RallyPoint applies LinkedIn's model to the military

LinkedIn has job-hunting and recruiting down pat, but there’s one area where it falls flat: the military. It’s tough to be all things to all people, and the military is a particularly tough niche to penetrate. RallyPoint is a slow-growing professional network that aims to do for current service members and veterans what LinkedIn has done for the rest of the job force.

The network has obvious money-making potential, but it was also rooted in personal experience: Its founders, Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, met while serving overseas in Iraq and reunited at Harvard Business School. While the two didn’t personally struggle to find careers after returning to the States, they noticed the transition from a military life to a civilian one was incredibly difficult for other returning service members. They launched RallyPoint last year to help active members and veterans network and find jobs within the military and outside it. The network is gathering steam with 135,000 users and plans to introduce tools for prospective employers.

“What RallyPoint does is provide value for people early in their military careers,” COO Kletzing said. “You might use LinkedIn to build relationships or find another job. In the Army, you can’t use LinkedIn to find a company commander job. You can’t do anything close to that.”

The network has no official relationship with any branches of the military, but is endorsed by two former chiefs of staff.

You can search for open positions before you're ready to return to the workforce.

Coming home

Veterans as a whole are faring better than civilians when it comes to finding work—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 6.9 percent of veterans were unemployed in October, compared to a 7.3 percent overall unemployment rate. But for veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans who would be more likely to use social media, the unemployment rate hovers at 10 percent. Starbucks is the latest in a long line of companies publicly committed to hiring veterans, but submitting an application at a job fair isn’t exactly the best way to find a post-military career.

RallyPoint is taking steps toward partnering with companies that want to recruit veterans—a recent pilot program included corporations like Honeywell. But the challenge will be separating employers who only want the veteran label from companies that want the skillsets that come with having served in the military.

RallyPoint connects veterans who served together.

“What one company needs may be very different from what another company needs,” Kletzing said. “A defense contractor, for example, wants to hire a certain type of military talent—very different from Walmart, who will hire 10,000 veterans, and they don’t care what you’ve done.”

The network also lets users quietly share when they plan to leave the military—information that is then shared with prospective employers who are looking to hire in that time frame. Kletzing said when people leave the military, they don’t give much advance notice.

“Culturally, you don’t want to tell your boss you’re leaving the military two years before you leave,” he said. “People wait till the last minute.”

RallyPoint offers a way to keep that information private, but still actively look for work. The networking aspect provides a lifeline—people coming home can connect with others in the same boat, or with veterans who’ve been working for years and can offer some reassurance that a civilian future isn’t so bad.

The desktop-only network has major designs on mobile, but users will have to wait—the mobile-optimized site is debuting this week, but apps are still a few months out.

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