What Does It Mean to 'Put Yourself Out There'?

(Joseph P. Bruton/U.S. Army photo)

Question: I'm getting ready to leave the military and everyone around me keeps saying I need to make myself more findable and "put myself out there" more. What does that even mean?

Answer: Great question! Often, your civilian counterparts may use terminology and lingo that, unless explained, makes no sense. This is one example of that. What they mean is that you need to ensure that the right employer can find you when they have a job or opportunity you'd be interested in.

Being visible and findable means you take the reins of proactively positioning yourself correctly to your target audience. Some questions to consider:

1. Are you clear on what you want to pursue after you leave the military?

To promote yourself and be findable, you should ideally be focused in a certain direction and have a career plan. Without a goal, how will you direct yourself to ideal opportunities or identify them when they're in front of you?

2. Do you know who you want to work with?

When you have a clear picture of the companies, people, communities and teams you want to work with, you can position yourself to be attractive to them. Always stay genuine and truthful, and focus your resume, online profiles and content in the direction of what that target audience is looking for.

3. How do you want to be perceived?

This is a tricky question. If you're not clear on how you want to be seen and for what you want to be valued, you run the risk of being misunderstood or miscategorized. Particularly as you exit the military, where some of your skills and experiences may not translate perfectly, you must control how you're perceived by others by proactively telling your own story.

What is Your Value Proposition?

To make yourself findable and attractive to employers who are looking for someone just like you, consider what you have to offer them.

Related: Find more information about veteran jobs.

One way to uncover this is by considering, "What problem can I solve?" Resist the urge to say, for example, "I can build teams" or a similarly vague answer. Companies typically aren't hiring for someone to "build teams." Rather, they need someone who can grow an organization, bring enthusiasm and high morale back to a struggling department or evaluate and reconfigure a team to drive higher productivity and revenue.

You maybe can do this, but saying you can "build teams" is less specific. Evaluate what you do and the problems you can help these companies solve.

Your value proposition should speak the language of the target audience you seek to attract. By studying its website and collateral material, talking to people who work there and researching how the company promotes itself, you'll get a sense of their narrative. Align yours with theirs to show how your value relates to their goals.

Get Out There

"Putting yourself out there" means being visible -- online and in person -- in settings, forums and on platforms where your target audience is, and where others can find you. Sitting at home and waiting for someone to call you rarely works.

Instead, share content on LinkedIn, celebrate the success of others through group emails and contribute your thoughts to online conversations where people you seek to meet are. When we resume more in-person events, be sure to attend, meet people and share who you are, what you can offer and why you care.

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