Last month was the inaugural issue of Camo to C-Suite, and I received quite a bit of feedback from active service members, veterans and non-veterans alike. This month I’m going to focus on what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of transitioning – Networking. According to LinkedIn, nearly 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.
For some, networking and making new connections appears to come easy. Initially, I yearned to be like those individuals who seemed to naturally flow in and out of conversations and connect effortlessly. I’ve read numerous books and articles on communication, personal and professional development, and leadership, but I found one of the most relevant to be How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes. In the nine-part book, Lowndes discusses a multitude of how-to’s including; how to make someone feel like an old friend, how to start great small talk, and how to be a modern-day renaissance man or woman. However, the most impactful advice in my opinion is just being yourself and stay genuine. Though there is no chapter in Lowndes’ book that directly addresses these two subjects, they are woven throughout the text. This I feel is best because that is exactly how they should be adapted within your networking strategy.
Being authentic is not limited to your thoughts and words, but also your actions. Be confident in who and what you are. This does not mean be arrogant… Genuine people, in my experience, are comfortable in uncomfortable situations. They are ok with failure and they are honest with themselves and others. They know their limitations and when to ask for help. They know to embrace faults or shortcomings and grow from them. Anyone can amplify their strengths, but to be truly resilient we must be able to absorb and process both positive and negative aspects of our character. In the Marine Corps, this is highlighted through Leadership Principles, aka know yourself and seek self-improvement. Come to grips that you may not be the smartest person in the room, in fact you should be comfortable and embrace surrounding yourself with equally smart or even smarter people.
This past May I attended the Retail Industry Leaders Association Asset Protection (RILA-AP) conference in Denver, Colorado. It was my second-year attending, and I can attest to the fact that the rooms were full of smart people. Each industry has their own professional development platforms and industry forums and RILA is one such event for the entire retail ecosystem. RILA-AP was filled with main stage presentations, breakout sessions, peer forums, expo experiences and, most importantly, informal social gatherings. It was an immersive networking event for both new and old connections. Establishing, building and growing relationships are key when charting into uncharted territory. RILA is a prime example of using your network to grow your network. Don’t solely focus on individuals with the same background or industry experience because expanding your aperture opens a whole new world.
As your transition begins, I recommend identifying and optimizing networking opportunities such as job fairs, social gatherings, intern programs, expos and conferences. Loosen the military jargon and be comfortable entering this next phase of the journey. One of the connections I made when preparing to separate from active duty introduced me to Veterati, a mentoring network for America’s military. Veterati is free and assists service members, veterans, and military spouses in setting up mentorship calls with successful professionals and can be accessed at https://www.veterati.com/. The platform allows you to connect with others who have made the transition, as well as industry professionals who may be able to provide invaluable insight about the industry you are trying to enter. And remember, when you successfully transition, send the elevator back down for the next person.
Christopher Cox – CEO