Social Networking for Veterans: An Introduction

234 sm namesTwitter.  The buzz word of the media industry.  The name alone makes some shudder with fear or disgust; others light up with elation at the mention of it.  Where do you stand?  You may have heard stories about how Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can help you find a job.  Increasingly more often, commonplace employers are utilizing these networks not only for posting employment opportunities, but also cross-referencing potential candidates for social network activity.  Some people have been using these for a while, but are they a new concept to you?  Perhaps you utilized Facebook and Myspace to communicate with loved ones back home during a recent deployment, but do you know the true power these networks possess, and the gains you can realize from each?

There’s no rush.  The integration of each of these can be taken on a step-by-step basis, which will eventually culminate into an awesome force that you can navigate with ease. Not only will this enhance your job search experience, but contribute to the ongoing growth of your career with improved access to connections, client relations and available opportunities.

How to get started:

A professional-sounding email address: Using a free web-based service is perfectly appropriate for your initial step.  If you have a current work email, don’t use that, many companies have access to and periodically review employee email activity.  Choose a name that provides an effective representation of who you are, more specifically, USE YOUR NAME!  Too many times have I seen the likes of iluvyourmom@mailserver.com and weeder420@mailserver.com appear on a “serious” job searcher’s resume that crosses the desk.  Why did HR even bother to pass this on?  Is this how you want your potential employer to perceive you?

Format your email address like this:

FIRSTNAMELASTNAME@mailserver.com
FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME@mailserver.com

Have a common name?

FIRSTNAME.MI.LASTNAME@mailserver.com

Have a lengthy name?

FI.LASTNAME@mailserver.com should do the trick.

Utilize the free services of Yahoo or Gmail; these are both very easy to use and aren’t in danger of extinction any time soon so you can rest easy knowing your email address and inbox won’t become obsolete at the end of the week.  This is the email you will use for signing up for each of your social media accounts.

Smile for the Camera

Take a quality, professional-looking photo:  Use the ideology that this photo portrays who you want to be, and how you want others to see and treat you.  A casual shot is OK, but do you want the first image employers to see before they meet you to be a prank you pulled on your buddy in the barracks with a can of shaving cream?  That person isn’t likely to get an immediate phone call for an interview.  This is the photo you are going to use for each of your default pages; consistency is also key, so hold on to it.  Keep in mind Twitter only allows a very small, square image, so you want one that is thumbnail-friendly.

SIDE NOTE: If you haven’t updated your resume yet, do so now; current, relevant information is going to be crucial for the next steps.

Sign Up, Soldier!

So, it’s not quite like signing your name on the dotted line for enlistment but your commitment to the social media sites you choose is fully expected if you want to see the best return on your investment.

First, sign up for LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a platform that allows you to not only expand on the information found on your resume, but demonstrate your expertise, benefit from the expertise of others, and help connect with those who share similar interests or background.  Your summary should not be a canned job description of your past positions.  Potential employers know the basics of nearly any position, your task is to explain what specific accomplishments make you different and what has contributed to your success in your particular field of expertise.  Paint a vivid picture that is appealing and intriguing, but make sure it’s honest.  Think about any activities you do outside of your specialty that relate.  Did/do you have a group that discusses issues or assists others in any way?  Do you contribute to the advancement of training?

Once your profile is completely filled out, start recruiting connections.  Use the people search to find people you already know, or browse the various groups and companies you have joined to find others that share similar interests that you would like to connect with.  More connections = more opportunity, but make sure to take the extra few seconds to personalize the stock email LinkedIn defaults to.  Comment on common interests you have found with someone you would like to know, or for the friends you already have, make sure to mention something positive you noticed, they’ll be sure to appreciate it!

Second, your Facebook page.  As this platform becomes ever more popular by the day, with a user population greater than that of many countries, many of you may already have one.  Start with cleaning up your photo albums, and use the default picture we already established for your profile photo.  Fill out enough information to give a clear picture of who you are, but don’t overdo it; make sure you only information you are comfortable with publishing to everyone is made public.

Facebook is about communication; most use it as a source for “lifestreaming.”  This means that as some may be wondering why everyone wants to know what you had for breakfast, others are sharing knowledge and experiences with each other through photographs and events.  Similar to LinkedIn, groups are where you can participate in a private community sharing thoughts and ideas.  These functions are where the most amount of networking outside your established friends will take place.

Twitter is the final platform to help tie all this together. Twitter is only intimidating to those that don’t know how to use it efficiently.  As we speak, business partnerships are being formed, collaborations created, resources shared, and jobs found.  Twitter can be very well explained by this short video by Commoncraft, Twitter in Plain English.  Described as the “virtual water cooler,” Twitter is a hub for sharing valuable information and engaging in thought-provoking dialogue.  Twitter is simple to use.  Twitter is an easy place to make new connections, and quickly.  Twitter is fun.  Twitter is your easy access to the decision-makers, if you know how to find them.

Sign up for twitter, and get your feet wet.  Use the default picture, and make your bio personal, but short and fun.  It takes some time after acquiring a certain number of followers and people following you to start understanding the value.  People who follow me can expect to read anything from job search and personal branding tips to social media and veteran’s news.  Participation in the conversation is the best way to develop relationships.  Sit back and listen, then jump in when you’re ready.  Don’t beg for followers; when others see you are both interested and interesting, the followers will come.

This triad of social media, when integrated correctly, will be the key to accessing the people that can change your career, and your life.

Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to hear them!
Email: drew@boots-to-suits(dot)com
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This post was written by
Former Combat Infantryman (OEF, OIF2) turned business and finance professional. Advocate for fellow veterans in the struggle to find careers when they leave the service. Someone once asked me how I did it so easily. "Easily?" Going from gunshots and explosions to school and business was most certainly not "easy." That was when I was encouraged to tell my story and why, since then, I have made my mission to not only help those in the same struggle succeed, but raise awareness and gather support.

3 Comments on "Social Networking for Veterans: An Introduction"

  • That’s an interesting post, I really think that social networkingnetworking type of websites are going to be taking a huge gain in 2010. I really think that we are only in the introduction stages of social networking and we can see that with applications like Foursqure, it’s only a matter of time until all things are working together at an even greater level. I’m can’t wait and am excited for this year, it’s gonna be a big year in social networking. What are your thoughts?

  • What I’ve found is that we all want to be heard. It’s more about sharing as we’re learning than teaching what we know. That leaves folks a whole lot more room to talk.

  • Speaking about social networking for vets, I don’t know what you guys think about this, but a new site is launching called VetsVillage.com.

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