Establishing a professional network and having control over a career path can be challenging for military members. A new networking website aims to change that.
RallyPoint.com is an online professional network similar to LinkedIn that is free to people in the military. Launched in November, the site already has more than 11,000 users and is growing every day, said Yinon Weiss, co-founder of the company.
Users set up a profile that maps their careers paths from the start to the present, including dates when their assignments end. They can connect with people they have worked with previously or contacts they have made during their career.
“In the military, people’s careers tend to be centrally managed, but having personal relationships helps them discover new opportunities,” Weiss said. “They can use their relationships and connections to be competitive if they find something they want to pursue.”
Weiss said that within the military it is often not discussed how people navigate and move through the ranks to get to higher positions. The information users post about their careers can help with that.
There also is no central location to find out about assignments that might be available. Information users post about when their assignments are set to end can help others.
People in the military often move from base to base, and it can be difficult to keep up with where they are stationed at any one time. Connections at a base where a service member might like to be located could help them land a position there, Weiss said.
Benjamin Marshall, a 24-year-old second lieutenant stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, was one of the first users to sign up for the site. He said he hopes it will help him expand his contacts and plan the next moves for his career.
“There are 300,000 people in the military, so it’s difficult to keep a pulse; this is what worked for this guy and this is what worked for that guy,” Marshall said. “This gives a quantifiable method to see that. When people fill it out, you can see what ranks they’ve been promoted, where they went, their whole bio.”
Marshall said he doesn’t have a lot of contact with people outside his unit. One drawback of his job in acquisitions procurement is that he works mostly with officers and doesn’t have contact with enlisted ranks. RallyPoint is changing that.
“I’ve been connecting with people left and right,” he said.
Weiss and co-founder Aaron Kletzing are Iraq veterans who saw a need for a better way to navigate the military’s job openings.
“The U.S. military is the best training ground in the world for building the skills, discipline and values required to solve complex and difficult challenges,” Kletzing said in a statement. “But the internal job market is extremely difficult.”
It’s a problem that the military recognizes, Weiss said.
The most recent chiefs of staff of the Air Force and Army, retired Gen. Norton Schwartz and retired Gen. George Casey, both serve on the company’s board of directors and are helping shape the website, he said.
Weiss is happy with the progress they’ve made so far, and he’s seen proof that users are engaging with it.
He said 90 percent of the users visited the site at least once in the past 5 days and more than 70 percent returned in the last 24 hours. Many users also are inviting friends to join.
Marshall is doing his part. He said he spreads the word to his co-workers and invites new contacts to join. He said there aren’t too many profiles yet, but it’s growing.
“What I’ve noticed is the people who have been on there awhile, they are starting to get to that point where they fill out all their information,” he said. “It’s not a small task, but that’s what will make this work.”