Sometimes, it really is all about who you know.
I’m not talking in a “good ol’ boy” way; I’m talking about a professional network way. When I was a second lieutenant, I was a little bit of a hermit. I went to work. I went home. I kept a really, really small group of friends around. My best friend at the time, though, was a fellow lieutenant and the most connected person you could imagine. If she didn’t know the person you were talking about or she didn’t have the answer you were looking for, she knew someone who did. We were both intelligent, dedicated, competent officers but, in my opinion, she was a lot more successful. Why? Because she understood the value of networking. So many years later (I’m not going to admit how many), I now understand its value as well (though she is still much better at it than I am).
So, why does networking matter? Because people hold opportunities and information and those are the keys to getting where you want to go.
How many times have you found out a random piece of information from or been connected with an important person or event by someone you know? Could be something small, like a book recommendation. Or it could be something significant, like a lead on a very important, and not yet announced, job opportunity. People pass information and knowing the right person at the right time can mean the difference between achieving your goals or missing out. And, in this day and age, the preferred method for people to pass along information is social media. Enter…RallyPoint.
RallyPoint is a social media platform entirely for military members and veterans. Offering both a personal and a professional mission, it is sort of a hybrid between LinkedIn and Facebook. (And, it offers the ability to “connect” with both of those sites, as well as Gmail.) RallyPoint was created by two veterans, one a former Marine Scout/Sniper Platoon Commander turned Army Special Ops and the other a West Point graduate, who met while serving and then connected again while attending Harvard Business School. Started in 2012, it won the world’s largest startup competition, MassChallenge, and placed second in the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition.
I signed up for an account to see what RallyPoint is all about. Signing up was pretty simple and involved disclosing some of the basics – name, highest rank attained, branch of service. Access to the site is limited until you verify your military service. This is becoming more common on veteran and military related sites and the methods used by RallyPoint are similar to those used on other sites, such as using a .mil e-mail account or submitting your SSN, date of birth, and service dates. Once you’ve proven your credentials, you can submit more information for your profile. This is similar to LinkedIn’s format but with a military bent and allows you to include information about deployments, PME, and former units.
Once your profile is set up, you can view common discussion topics, search for civilian jobs (vets and serving members) or military assignments (serving members). While I, as a veteran, can’t see the military assignments section (RallyPoint is good with compartmentalizing data), an article in Forbes magazine basically describes it as an incredible gift for those up for PCS and a complete nightmare for assignment personnel, who are probably used to having all the information. RallyPoint apparently provides so much data, you can actually see how many people are in certain billets and how much longer they have before they PCS.
While I’m not a big proponent of more social media to keep track of, RallyPoint seems like an excellent tool to both develop your career during and after service and to keep track of those with whom you serve/served. After exploring the site for a bit, I actually only have two cautions to mention:
– First, check the default settings. RallyPoint has an article titled “Who can see my profile?” under their “Support” section and I suggest reading it immediately after you set up your account, especially for vets and retirees. Reason being, while servicemembers have a little initial, built-in protection on who can see their account, veteran and retiree profiles are automatically made public upon creation. Tweaking the security level is easy but, unless you read the article, you might not realize that all your info is out there for all to see. Also on the default, and this is a minor thing, all accounts are defaulted as “male.” Again, an easy change if you’re not a dude and want that properly reflected, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to potential employers your attention to detail.
– Second, some of the discussion topics venture into dangerous waters. By that I mean topics that can push some people’s buttons, such as PFT standards or political impact on PCS selection. On any social media site, you should be careful about what you are putting out there, because once it’s out there, you can’t control who is going to see it. However, since RallyPoint is similar to LinkedIn in its focus on professional career advancement, I think you have to be especially careful about what you are posting in your comments.
Overall, looks like an interesting site and, if you think you’ve got it in you to monitor one more social media site, I suggest you check it out at www.rallypoint.com
© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.