Networking in a Virtual World

Kelsey Wolf-Wallace

“I don’t know how to network.” 

As a career coach, I hear that at least twice per week. If this is a phrase you’ve said or thought before, you’re not alone. Many service members and veterans struggle with the networking aspect of the job search. As the Program Manager for Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program, our team works with thousands of E1 to E4 service members and veterans annually who are still learning the power of networking.

At Hire Heroes USA, our mission is to empower our clients with the tools they need to have a successful job search, and with that, here are some tips to help you find success in the world of virtual networking!

1. Understand What Networking is

Consider this definition from Hire Heroes USA’s Networking Success Guide. “Networking is the exchange of ideas and information among individuals, groups or organizations for the purpose of building a productive and mutually beneficial relationship. Simply put, networking is a conversation in which you develop an understanding of each other’s needs and how you can support each other.”

Networking can involve many actions from reaching out to someone on LinkedIn to learn about their company to engaging with someone in a virtual chatroom. Take the opportunity to ask questions and learn from whoever you’re speaking with – people love to talk about themselves, so let them!

2. Join a LinkedIn Networking Group is an essential networking platform, but it’s not like Facebook or Instagram. According to a recent Forbes article, 95% of recruiters and hiring managers utilize this platform to find qualified applicants and vet those they bring in for interviews.

You can join groups to engage in conversation with others who are interested in similar career paths. According to LinkedIn, “LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share their insights and experiences, ask for guidance, and build valuable connections.” Hire Heroes USA clients have access to videos such as this one to help build out and improve your profile. Once you’ve set up a stellar LinkedIn profile, start joining relevant LinkedIn groups.

For Junior Enlisted service members, a good starting place is our Hire Heroes USA Junior Enlisted LinkedIn Group. This group is a networking and professional development forum for all transitioning service members and veterans between the ranks of E1 and E4 in addition to hiring managers, recruiters and other advocates of the military community.

3. Utilize LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn offers veterans and military spouses a free one year subscription to LinkedIn Premium. By registering, veterans and military spouses can unlock several features, including the use of the InMail function to reach out to hiring managers which can improve your chances of getting in touch with someone at your companies of interest. Premium users also have access to over 15,000 expert-led LinkedIn Learning courses to sharpen your skills and competitive edge as a job seeker.

4. Attend AND Maximize Virtual Events

In the pre-pandemic days, you would prepare for a career fair by dressing in your best business clothes and heading to an event venue to shake hands with future employers. In 2022, that might seem more uncommon. You are likely preparing by getting your laptop set up and double checking your internet connection. With the rise in virtual events, you must switch up your approach to networking. Instead of bringing your business card, you should be sharing your LinkedIn profile. Here are a few tips to help guide your next virtual event or meeting:

  • Utilize the chat function to introduce yourself. Share a quick blurb about your background and your LinkedIn URL.

  • Once others start sharing their information, send them meaningful connection requests on LinkedIn. From there, you can shoot them a message to tell them you attended the XYZ event as well and would love to stay in touch in the future.

5. Schedule Virtual “Walks”

Virtual “Walks” – what are those? I recently had a veteran client  tell me he’s been working on building his network on LinkedIn by setting up three calls weekly with different LinkedIn connections, lining up the calls with his daily walk. He uses this conversational setting to ask them about where they work, what they do, advice they have about navigating the job search and so on. Challenge yourself to grow your network by doing the same (and bonus: you could get in a few extra steps along the way.) 

Networking can seem both ambiguous and overwhelming, but once you start putting these tips into practice, it can open many doors! You don’t have to do it all at once to see results. If you’re ready to start working on networking and LinkedIn, you can reach out to your Transition Specialist for support. You can also visit your MyTrak account to access the Video Resource Library containing a number of videos focused on effective job searching. Don’t forget to register for a Hire Heroes USA virtual event to start applying your new networking skills! 

Looking for networking opportunities in Idaho? 

Mission 43, partnered with Hire Heroes USA, has a variety of networking and in-person event opportunities for Idaho veterans, transitioning military personnel and spouses. Mission43,  established in 2016, was built on three pillars: Employment, Education and Engagement, to assist transitioning military personnel and spouses back into civilian life after service. Mission43 is the only one of its kind in the country. 

Whether you are job searching, changing careers, pursuing certifications or just looking for ways to network with like-minded professionals, get connected and check out the events calendar at Mission43. March upcoming events: Hiking Series, Entrepreneur course, Project Management Professional certification prep, North Idaho Coffee Hour, and Happy Hour. 

Kelsey Wolf-Wallace is the Program Manager for Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program. If you’re interested in receiving free career support with Hire Heroes USA, click here to learn more.