Networking and the Art of Making Contacts

Title:Networking and the Art of Making Contacts

Author:Chris Lawson, copyright, Permission Army Times. All rights reserved.

It may surprise many servicemembers looking for a civilian job to hear Jeanette Calli's definition of networking.

"You're not networking for a job," says Calli, a career counselor for the Army Career and Alumni Program at Fort Belvoir, Va. "Ultimately, you're networking for information." More than 75 percent of all new jobs come through some form of networking, she says.

But networking is more than just finding out about specific jobs at specific companies. It's also a means of making contacts and gathering information, both of which ultimately could lead to a specific job.

"People are so much more willing -- and often able -- to give you information and not just a job," Calli says. "People love to talk about themselves. If you approach them that way, they'll often be much more receptive to you.

"When you pressure them to find you a job, they can often get apprehensive."


Too often job seekers, in approaching possible contacts, pressure them for help in finding a position and fail to take advantage of other, perhaps equally valuable information that a person might provide, such as:

  • What they did to get the jobs they have.
  • What professional associations in that field might provide help and contacts.
  • What skills, education or certification are required in that field.
  • The salary range for jobs in that field.

The human resources manager and company president are just a couple of the people who can answer your questions. Calli suggests starting with the people who know you best, no matter who they are.

"You never know who your mother might know. The woman in her church may have a son who works in the same field you're trying to enter."

Military career counselors themselves often are the best contacts, Calli says. They are familiar with local and national job markets and have access to all kinds of data.

Professional organizations, including volunteer groups, are a common avenue for networking, she says.


Meet as many people as possible who might someday be in a position to help you, Calli says.

Timing also counts. The sooner you start building a network, the better. One year before leaving the service is ideal, experts say, but you can do a lot in just several months.

"Everybody knows something that can benefit you in the transition process -- both good and bad," says Tony Makara, also a career counselor at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The people servicemembers can meet at job fairs, for instance, "might not be able to help you today," Makara says, "But who knows what the future might hold?"

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