“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” How many times have you heard that little gem? In terms of getting ahead in your career, it’s a concept that is considered the single most important self-marketing technique available. It’s thought so vitally important, in fact, that it earned its own one-word definition in the greater lexicon of our society: networking.
Don’t take our word for it. Search the Internet and you’ll see millions upon millions of results for networking tips, training, and events. Individuals, companies, universities, and entire industries pay good money to attend or hold networking events or conferences. They’ll call them all sorts of things, too: meet and greets, seminars, career fairs, retreats, and trade shows. What it boils down to is a place to meet other people interested in similar things.
While the contacts developed through these venues are valuable, the long-term, tangible benefits are hit or miss. Unfortunately, it often seems that all anyone is interested in at these events is who can collect the most phone numbers or email addresses.
Where these gatherings fail is that true networking needs a platform that allows for time to build trusted relationships that eventually develop into a robust sphere of influence. Service in the Army National Guard provides just such a platform because it creates the requisite common ground wholly unrelated to sales volume, the fiscal quarter, or job opportunity.
Starting with training, National Guard members join an exclusive group made up of those willing and able to serve their community, state, and nation. Once through Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, members serve together at least one weekend a month and two weeks a year. They train, serve, and watch each other’s backs. They respond together when called upon by the governor or president. New recruits keep things fresh, while long-termers help the new team members learn the ropes. These are the ties that bind because almost nowhere else in civilian life will you find this kind of camaraderie.
And most of the time, contact information will be exchanged. Guard members, almost invariably, can say, “I know someone who can help you with that.”
So if paying to gather together with a bunch of strangers is called networking, it’s fair to call serving alongside men and women in the National Guard who have become like family – and enjoying all the benefits of service as well – extreme networking.