PCSing to a new duty station is a significant undertaking. Adjusting to new family routines and learning to navigate your way around yet another unfamiliar city are only a couple of challenges that come with the military lifestyle.
If you’re lucky, your job comes along with you. For many military spouse professionals however, the job you held at a previous duty station becomes another PCS casualty. So what do you do when you’re job hunting in a city where you likely only know your next-door neighbor (if you’re lucky)?
Networking in a new city can feel a bit like you’re searching for that one perfect rose in a bush full of thorns and weeds, but it can be much less painful. Here are seven tips to help.
1. Do Some Research (ideally before you move)
Doing some research on the local business community will make networking and job hunting a little less overwhelming. Start by researching major employers in your new area. The city’s local business journal is a great resource for this, as is the local chamber of commerce. Identify key people in the organizations you are interested in working for, and reach out to them by email or LinkedIn.
2. Reach Out to Your Current Network
The military lifestyle is much like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: chances are you may already know people in your new location. One of the best ways to expand your network is by tapping into the one you have already cultivated, so get in touch with the folks in your network, and don’t be shy. Ask them to introduce you to people they know in your community. While they may not have connections in a highly specialized field, their connections might.
3. Get Online…But Follow Up Offline
Use LinkedIn (as well as other social networks) to seek out industry professionals in your new city. Drop them a note, explain your situation, and invite them to connect with you. This is a situation where cold calling is perfectly acceptable, and usually pretty well received.
But don’t stop there. As we explained in a recent article you need to follow up and build in-person relationships (whenever possible) to make the meaningful connections that may lead to future job opportunities.
4. Join a Professional Organization in Your Field
Industry-specific professional organizations are a no-brainer. They help you build your network, get the inside scoop on the local employment market, and offer a range of career development and educational opportunities. This site features links to more than 1,500 professional organizations in a wide range of industries.
If you can’t find one that suits your needs, consider a professional organization that’s not industry specific, such as In Gear Career, where you can develop other professional skills while also making connections in with your local business community and other career-minded military spouses.
5. Speak Up and Say Yes
Don’t just join a professional organization, get involved! Attend the meetings and volunteer to help out with events or committees. Being “the new person in town” is your icebreaker, and by volunteering you’ll quickly gain access to well-connected local professionals in your industry.
6. Kick Your Shy Alter Ego to the Curb
This is not the time to let your insecurities or shyness prevent you from getting out there and building new relationships. And I speak from a place of experience: I hid in the ladies’ room, during more than a couple of networking events I attended early in my career.
Practice introducing yourself and giving your “elevator pitch” to a family member (or a mirror if no one is around) until you feel comfortable to use it in a real life scenario. The more you practice, the easier it will become, and the more your confidence will soar.
7. Don’t Get Discouraged
Even with your newfound confidence, it’s important to remember that not every person you meet will be a good connection for you, and that’s OK. Some of your requests may go unanswered; and that’s OK, too.
Building a network, like gardening, takes time and consistent effort. Even prizewinning roses start out as puny bushes littered with thorns. The only thing that separates them from the rest is the ongoing nurturing their owners provided.