As a military spouse, networking is so important but also incredibly daunting and
exhausting! While constantly moving, networking is the key to everything from finding a
group of friends (or just one friend), to finding a job, or even a new hairstylist. My
husband really put my networking abilities to the test with our recent move because I
had never even visited the town to which we were moving. If I had never been there
before, how the heck was I going to find friends, a good hairstylist, the best local wine
bar, let alone get a job?!?
As someone who is naturally reserved and uncomfortable in large groups of people, the
idea of networking truly intimidates me. When “networking” is mentioned, I picture a
room filled with hundreds of people passing around business cards hoping they will
meet the right person to give them exactly what they need. The first step in successful
networking for me was changing this mentality.
Once I realized that having a one-on-one conversation counts, I felt much more at ease
with the idea of “networking.” I don’t pass my business card out to everyone I meet
(though I do carry some in my purse) or immediately share my employment history with
the hopes of getting hired on the spot. My idea of networking now consists of asking
questions and getting to know the people I meet. My favorite question to ask people I
meet when I get to a new city is “what is your favorite part about this city?” I’ve found
that people are always interested in sharing the good parts of town and I’ve learned
about a lot of great new places to visit. It opens the door to conversation and allows you
to find out more about the person you are talking to. Typically, when people find out I
just moved to their town, they get so excited to share ideas, ask where I moved from
and why, and offer support. I’ve had at least five people in the last week ask my what
my career field is and offer to send me any job opportunities they hear about. Each time
it started with me asking them to share with me what they love about their city.
Changing my mentality about networking alleviated a lot of the stress I felt about
meeting new people. Here are a few other tips I’ve found helpful in building a network in
a completely new city:
1. Attend base events – one thing I have noticed is that my husband LOVES going
to events and spending time with his colleagues outside of work. I have found it
incredibly helpful to go to these events with him. As exhausting as it is
sometimes to go somewhere after a long day, I’ve found some really great
connections through these events. You’d be surprised how many local
connections you can gain through your fellow military families. Many military
families have been in the area for a few years and can help you get integrated
into the community.
2. Facebook Groups – join spouse’s Facebook groups for your next duty station
before you arrive. You can start to ask questions and find people with similar
interests. The best part is, they are all milspouses, so they understand what you
are experiencing and will be there when you arrive to celebrate!
3. Volunteer – (especially if you don’t have a job) when you arrive to a new duty
station, volunteering is a great way to meet people. Find an organization you are
passionate about and apply to be a volunteer. You will meet people with similar
interests and build your resume at the same time! People from all walks of life
volunteer for different organizations in their free time. If you build a good
relationship with the staff, your chances of getting a job with them increases if
they already know you and know you are dedicated to their mission.
4. Find a club – I love to read and run, and I’ve found that focusing on one of my
hobbies has helped me find friends. With social media, you can search for clubs
in your area. I’ve been able to find running clubs and have enjoyed exploring the
community through the planned runs. Sometimes the clubs have yearly fees, but
is is worth paying a fee to support the community and meet new people.
5. Ask people you know to introduce you – my former boss from my job at our last
duty station grew up in our new city. He was able to connect me to people with
whom he grew up. They were even kind enough to help us find a house and tell
us the best places to live before we arrived. And now that I know them well
enough, you better believe I am going to ask them if they know of anyone hiring!
These gals have lived here their entire lives, so who better to connect me to the
6. Have a drink – they don’t call it a “social lubricant” for nothing! It helps me to have
something in my hands when talking to strangers and it definitely helps me
loosen up to sip a cocktail. Just be responsible!
7. Be kind – people are way more willing to help you and introduce you to others if
you are kind to them!
Every new duty station is going to come with new challenges and new people. Hopefully
using these tips will help you build your network and feel more comfortable asking for
help in your new community. And if nothing else, you have the MilSpouseADU
community! Reach out to Melissa or the Facebook group. You never know who is a
P.S. I’m writing this from the floor of our new living room using a rubbermaid tub as a
table. Contact me if you want to share your success and struggles for rebuilding your
-MilSpouse ADU Ambassador, Katie VanOort