Editor’s note: The following is an Ask the Experts feature, in which questions related to transitioning out of the military are answered by the experts who know best. Answers may be edited for clarity, style and length. If you have a transition-related question, we’d love to help you answer it. Just send your question to stories@rebootcamp.com.

Question:

How do I network?

Answer:

Rebootcamp Recommendations

Any way you can!

Many soon-to-be transitioning service members and spouses view career fairs as confusing. But these events serve as the easiest and best initial source of networking. You get to see what opportunities are available and what fields are hot or growing. You get the chance to actually speak with a real person who can answer questions.

Recruiters are known to give advice to job seekers. Their tips often involve ways to better network into the career you want ― whether with their company or with another employer.

I suggest using a reverse-engineering approach to networking. Once you have a specific job in mind, try to figure out how a company would find the talent it seeks.

As an example, imagine there’s a health care employer looking for a radiology technician. How does one become a radiology technician? Either by going to a civilian school or a service school if they’re in the military. Higher education institutions know who is looking to hire their graduates, so it only makes sense that colleges and universities be a good starting point. Another thing to consider: What organizations would a radiology technician belong to? That’s already two sources to begin building your network, but there are many more.

Find someone already doing the job you want and ask them for advice. This is similar to peer networking, even if you don’t have the same job yet. My point is simply to think outside YOUR box. Be creative!

One last piece of advice when networking: NEVER abuse the process. Don’t be that person who tries to get as much as possible, but never offers anything in return. ALWAYS thank someone who has given you help, with a simple thank you note or letter, an offer to take them to lunch, or a small token of appreciation for their time and advice. Think “Golden Rule.”

―Robert Schumacher, Marketing Coordinator & Transition Services Specialist, Fort Hood Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program