'LinkedIn for Military' RallyPoint Opens to Vets

CNBC

A jobs-oriented social network for military service members is opening to a new kind of recruit this Memorial Day: Veterans. That expands its target market nearly tenfold from 2.5 million to some 24 million people.

RallyPoint, which launched last November and has raised $1.6 million from angel investors, was previously open only to active servicemen and women and focused primarily on career movement within the military, said co-founder Yinon Weiss. In its first half-year, it signed up nearly or 25,000 active military members, or 1 percent. RallyPoint aims to make that 10 percent in the next year.

Now the site, founded by two Iraq War veterans turned Harvard Business grads, has partnered with AT&T (NYSE:T), Lexmark (LXK) and Bloomberg LP for Phase 2, when anyone who has served in the U.S. armed forces can join.

(Read More: Veterans' Next Battle: Finding a Job )

RallyPoint will highlight both military and post-military experience in terms other servicemen and women understand. In addition to career opportunities within the military, the site will focus on openings in the private sector, academia and volunteering.

Until now, military members could reach out only to corporate participants, such as Amazon (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Accenture (ACN), that have specialized military recruiters on staff. In the new phase RallyPoint members will be able to connect with veterans anywhere who come onto the site to represent their company, vastly expanding the potential to network.

Weiss said the system and hierarchy of the military call for functionalities that don't compute on a civilian site like LinkedIn (LNKD), such as the ability to search for people and jobs by rank, military base, specialty or training code. Indeed, because the military is a closed ecosystem, Weiss said: "Most don't think of joining LinkedIn till they're out of the service. And that puts them at square one."

Other employment-related sites for former soldiers include jobs board Hire a Hero, which since 2006 has been connecting vets with companies eager to hire them. It has some 370,000 registered members, about 25,000 active, and currently lists 15,374 positions, according to Executive Director Rob Barr.

He said many soldiers come home with leadership skills and training that don't immediately translate to civilian workplaces. That's why the Armed Forces Support Foundation that backs Hire A Hero now has its sights on a new goal: To raise $350,000 by October for a pilot staffing agency to connect veterans to temp-to-hire positions. With Staff A Hero, transitioning veterans could get the kind of training, such as with spreadsheets or presentation software, that few in the military receive.

The similarly named Hiring Our Heroes was launched in March 2011 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. According to its website, it has hosted more than 430 hiring fairs and helped more than 18,400 veterans and military spouses get jobs.

Yet another approach is taken by CareerMob, a not-yet-live site that will use questionnaires to match vets with career paths they may not have thought of, and will recruit former military members in targeted fields to mentor newcomers.

Co-founder Josh Seefried said he and his partners are "still coding it up, talking to investors," but that they hope to launch in the coming weeks. CareerMob gained attention by winning the competition StartupBus, in which teams developed start-up concepts en route to the SXSW technology and arts festival in Austin, Texas.

(Read More: Investors Eye SXSW Start-Up that Started on a Bus )

LinkedIn does host military user groups such as Iraq War Veterans and US Army, where many thousands connect and exchange career information.

Barr said he doesn't feel competitive with the other job sites, and he would encourage veterans to use any or all of them. "Networking is always the best way to get a job," he said. "I'm all for it."

(Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC, joined the Hiring Our Heroes initiative and committed to hiring 2,000 veterans by 2015.)

-By CNBC's Matt Twomey. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Twomey .



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