Salute to Spouses Blog

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Network, network, network

The job hunt continues, one year on.

I’ve been told I’m underqualified. I’ve been told I’m overqualified. I’ve been told I was a top candidate but was missing one key piece of experience.

At one point I was even told, off the record, that at 50 years of age I am too old for a job in marketing or social media.

My main effort, though, has been put toward writing and journalism jobs, my stock and trade for the past 25 years.

And I think I’ve finally discovered the real reason I haven’t gotten a job, despite well over two dozen applications in the past year. What’s the secret? It all goes back to that saying we’ve all heard: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

So I decided to take a big step to change that. This week I attended the Military Influencers Conference, or MIC. The annual event was held in Orlando this year, which is just an hour from my house.

I didn’t know a single person there, although there were a few I “knew” from Facebook or mutual friends.

I left with the names and emails of a dozen people to send my resume, and a long list of others to contact.

MIC is touted as “an exciting, dynamic event that brings together hundreds of spouses, community leaders, entrepreneurs, and influencers united by a passion for the military.”

An influencer is a person with credibility and the ability to reach a large number of people in a certain market, field or area. That person is considered to have enough pull to influence the way people think, the products that they buy, and how others view their industry, products or brand, among other things.

The conference included more than 350 attendees, over 30 exhibitors and some 35 speakers, panels and round-table discussions. The focus was on veterans, active duty personnel, military spouses, and those whose business, organization or product serve that sector.

Many were entrepreneurs or freelancers. Others came from well-established brands in the military world, or the nonprofit sector.

Really, though, we were all there to network. While the presentations were compelling, most of us spent our time connecting individually with others in our same fields. The conference had an app where you could look up each attendee’s information, including a profile picture. I’m not ashamed to admit I stalked a few people, and when I found them I just walked up and introduced myself.

That’s a little out of my comfort zone which, for me, was kind of the whole point.

What did I learn at MIC? Here are my key takeaways:

  • Keep up with your previous employers and co-workers, as well as college friends or anyone else who might be able to help you find a job either now or in the future. Follow them on social media. Send them a holiday card. Know their current contact information.
  • Network, network, network. Yes, we hear that all the time. But one of the key things I heard over and over again at MIC was that you also have to continue to grow your network. Join new groups that might be have people in your career field, volunteer, go to Chamber of Commerce meetings and professional organizations. ‘
  • Connections are everywhere. Chat up people in the grocery store, at your kid’s school and on airplanes. Let your parents brag about you to their friends – they just may know someone who knows someone.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Have a standard 30-second “elevator pitch” prepared that you can spout off anywhere – like in the grocery line, or at that PTA meeting or on the airplane.
  • Learn who the influencers are in your career field or area of interest. Follow them. If you can, try to meet them in one way or another.
  • Always carry business cards, even if they just have your name and contact information on them. MIC made me realize I should carry some of my husband’s, too. You never know when an opportunity might present itself!
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