Top 6 Networking Tips for Army and Military Leaders

Today, I want to share some of my best networking tips for Army and military leaders.  No, I am not talking about computer networking either.  I’m talking about building relationships with others.  I’m talking about building strategic relationships with people who can help you advance your ARNG or USAR Career.

I’ve found that most NCOs and Officers are clueless when it comes to networking.  They don’t know how to do it properly and they don’t have a formal game-plan to follow.   Even worse, they think that “if they are good at their job” that’s all they need to do to advance their career.  Unfortunately, that is not true, especially in the ARNG and USAR.

While you need to be good at what you do, you also need to “know” people.  People need to know who you are and what you bring to the table.  People must have a favorable impression of you as a person, a Soldier and as a leader.  More importantly, people must know you, like you and trust you.

Remember, every organization in the world is a network including the military.  Every organization has MANY networks within it.  You can call these “spheres of influence” or “small groups of people who look out for each other.”  Some people call this the Good Ole Boy System.  At the end of the day, we all belong to other people’s networks and we all have our own networks.  We have people who look out for us and people we look out for.  We have people that we like and people that like us.

I’ve found that the most successful Officers and NCOs have many networks.  They have strong personal and professional relationships with people of influence inside and outside of their organization.  Like it or not, you need to build networks to advance your civilian or military career.  In the paragraphs below, I’m going to share six networking tips for military leaders.  Let’s get started.

Tip # 1: Build a Strong Relationship with Your Rater and Senior Rater

You should do a good job and focus on building a strong, professional relationship with your rater and senior rater.  By no means should you kiss their butt.  What you should do is (1) treat them with respect, (2) help them succeed (3) be so good at your job that you are impossible to replace.

If you are good at what you do, your boss might bring you with them when they get promoted.  In most cases, you will also get promoted.  I’ve seen some Soldiers follow the same boss for most of their career.  As a result, they advanced their own career quickly.

Tip # 2: Treat Your Subordinates Like Gold

You should treat everyone with respect, including your subordinates.  You never know; one day one of your subordinates might become your boss.  If you treated them like crap when you were their boss, you can bet that when the tables are turned you will get treated like crap.  You also don’t know who your subordinates know.  Maybe they have an influential parent or friend that is much higher ranking than you.  If you treat them like crap all the time, you can bet that they will let these influential people know about you.  And if for no other reason, you should treat your subordinates well because it is the right thing to do!

networking tips for militaryTip # 3: Get to Know Influential People Outside of Your Unit

The ARNG, USAR and regular Army are big organizations.  The organizations are much bigger than your section, company or battalion.  You need to make it a point to meet people outside of your organization.  Whenever you visit another unit for a mission, make it a goal to meet someone in that unit.  Build a friendship if they are one of your peers.  If they are higher ranking, just introduce yourself and be professional.  Make sure that people never forget who you are.

You want to get to know people outside of your unit.  This means you should attend events such as galas, dining ins, dining outs, NGAUS Events, etc.  You join professional organizations, such as the Infantry Association, your DIVISION Association and any other organization where you can meet new people, especially people of influence.

Tip # 4: Keep in Touch Often

One of the best things you can do is a build a rolodex of everyone you meet.  Whenever you meet someone, get their business card.  When you get home (or back to the unit) send the person a note telling them it was nice to meet them.  Or send them an email to say the same thing.  Minimum once or twice a year, keep in touch with the person to say hello.  Don’t have an agenda.  Just be nice and show a genuine interest in the other person.  You never know where the relationship will take you.  They might think of you when a job opens up.

This is quite perhaps the easiest and best way to network because so few people do it.  How many hand written thank you cards did you get last year?  I bet you remember the people who sent you one (if you received any at all).  And when was the last time someone called you out of the blue and DIDN’T have an agenda?

Keeping in touch with others is the best way to network.  It’s also the easiest.

Tip # 5 Whenever You Meet Someone New, Treat Them Well

Treat everyone you meet as if they are important.  After all, everyone is important.  Even if the person is lower ranking than you, be nice!  Show a genuine interest in the person.  Find out a little bit about them.  Get their business card and add it to your rolodex.  You never know who that person works for.  You never know who that person knows.

Tip # 6 Never Burn a Bridge

Never make the mistake of burning a bridge.  Even if someone pisses you off, be nice.  Never end a relationship on a bad note.  Even when you leave a bad job, thank everyone for the opportunity.  Never bad mouth people in front of others.  You don’t know who that person has relationships with.  Always keep relationships positive, or at least neutral.

Final Thoughts

These are my six best networking tips for Army and military leaders.  You need to remember that every organization has a series of networks.  Your goal is to be great at what you do AND have strategic relationships with people of influence.  You can do this without kissing butt.  All you need to do is (1) be good at what you do, (2) treat everyone with respect, (3) show a genuine interest in others, (4) always strive to meet new people and build new relationships and (5) nurture the relationships you have by keeping in touch often.

I highly recommend you follow the advice in this article so you can advance your career and reach your career goals.

Do you have any other networking tips you would share? Do you have any questions? You can post them below. Thanks.

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12 thoughts on “Top 6 Networking Tips for Army and Military Leaders”

  1. I especially like the tip to treat your subordinates like gold. (This may encourage them to act like gold.) But not only is it just the right thing to do, other people will see you treating your subordinates well, and they will want to be around you, working for you or with you. And you never know when the roles could be reversed and you are needing to look up to the person who once had to look up to you.

  2. Networking is everything! I’m sure some of the failure to network is ignorance about how, but I think some is fear, they don’t want to look like “commander’s pet”. It does take finesse – blatant sucking up is so contemptable it works against the soldier, and it’s pretty obvious. For me the key to not getting “icky” about it is authenticity. Do the job with passion, going the extra mile, teamwork, and the humility you noted in a previous blog. I go the extra mile too, because it builds my self-respect, but I DON’T do it with expectations and a sense of entitlement.

    1. Networking and kissing butt are two different things. It’s important to network, regardless of your rank or duty position. People take care of people that they know, like, respect and trust. It’s your job to meet other people and to build a good, professional relationship with them. Being good at your job is not enough.

  3. I don’t think you can succeed in any industry without networking. These tips are well thought out and anyone would be wise to make plans to implement them. Of course you need to be nice and treat everyone with respect, but you’ve also got to get yourself out there. Anytime you have the opportunity to shake hands with someone in your field…Do it. Being a wallflower can literally hurt your career. Don’t act fake either. If you’re networking just because you think it might earn you a couple brownie points, it’s gonna show. Genuinely try and meet people and learn what they’re all about. Take special note of #6 – Never Burn Bridges!

  4. Couple more small tips about networking with business cards: When you take someone’s business card, look at it front and back and make an honest, polite, positive observation about it. I also ask if they might if I write on it, and as we talk, I make notes on it before I put it in my Rolodex or take a picture of it for my virtual file. Thank you so much for your networking tips for Army and military leaders. They fit for just about any industry or group in networking.

  5. Having one good meeting with someone does not constitute their being in your Network. Repeated meetings are essential for establishing a good relationship with a subordinate or a superior officer. Likewise, the relationship must stand on firm ground to be productive. Whether a relationship is based on an routine exchange of ideas or two people helping each other with their respective assignments, there needs to be an authentic tie, or you won’t be building a strong network. As for burning bridges, I think we all have worked with someone we wanted to tell off. Yet, as you pointed out, our one day subordinate could become our boss. If your prior relationship ended poorly, such a situation could become a nightmare.

  6. Often ego gets in the way of the rule about never burning bridges. It’s easy to think–especially when anger is involved–“Well, I’m done with these people; screw them.” But the Army is smaller than you think–and the Guard in any given state is smaller still. You’ll often meet those people again. To give an example–not that I had any conflicts in this case–on our first deployment my mech infantry platoon was task organized to an armor company from the other end of Louisiana for the year. That was 2004-05. In 2011 I received a call offering me a promotion to first sergeant of one of the cav troops. It turned out that my company commander from that deployment was now the squadron commander, one of the platoon sergeants was a fellow first sergeant, one of the tank commanders was an E-6 in the unit where I was taking over, and several of the senior NCOs were still part of the Headquarters Troop. In 2005 I never gave a second thought to the notion that I might ever work with those guys again.

    1. So true. That’s why we should never burn a bridge with anyone. The person you supervise today might just be our boss tomorrow! Or, the guy you work with today might be the guy overseeing the promotion board your packet goes before! Treat everyone with respect and you will be okay.

      Chuck Holmes

  7. Thanks for the tips! I definitely understand how difficult it can be to network when you’re in the military. My husband has had a difficult time ever since he’s come back from Iraq. I will pass this along to him and some of his buddies, as I know they’ll take these words to heart. Thanks again for the advice! Will definitely come back for more insight:-) It’s also good to know there are other people who understand how hectic military life can be too.

    1. You’re welcome, Michelle.

      Networking is so important. People often underestimate it, because they’ve never been taught the right way to do it. Most people confuse it with butt kissing. When you network the right way, it has nothing to do with butt kissing. It’s about forming strategic relationships where both parties involved create a win-win relationship with each other. Please tell your husband thanks for his service. And thanks for the comment.

      Chuck

  8. I really like the recommendation to treat your subordinates like gold. It’s so important in most any professional avenue in life to treat those as you’d like to be treated.

    1. So true Kevin.

      People forget that ultimately it’s the people working for us that get us promoted our get us fired. It is our ability to inspire and empower them that makes all the difference. When you treat people well, most of them will go the extra mile for you and work harder. This makes you look good, too.

      Chuck

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