Building Your Network as a Military Veteran

Building personal and professional networks are a great way to meet people and maximize impact.

3 Great Tips to Build a Professional Veteran Network

If you think networking is lame and cringe and only tryhards waste their time on it, you’re thinking about networking the wrong way.

People who network have a huge advantage over those who don’t. Whether you plan on going into medicine, law, business, politics (especially politics), academia, or writing – just about any field one can imagine — investing time and effort into networking is a great way to connect with others and find opportunities.

Military veterans have a huge advantage when it comes to building networks: being a veteran is potentially a positive connection with every other veteran. Didn’t like the service? Anyone who went through basic training or a field exercise can commiserate. Loved your time in uniform? Trade stories about where you were and what you did. Got super into the aesthetics of it, or the structure? You’re sure to find people who understand what you’re talking about.

And as the saying goes — it’s a small world! Veterans from different backgrounds in the same service often end up one degree of separation from each other. Someone in the Army had a company commander 15 years ago that’s the brigade commander of 3500 soldiers today. Another person’s squad leader 15 years ago is a brigade sergeant major.

Networking is just finding commonalities with other people in your profession or community. Sometimes it leads to friendship, sometimes to jobs or careers. Networks allow you to tap into opportunities. So lay that negative attitude about networking aside and read these 3 great ways you can make networking work for you, as a military veteran.

#1 Look for Military Veteran Networking Events

Your local area and your region will have veteran networking events. Many of these are organized by universities. Others are organized by veteran advocacy groups such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). All of these organizations are interested in making sure veterans are plugged in with one another, for a variety of reasons. Take a look at the calendar for your local post and drop in for some event.

Bigger events, such as one held in 2024 by The Military Startup in San Francisco February 8th & 9th, are worth their weight in gold for folks interested in growing their networks, particularly people interested in business and startups. Funded by JP Morgan Chase & Co., the days offered opportunities to meet veterans in the entrepreneur space, from people pitching startups with defense applications to established titans in the field such as’s Blake Hall.

Figure out what you want to do after the military — college or career — and then look for a professional organization within that field organized by veterans, for veterans. It won’t be a waste of your time.

This man is not actually networking.

#2 Say Yes to Everything

When you start your networking journey, say yes to every opportunity (within reason). Volunteering at a local VA to help blind veterans for a day? Yes. Attending a Memorial Day ceremony (you’ve never made one) at the town green or city hall? Yes. Showing up at the state capital to testify on behalf of vouchers for homeless veterans? Yes! Just lean into it, until you find the point where you’re out of bandwidth.

Then, for your own sanity and mental health, learn how to say “no!”

Civilian life aka “the real world” can be confusing and disorienting. But one thing that remains stable is that the person who volunteers to do things (and follows through on the execution phase) is seen as a valuable member of society. There are a lot of worthwhile causes to help out with. Once you hang up the uniform — or before, if wearing the uniform doesn’t interfere with your duty (no politics, sorry) — find something that interests you and get involved.

But use common sense and stay out of prison.

#3 Join a Veteran Advocacy or Volunteer Group

Nothing brings veterans together like a cause, and few causes are better than helping veterans out. And every conflict has its special needs and challenges. The American Legion traces its history to the Civil War, and the VFW, to WWI. Members of those organizations helped advocate and press for a robust Department of Veterans Affairs after WWII. The Vietnam Veterans of America advocated for humane and thoughtful treatment of veterans, and helped mainstream the idea of PTSD. And the veterans of today are doing what they can to help ensure their colleagues are properly taken care of — in terms of an updated GI Bill, home loans, and other key benefits.

Networking events can be great places to meet people, but there’s no faster way to network than to work with other veterans to accomplish a mission. Team Rubicon, Team Red White & Blue, and various college veteran affinity groups all do great things. They’ll expand your network, give your name weight, and help with your reputation. All of these things will be helpful in ways you never imagined, and address the hole that gets created when you leave your unit and that family that is the U.S. military. Network!

Do not volunteer as tribute for the Hunger Games! Being a veteran will not help in this specific situation.


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