Cultivating a Network
Networking is a basic career skill, but building a professional network takes time. Think of it as a system of concentric circles with your most valued mentors, friends, and associates in your inner circle. The composition of your active inner circle will change as your professional situation evolves. Remember, however: a helpful lead from someone who knows someone you know can be just as valuable as a tip from your closest mentor. Also remember that every USMA graduate has a potential network of more than 48,000 service academy alumni in the Internet Service Academy Business Resource Directory: www.isabrd.com. Here are some tips for effective networking:
- Participate in the Service Academy Business Resource Directory. The SABRD (www.isabrd.com) contains business listings submitted by thousands of graduates. Most have volunteered to assist fellow graduates with their career transitions.
- Actively cultivate your professional network. Have a plan to stay in touch: Your inner circle should be those best positioned to help you: mentors, influential executives, recruiters specializing in your career field, leaders of networking groups, etc. Keep these most important contacts abreast of your professional situation. The second tier or circle should be all others willing to forward a lead to you or scout for opportunities.
- Prepare for networking conversations. Research before you call. Prepare questions. Plan a two-way conversation.
- Show an appreciation for the value of a person's time. Ask for 15 minutes or so. Offer to call back at a more convenient time, if necessary.
- Concisely state the object of your search. If you are making a first transition, you are probably considering several career fields. That's OK, but be as precise as you can. A networking contact resembles a radar in some ways: the more precisely tuned, the more defined and reliable the returns.
- Make modest requests. Make it easy for the contact to help you. Attempt to create a relationship.
- At the end of the networking conversation, seek an agreement on a next step, if appropriate. May I call you again in a month? Would you be willing to refer me to an associate who might assist me?
- Personally thank those who tried to help you. Send a personalized note or email.
- Be a giver. Look for ways to help those in your network.
Some Ways to Incorporate USMA Connections into Your Network:
- West Point Societies and Joint Service Academy Networking Groups: Some West Point Societies have career advisory or business networking programs. If the society in your area of interest does not have a program listed on its Web site, contact the society president to inquire. West Point societies will also be aware of joint service academy networking groups in the geographical area. (See West Point Societies , linked to this Web site.)
- Join our LinkedIn Network: 11,899 strong and growing!
- Executive Recruiters: Search consultants and executive recruiters specializing in your industry or career field can be helpful. Additionally, if you have friends in the recruiting industry, seek their advice. (See Kennedy's Pocket Guide to Working With Executive Recruiters.) See the Industry/Recruiting section of the Service Academy Business Resource Directory, where many recruiters are listed.
- Use iSABRD.com