Networking as a Nurse: 5 Tips to Building Your Professional Network
While we are often reminded of the current nursing shortage, this does not mean are jobs are always guaranteed. In today’s ever-shifting healthcare environment, many factors can create unpredictability in the workplace.
Healthcare systems merge. Hospitals shut down. Nurses can find themselves out of work. And if your local hospital closes- the one where you and all of your colleagues work at- guess what’s going to happen in your demographic area? Everyone’s going to be competing for the limited jobs.
For these reasons and many others, nurses have to use networking skills to create and sustain professional relationships. The beauty of relationship building in today’s tech-savvy world is that it can be done both on and offline.
Here Are 5 Things You Can Do to Build Your Professional Network as a Nurse
- Attend Conferences. An in-person training is one of the very best ways to get to know your professional colleagues. Whether it is a one-day retreat in your local area, a four week workshop that is held at a community center, or a national professional conference- there’s nothing like the face-to-face interactions. You’ll get to hear the questions that other people ask; have more personal and informal conversations over meals; and just enjoy each other’s company during breaks and downtime. When you attend a conference you have to be mindful that it’s about quality- not quantity. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with trying to meet every single nurse that is there. Realize that several quality relationships can come from spending time with your professional colleagues and enjoy the long-term effects these in-person meetings can create.
- Join Your Association. This is one of my favorite ways to build my professional network. In my own experience, I started out attending local chapter meetings in Maryland of the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). Since I enjoyed the company of the nurses in this group, I decided to give the national conference a try. From that, I was soon involved with an online chapter of nurse entrepreneurs and now have found myself on the board of this association (which I will speak to next). The reason that joining your professional organization is so important is because these are people who have similar interests and passions. They probably have come up against some of the challenges you have faced in your career and may have innovative solutions that you haven’t yet thought of. Also, it’s simply a wonderful way to enjoy a like-minded colleagues company and build a support system in nursing.
- Get Involved. As stated in the bullet above, I have found myself a board member of the AHNA. Now before I was elected, I knew nothing about being on a board! In fact, when I put my name in the hat and decided to run, I never imagined I would be voted in! When you get involved in something that you believe in- whether it be an association, a community cause, or via political advocacy- you are certain to meet some ‘higher ups’ in the nursing world. Getting involved with these executive level nurses can not only be a great learning experience; it can help you with your professional resume down the road.
- Connect Online. The wonderful world of technology is helping us connect with people across the globe. Whether you’re working on an evidence-based practice project or just want to find a job in a new location, networking online can help you expand your reach. The best professional platform for nursing connections is LinkedIn. On this professional networking site, you can join groups related to your specialty. You can connect with experts in your field. It’s an excellent way to grow your connections beyond your demographic reach.
- Use Your Strengths. To me, this is the most important thing you can do. You want to be your own nurse. Show up with your strengths. Bring your personality into the workplace. Now how can this help you build your professional network? Well, let’s get a bit creative here. Do you like to write? How about presenting… are you excited by the thought of giving a talk? Well, you can get you, your work, and your professional brand out there these days in some really innovative ways. Start a blog if you enjoy writing. Create a YouTube channel if you prefer being in front of the camera. Or how about a podcast? These days there are all sorts of healthcare podcasts popping up… you could always start one of your own! By being yourself, thinking outside-of-the-box and using your unique skills- you can have some fun with your professional networking.
Do you currently have a process for networking with your colleagues? What steps have you taken to network in your nursing career? Be sure to tweet me @ElizabethScala on Twitter to tell me how you build and sustain your professional network.