Yinon Weiss still remembers the time, eight years into his ten-year military career, that an official from the Army’s human resources team came and spoke with the officers in his unit.
In the acronym-filled parlance of the armed forces, the official spoke about KD positions, and Weiss walked out of the meeting scratching his head. “I thought that meant ‘known distance’ from a firing range,” he recalls. “Very few of us knew he was talking about a ‘key development’ position.” While mentors had pulled him aside informally at times, the talk marked the “first time anyone in the military gave me any kind of formal talking points or recommendation” about developing a career.
Five years later, Weiss is the CEO of a newly launched startup he hopes will help military members take a more active role in planning their military—and post-military—careers. RallyPoint, a social network for current service members that is formally launching on Monday, is a sort of LinkedIn for the military. It allows members to create individual profiles, connect with their military contacts and see, via RallyPoint’s graphical maps of the military’s organization, how their own connections might help them get a foot in the door to desirable positions around the armed services.
The online network, says Weiss, takes “your social graph and visually displays it across the military hierarchy.” Or as his business partner Aaron Kletzing puts it, shows “all your professional relationships within the military on top of the architecture of the Department of Defense.”
Weiss and Kletzing, now RallyPoint’s chief operating officer, met in Iraq when both were in the Army, and ran into each other again at Harvard Business School. There they began talking about the potential for a business that helps military members. Both saw a problem that needed fixing: In an armed forces that rotates people through positions every couple of years, it can be difficult, both logistically and culturally, for individual members to play an active role in charting their own careers.
Indeed, a study by researchers at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government shows that the most important reason junior officers cite for leaving the military is career control, while two of the top changes they would want in order to consider rejoining are better assignments offered to the best officers and a “market mechanism” for assigning jobs. “[Army culture] discouraged thinking about your career,” Weiss says. “There’s a perception that you should just be thinking about your troops.”
He and Kletzing hope their new venture will help to change that. By giving military members a visual way of seeing who in their professional network works where, more members might actively seek out roles that interest them. RallyPoint asks everyone who joins to share their PCS (permanent change of station) date—the departure date from their current role. Sharing this information could help people in their network see when open positions will become available. “Unlike in the private sector,” Weiss says, “the military is very arithmetic, very predictable. Positions are open on a fixed schedule, and that fixed schedule is known years in advance.”