Captain Adam Davies has six months left in the Army before he begins a second career in the private sector. He is not sure what his new vocation will be, but he knows the job search probably will begin on RallyPoint, the young, fast-growing professional networking website for active and retired military personnel.
“Nobody relates to veterans better than veterans,” said Davies, a recruiter stationed in Boston, who was among the site’s earliest users. “That’s the big edge. I’ve got a LinkedIn account as well, as many military folks do, but RallyPoint really has homed in on the military community.”
A year after taking top honors and a $100,000 prize in the MassChallenge business competition, the Harvard Business School startup has attracted almost 130,000 members. In November, the company secured a $5 million investment and launched out of beta mode, officially opening what it hopes will become the go-to networking tool for members of the armed forces.
RallyPoint is designed to help military personnel guide one another through career decisions — whether in the service or out. Users can consult one another privately or participate in open discussion forums. They also can track the career paths of others in similar positions to draw inspiration for their own career moves.
RallyPoint cofounder Aaron Kletzing, a former Army field artillery officer, used Davies as an example of how the site can work. Since Davies is a West Point graduate nearing the end of his obligatory commission, he can ask RallyPoint to show “what all other West Point grads in the Army are doing,” or what options might be available to him based on what officers of similar status are doing.
Networking is widely recognized as an essential skill in most fields, but it can have trouble fitting in in a military setting. The armed forces are rigidly structured, and promotions and pay raises depend largely on hitting concrete benchmarks of performance and experience.
Yinon Weiss, Kletzing’s business partner and a former Army Special Forces captain, said for most people in the military, “the idea of building a network doesn’t cross their minds.”
“But the reality is the military is an industry,” he added. “Who gets to work at an embassy? Who gets to go to Hawaii? Who gets to work for a general? That’s not random. People’s connections and networks come into play. It’s not that people get positions because of personal relationships, but just like in the real world, people’s backgrounds and skill sets get recognized.”
Former Marine sergeant John Silva recalled that networking helped him land a coveted assignment in the White House advanced travel operations office, where he served as an attaché to the Secret Service on trips abroad. “It changed the whole course of my military service, and if I hadn’t talked to people who were savvy enough to let me know about it, I never would have had that opportunity,” he said.
Silva served from 1999 to 2003, before online networking was widely used, and he said RallyPoint will make it easier for members of today’s military to explore their options. He joined RallyPoint a couple of months ago and uses the site to comb among active ranks for potential candidates to join his online book-selling business, Cambridge Bookstore.
For now, Davies is using RallyPoint to help him recruit doctors and other medical professionals to enlist. The network enables him to connect with veterans working in hospitals and clinics, who can help by encouraging civilian colleagues to contact Davies.
“I think RallyPoint is going to catch fire pretty quick,” Davies said. “There’s just so many uses for it.”Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.