Four Steps to Finding a Mentor (Outside of the Military)
I like to say that your LinkedIn profile is an “elevator pitch” that is always turned on. Done right, it gives people a quick understanding of your professional identity and goals. It also tells them whether you have enough shared interests that a professional relationship (connection or more) is feasible. That is why my first article focused on the basics of creating a strong profile. [Read “5 Easy Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” here.]
The next step is using your profile to identify and develop relationships with professionals in your desired field.
The reality is that you need mentors outside of the military to provide advice, translate skills, and identify realistic goals. Develop a professional relationship, and some may even be willing to provide an employee referral for positions, which can greatly increase your chance of landing a job.
The good news is that there are over 22 million veterans in America that have all gone through the transition, many of whom are in your desired field and location. They understand what you are going through, have navigated it successfully, and are often willing to help. You just need to figure out who they are and continually reach out until you find the right ones.
Fortunately, LinkedIn’s “Search” function enables you to do this!
Using the “Search” function and advanced filters, you can identify and contact veterans in the exact job, location, and sometimes even the company where you want to work. Here is a step-by-step method on how to do it:
1. Type the title of the job you desire in the “Search” bar.
2. Click the “People” tab directly below the “Search” bar once the results populate.
You now have an extensive list of people in your desired job.
3. On the right side of the screen you will see a “Filter People By” section. Click “Locations” to expand the selection and either select the area where you want to work or “+Add” it.
Now you have a list of people in your desired job and location.
4. On the right side of the screen you will also see a filter called “Past Companies.” Click to expand this selection and, if it is not an option, “+Add” your branch of service. For example, type and select U.S. Army if you served in the Army.
This is now a list of veterans in your desired job, location, and from your branch of service.
If the list is extensive, you can sort it further by current company, education, industry, key words, etc. The goal is to find several individuals with whom you share enough similar interests to connect.
Scroll through the results and message a few of them. Make sure to highlight your similar backgrounds and ask for a few minutes (coffee or a phone call) to learn how they transitioned successfully. You’ll find that many veterans are willing to help – we know how it feels. Treat it like an informational interview, be professional, don’t ask for a job (an unwritten rule), and you are on your way to developing a supportive network of mentors that increases your chances of finding your next career.
Michael Quinn is a retired U.S. Army sergeant major and the director for workforce management & veteran programs at ProSphere. He and his family reside in the greater Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached here.
By Michael Quinn