The startup, which allows any active-duty member of the armed forces, national guard, reserves or ROTC—basically, anyone wearing the uniform—to join, has already attracted interest from a large state national guard force and the staff that runs more than 270 ROTC programs. It also has the support of some well respected advisers such as retired general George Casey, the former Army chief of staff, who is a board member.
In addition to helping service members navigate career opportunities within the military, RallyPoint also intends to help members find career opportunities outside it, too, an especially important issue given the estimated one million military members who will enter the civilian workforce over the next five years. The company intends to generate revenue by charging private-sector employers fees to connect with transitioning service members—months before their planned departure date—who have the skills the companies are seeking. It is currently talking terms with several Fortune 100 companies, Kletzing says.
A study released this past spring found that among those leaving for the military for other career opportunities, the younger set—between the ages of 22 and 24—had particular difficulty connecting with employment opportunities. On average, their unemployment rate was 3 percent higher than for nonveterans in that age group and, in 2009, that put those veterans’ unemployment numbers close to 22 percent.
The challenge ahead for RallyPoint, of course, will be to build enough scale so that the social network has real value to members, whether looking for positions inside or outside the military. After a few months of being available by invitation only, the site has roughly 600 members and more than 1,000 people waiting to join. But that number could grow quickly as formal invitations are no longer needed, and as service members informally invite their other professional military contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn or email accounts. Weiss says the company’s goal is to have 300,000 members within a year.
In addition, says Kletzing, the military’s frequent rotations of members into new jobs means their professional networks expand quickly. “There’s a multiplier effect,” he says, estimating that by the time military members are in their third assignment, and provided they have maintained contact with the people in their network, RallyPoint could connect them within one degree of separation to more than 75 percent of major military bases around the world.
Jena McGregor is a columnist for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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