Veteran’s Perspective: Military Grade Networking

By Jeyben Castro, U.S. Navy Senior Community Engagement Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility Washington Gas

Jeyben Castro proudly served in the United States Navy active duty for five years and active reserves for another five years. Mobilized in support of Operation Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom. Castro currently serves as the Senior Community Engagement Manager for Washington Gas.

What do you want to do after retirement? Will you continue to work in the same field or consider new career options? Will you further your education? Questions we in the military have heard when it’s time for us to retire or look for another career outside of the service. There are many steps we should consider when preparing to take on a life outside of the military. Most people recommend that you start at least two years before you leave the military to start proactive planning and map out your next step.

You shouldn’t wait until your last two years to begin brainstorming about your future. An initial step to take from day one is to actively network. It’s a military-made skill-set that is natural and perfectly suits everyone who has served our country. Military personnel move locations on an average of once every two-to-three years and are constantly meeting new acquaintances. Networking is what we do when we transfer to a new base, get to know new coworkers, learn the ins and outs of the local community, better understand area schools or simply finding a place to eat.

The experience and day-to-day skills we attain in the military shape how we adjust and adapt to a constantly changing environment, especially as we enter the next chapter in civilian careers and when committing to on-going networking to stay connected with the right contacts that can support our interests and goals.

Here are some tips to keep in mind to successfully build your networking relationships:

Just like in the military, think of this as building friendships. Take the “work” out of networking and build relationships! Keep in mind that just like in the military, friends you made while stationed in Italy, for example, can be someone you might run into again anywhere else in the world unexpectedly. The same holds true in the civilian world; namely, treat everyone with the same respect. Also, consider the fact that your intern today might be a great lead for an opportunity at a new company later in the future.

Jeyben (right) graduates from bootcamp with his Recruit Division Commander RDC in 1995.

A great way to start growing your network early in your career is by using tools such as LinkedIn. This is a proven way to not only grow your databank of contacts but also keep your resume of experience, background and education updated. In my experience, what works well is to always send a personalized note after connecting with someone on LinkedIn, a simple: “It was great to meet you at EVENT and DATE and glad we connected on SUBJECT.” This simple quick note is to remind me later how, when and why we met. Because we might not be able to reconnect with some of these relationships until later, it’s great to have a reminder.

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