Professional networking is intimidating for many. Even the most outgoing people can freeze up at the idea of “performing” or making a great first impression. However, actively building professional relationships within your industry helps in several ways. This article provides an in-depth look at the importance of networking in nursing, how to do it right, and the mistakes to avoid.
Why Networking Matters In Nursing
Networking is something business and sales professionals are highly familiar with. You might think nursing is exempt from this, but you would be wrong. Anyone in any industry who is seeking a fulfilling career can benefit from networking. When done well, the meaningful relationships you develop can assist you throughout your career. Here are just some of the ways it can help:
Leading To Opportunities
If you Google the stats for jobs that are not advertised, you will see the estimate of 85% being thrown around as a figure. While that guess is probably highly overestimated, it’s true that many jobs and opportunities are never advertised before being filled. Or else, they are only advertised to the public after being shared around a specific network first.
Healthcare is an industry where people’s lives and health depend on the decisions made by professionals. So, it is important to prioritize hiring or promoting the most qualified and capable individuals. Therefore, those making the hiring or promotion decisions should develop professional relationships and trust with the chosen candidates.
It’s never too soon to start building your network. So, even if you’re just beginning your healthcare career, experience such as a nurse practitioner clinical placement can be a great opportunity.
You can get help finding a placement alongside your qualifications. Reputable course providers, such as Texas Woman’s University, allow online study alongside in-person placements. It is a valuable opportunity to be mentored by experienced professionals and make a lasting positive impression.
Whether or not you’re looking to progress, your professional network can help you become successful. Networking helps you build relationships with people who can provide valuable references for your job applications.
These references from highly respected members of the profession can help you stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of getting hired. While nursing is a secure career compared to many industries, you still might need to pivot in your career.
For instance, a hospital might close a unit or relocate to an area where you don’t want to move. You may also change your mind later about wanting to advance in your career. Climbing the career ladder will be easier if you have a strong network.
Mentoring And Coaching
Networking is not just for progressing or finding a new role. Connecting with experienced professionals who can serve as mentors or coaches in your career will help you improve in your current role.
Mentors can offer guidance, share insights, and provide valuable advice to help you achieve your full potential. If you look at other opportunities, they can also be the first to share information with you. This gives you time to put yourself forward, prepare for any interviews or informal discussions, and be successful.
Access To Opportunities
Learning about job openings before anyone else is just one of the benefits of having a network. You can also learn about advanced training programs and other professional development opportunities that are not widely advertised. Space for some of these can be limited.
Expanding your knowledge base allows you to explore different career paths in healthcare. You may discover a new career path you want to follow that you had not previously considered. Gaining new skills can help you discover roles that you might excel at.
Exposure To Different Perspectives
Networking can help you gain exposure to different perspectives, ideas, and approaches within the nursing field. This exposure broadens your understanding of the profession and enhances your critical thinking skills.
By learning about the diverse practices of learning from others, you can develop a broader understanding of the profession, enabling you to be more effective in your work and to better understand the challenges and opportunities that other nurses face.
Nurses can also develop critical thinking skills by seeing how others think and react. This can help them make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and be more creative in their work.
Learn About Different Paths
Networking can teach you about different specialties and roles. By connecting with professionals from various areas of nursing, you gain insights and knowledge about alternative career paths, expanding your professional horizons.
For instance, by connecting with nurses who work in different specialisms, you can learn about the different types of work involved in each. This can help you if you’re at the stage in your career where you’re choosing a specialism or deciding to pursue a more generalized nursing role.
Build A Strong Support System
The demands of nursing can lead to burnout. This is why a professional support system is useful in reducing stress. While friends and family will want to be supportive, it can be too much to offload the burden of day-to-day stress onto them. There are often confidentiality issues attached to sharing too much with non-medical professionals.
Your connections can help you find ways to deal with stress and difficult situations that you find challenging. They will also be able to turn to you if they need the same support.
Improve The Healthcare System
Having strong connections with others helps you when you need someone to amplify your voice. It helps develop better ways to create results for your collective patients. These connections help you advocate for positive changes in the healthcare system.
As this is the career you’ve most likely chosen to help others, being able to shape these services and speak up for others can help you achieve a more positive workplace for yourself and your colleagues and a better environment for your patients.
How To Network Within The Healthcare Industry
The idea of networking might conjure images of awkward events where you have to talk over as many people as possible while trying to convey all your achievements in one short conversation.
You will be pleased to know that this approach is ineffective. Striking up a conversation where both parties talk and listen is the better option to strive for. This can be built in a variety of settings, not just at specific networking events.
Everyday networking with the people you work with regularly is a good place to start. You and your colleagues can share valuable sources of knowledge and insight with each other.
Learning from their strengths helps you all in your current role and lets you improve on your weaknesses. Also, if you ever need professional references, it helps to have strong ties with respected professionals in the specific field you’re interested in.
Not only does this type of networking promote natural working relationships, but it also ensures you always do the best job possible. You never know who you will meet and work within nursing. So, going above and beyond can pay off in results as well as getting you noticed.
Networking can take place outside of work and at specific events, too. The social and professional interactions you have outside of work are part of this. Spending time with friends and family might lead to opportunities. Word of mouth can be a powerful thing, and they may know someone who can help you.
Keep in touch with classmates because they might share opportunities with you. In fact, it’s possible to make connections no matter what you’re doing. Having a varied network makes it easier to gain relevant referrals or introductions.
Strategic networking covers relationships developed with purpose, such as connecting with someone working in a different specialism to learn more. This knowledge can provide a clearer image of how you might steer your career in a particular direction. This type of networking is often used to find a mentor who matches your professional needs.
Places For Nurses To Network
We’ve already established that any situation can be used as a networking opportunity. However, here are some suggestions:
Nursing Conferences And Industry-Specific Networking Events
If you want networking to lead to a new job or promotion, it requires that you attend several events. However, this also demonstrates commitment and determination. Networking can significantly contribute to being successful in nursing as well as making positive changes for those you strive to help.
These events attract nurses and other medical professionals. They can take place at convention centers or hospitals, as part of continuing education seminars, or at larger conferences.
Networking events frequently include speakers and workshops on different aspects of the healthcare industry. If you have expertise in a specific topic, you could put your name forward to be a speaker or run a workshop. These are great ways to get noticed for your skills and knowledge.
Social Networking Sites
LinkedIn is one of the social media sites that provide professionals with a platform to connect. This applies to nurses too. It’s the perfect place to make a connection with other healthcare professionals who you would not typically work with.
These sites help you grow a more varied network and understand different perspectives from your own. You can share challenging experiences and how you overcame them, and you can give advice as well as ask for it.
If you are looking for a new opportunity or want to be challenged, using social media to network can help. You can also gain visibility. It involves sharing your expertise through engaging content.
Essential Tips For Networking In Nursing
Don’t be daunted if you’re unsure of how to network. Your rising skills had to be learned, but you probably find them easier to call on. The same is true of networking. As your knowledge builds and the nerves fall away, it becomes second nature to you.
With experience comes knowledge of what works and what does not, and what you should or should not say. You can learn from your mistakes, but here are some of the basics to help you.
Showing up before the event lets you scope out the scene and talk to high-profile people before they get overwhelmed by others who want to talk with them. It will be easier to have a conversation with fewer people around, especially if you’re still getting used to networking and feel a little nervous. You will also avoid making a poor impression by trying to sneak in late.
No, this does not mean bouncing around and waving your hands excitedly; you don’t have to be overly serious either. If someone is willing to help you, they want to know how much you care about your profession.
Make small talk to begin with. Then, wait for a lead in the conversation to steer it towards your interests. Provide a brief insight into the areas you’re passionate about and discuss your main clinical strengths.
However, wait for a natural opening in the conversation, and don’t go overboard. Let your enthusiasm shine through, and don’t forget to talk to people instead of talking at them. There is a difference.
The Elevator Pitch
This is named because it’s short and can be said in the time it takes to reach your destination in an elevator. It tells someone who you are and what you do. Focus on a couple of main points. Remember to be patient. You will have the opportunity to expand on this later.
If people love what they do for a living, they will be happy to talk about it. Open the conversation with a question about them and see where the conversation goes. Listen to them and show that you have paid attention. Then, you can share how your experience matches what they need.
Follow Up On Leads
People will remember how your conversation ended more than how it began. So, make sure you take any subtle hints and end the conversation before wearing out your welcome. Get their contact information. Drop them an email to thank them for the interesting discussion, and within a day or two, while you’re still fresh in their mind. Mention how it helped you if it did.
If you previously discussed an opportunity, remind them of your interest, but don’t try to pressure them. Show you were paying attention by asking a question related to what they said. This could be a project their hospital is working on.
What Else Can You Do?
These vents can help you build your network, provided you avoid a few common mistakes. Here are some of the main dos and don’ts:
Know Your Goals
It helps to know your goals before you attend a networking event. Research any advertised attendees who fit this description. Having a goal and using the suggestions already mentioned in this article can help you have natural conversations with the right people.
You want to be comfortable, but dressing overly casually can create a poor first impression. A smart outfit can boost your confidence, which is a must. It also ensures you will be taken seriously.
Carry Business Cards
Carry business cards with you at all times, and keep them somewhere that’s easy for you to get to, like your bag or a jacket pocket. Frantically searching for business cards and being unable to find them could hint at being disorganized. However, don’t hand these out without first having a meaningful discussion. Besides, nobody will contact you if they don’t know anything about you.
Talking about yourself might be interesting for you, but the other person might not agree after a while. You don’t want them to zone out. So, be clear and stay on topic if asked a question. Focus on high-quality conversations. Build a verbal exchange rather than overloading them with information about you. In others, let the other person speak.
Interrupting other people demonstrates that you don’t care enough to listen to what others want to say or what they could teach you. It’s disrespectful and does not encourage potential connections to support you. It’s better to show that you want to listen and learn from them.
Don’t Be Afraid
This is easier said than done, but they are just people, too. Be confident without arrogance. Try to remind yourself that it’s a two-way process. For example, if you are seeking an opportunity, the other person is seeking someone who is suitable for that opportunity. It’s not just a case of asking someone for help.
Networking in nursing is not just about collecting contacts or finding job opportunities. It’s about fostering meaningful relationships that can support your career growth, provide guidance, and create a professional support system. By actively networking, nurses can unlock opportunities, gain valuable insights, and make a positive impact on the healthcare system.
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