For military personnel transitioning to a career in the private sector, there are undoubtedly more opportunities available today than in the past. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for all veterans was 2.3% in January 2019 while the overall unemployment rate was 3.6%.

Social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are being leveraged to help job seekers explore options, make connections and land their next job faster. Social media has also helped veterans stay connected to family and friends while also exposing them to opportunities in industries and functional areas they may not have considered.

Before the widespread adoption of the internet and social media platforms, sailors on a naval vessel or soldiers deployed in the field could go weeks or months without having any contact with family and friends back home. Because of this, returning servicemen and women spent more time reacclimating to some of the more mundane aspects of life after returning home, whereas now they are in constant communication with friends and family and have an easier transition to life on the home front. This makes them more likely to focus on their next career move much earlier in the transition process.

While social media platforms are a great way for active duty military to stay connected both personally and professionally, there are some drawbacks and potential pitfalls. If you are on a base or in an active zone, there are sure to be things that can’t be seen or shared with outsiders for security reasons. It’s especially important to be cognizant of this when engaging in any video communication, such as Skype or FaceTime. Being aware of your surroundings is an essential skill that service members have to utilize when in training exercises or combat zones, so it’s important to keep a similar filter on when using social media platforms.

On the professional side of social media, LinkedIn has proven to be a game-changer in helping active duty military members transition to a career outside the service. In the past, it could be extremely difficult to get a physical resume to employers back home. Now, LinkedIn gives candidates the ability to maintain a professional profile online, which makes it just a click away from a potential employer. Additionally, LinkedIn provides a free year of its premium service (worth nearly $300) to all military members, and they estimate nearly 2.4 million veterans were active on the site as of June 2018. This also has a positive impact on recruiters by giving them a direct access point to the best military talent, which can be valuable to companies looking for highly skilled and disciplined leaders.

This may be difficult to believe, but recruiters once found military talent by placing ads in military newspapers or by mailing postcards to a massive database of addresses. These methods had a predictably low success rate, but it was the best we could do at the time.

Today, we can start communicating with them in a variety of ways digitally, while engaging earlier in their transition process. For example, we connect on LinkedIn and invite them to webinars and virtual hiring conferences they can access from anywhere. Military members learn more about the companies that might be interested in their unique skill sets, while employers are able to reach a large swath of potential stars that were nearly invisible to them before the advent and widespread implementation of this technology.

So, what does this all mean?

Clearly social media platforms provide important opportunities for active duty and recently discharged service members to grow personally and professionally, but they have to be tactical and smart when utilizing these tools. If they can do that, candidates can increase their visibility, better understand the opportunities they may be qualified for, and prepare for the next stage of their career in more proactive ways than ever before.