Having a network goes deeper though than just the number of followers you have on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. To make your network provide results it's imperative to get out of your comfort zone, learn and contribute.
20 years ago, I was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. If you know of that base, you might understand that the base is basically in the middle of the desert, far from society. It was there that I first learned the importance of having a network. We leaned on each other almost like we were stationed in a foreign country. We supported each other like a family. Most of us were away from family so we became like a second family. Those were the days prior to social media and social distancing. We spent all day at work together and followed that up with most of our off duty time together. I met people from around the country, all who had a story to tell, I engaged with them and learned in the process. Countless times we would support each other and our families without question. I keep in touch with people from that time period still to this day and if one of them needed me, I would be there for them.
Fast forward 20 years and I am back in California transitioning out of uniform and into the business world. I may not be at Edwards Air Force Base any more, but my brothers and sisters in arms still continue to be a vital part of my network. I recently expanded my network with a fellow military retiree and “vetrepreneur”. He came from the generation before my time in uniform but never lost touch with the veteran network. His mentorship and guidance have inspired me to follow my dreams. I hope to do the same for the next generation of veterans.
I am also expanding my network far beyond the typical connections I have been accustomed to making. This new network has opened my eyes to all that I do not know. It can be intimidating at times stepping outside your comfort zone, but it can also pay huge dividends. Just recently I met two fellow entrepreneurs who had no military affiliation. We spoke a different language at times but we had similar experiences. We shared knowledge and “joined forces” so to speak in order to help each other. They opened me up to new ideas and opportunities. At times, my head was spinning...in a good way! I shared with them the strategies and tactics I had honed over a 20 year military career, I think I might have made their head spin a bit as well! Our collaboration showed me the power of networking.
I am no longer Chief Master Sergeant Chad Pearce, top of the enlisted force structure. I am Chad Pearce, Retired United States Air Force who still engages with the network he established through 20 years of relationships. I am Chad Pearce, Co-Founder Wingman Recruiting Solutions who is meeting new clients, candidates and fellow entrepreneurs daily and learning from them. I am Chad, the next door neighbor who is willing to network in my neighborhood and engage with my local community to contribute in any way I can. It's a different landscape post military service, but with a vast network behind you, there isn't anything that you can't accomplish.
A few takeaways from my networking experience:
1) Get out of your comfort zone! Don't be afraid to engage with new people, they can help you grow. At the same time, stay engaged with the people you spent all those years in uniform building connections with.
2) Contribute! Networking isn’t about finding opportunities for you or “sucking up” to someone to get ahead in life. It’s about finding opportunities to contribute. That was a truth taught to me 20 years ago at my first duty station and it’s still true today.
3) Learn, unlearn and relearn. The 21st century requires veterans who can master this concept. As futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler once wrote: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
Will you support me by becoming part of my network? Can I support you by becoming part of your network? Lets get out of our comfort zone, learn and contribute together!
You can tap into a network by being a part of an organization like Southwest Veterans Business Resource Center. REGISTER
You can join my network directly: JOIN CHAD'S NETWORK
Thank you for your support!