “Hey, we need to get a …., fast, who do you know?” You actually know a few people you can call to get the job done. However, military networking is very different from civilian networking.
Here are a couple of reasons why:
1.A rapport is already established. The simple fact that you are in uniform already says “we have a common bond.” We’re all “part of the family.”
2.Everything about you is on your shirt, jacket or blouse. Think about it! Your name, rank, specialty (especially if you’re Navy or Coast Guard), where you’ve been, where you are currently stationed (if you’re Navy) and how well you’ve done in your career is there for everyone to see. We call them nametags, ribbons and medals, collar devices and rate badges, rank and hash marks, etc. Either way, we are able to “read” someone’s career before we even say, “hello.” So, we are able to quickly locate people who may be “super-connections” and ensure we spend some time with them to establish a relationship.
3.We tend to communicate any other information about ourselves very quickly using acronyms. And, we find out information about others just as quickly exactly the same way. So, we tend not to spend much time in “small talk.”
4. RHIP (rank has its privileges) is a very real phenomenon within our community. We all know who the highest ranking in the room is and we take our social cues from them. Everyone gets a chance for “face time” with the ranking officer and we move on to the next person.
Civilian-style networking, by contrast, moves very slowly. I remember the first time I attended a “networking” event post military service. It was at the Embassy of France. I couldn’t figure out why people were asking me the most inane questions until I realized, “oh, they don’t know who I am. I’m not in uniform.”
The realization helped me to shift from my “military mind” into my “civilian mind” and I was able to reach out to many people and formed some very good strategic alliances that would later help me in my business. And, I was also able to lend a few other people a hand with their businesses as well. So, Veterans and Military spouses, when networking with the civilian community please be prepared to ask and answer the following questions:
1. What’s your name?
2. Are you a member of this organization?
3. How did you hear about the event?
4. What business are you in?
5. What’s your position in your company?
6. How long have you been with the company?
7. What are some of your professional goals?
8. What type of clients do you work with?
These are the questions that would normally have been answered our uniforms. Now, you need to remember to ask them and be prepared to answer them. Happy networking! Please feel free to let me know what you thought about this post. I read all of the comments posted here.