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!
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.
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.