Building professional connections and a support network is a smart strategy for any nurse. Connecting with other professionals can help expose you to opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable to you. While it may seem hard to find the time to connect with others, it may seem easier once you realize the many different ways that you can fit networking into your schedule regardless of how many hours you work.
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Ways that you can network
Sometimes, you may be able to network as part of your job. If the opportunity arises for you to use work time to network, you should take advantage of it. Here are some ways that you can network with others.
Attend conferences and seminars
There are plenty of opportunities to attend conferences online or in person. Nurses who want to network should try to attend both types of conferences. While online conferences and seminars are very convenient and much easier to fit into a busy schedule, meeting people in person and forming connections can be very beneficial.
Conferences are a great place to explore opportunities for advancement and current medical trends, explore the latest research, and form professional and personal friendships. In some cases, you may be able to attend a conference as part of your work. Hospitals and major medical facilities regularly send medical staff to participate in conferences and job fairs.
Online social networking
There are sites dedicated to healthcare professionals who want to network with one another. These sites are great because they are like social media but are not open to those outside the field of medicine. They are useful for those who do not typically use traditional social media and want a guaranteed group of healthcare professionals.
Traditional social media
There are plenty of Facebook groups for medical professionals. These groups are open to anyone in the medical field, so finding people within the group you connect with may take some effort. X (formerly Twitter) features many influencers and accounts dedicated to medical science and those associated with the field. Searching using hashtags relevant to the medical subject you are interested in is helpful. Some nurses even start their accounts and gain a substantial following, even going so far as becoming influencers.
While being a nurse means that you are likely working a busy schedule, finding some time to volunteer with an organization or two is a great way to network. A good example is the Red Cross or a community health clinic. Sometimes, schools have career days or other events to showcase potential career paths to students. There are many opportunities to connect with others and make a difference if you simply search for groups and organizations in your region.
Some volunteering may be possible from the comfort of your home. Working with others on projects using online conferencing software is far better than not volunteering at all. Anything you can do that helps you connect with others will make you better at networking and working with people from many different backgrounds.
Update your resume
Resumes are one thing that often gets ignored after a job is secured. As you gain experience at your job and add credentials, updating your resume to reflect this is important. Keeping your resume updated is essential for good networking and exuding an aura of professionalism. Even if you are not looking for another job, your resume reflects credentials that may be useful if you want to volunteer somewhere or be considered for collaborative projects.
If you can, having another person review your resume and make suggestions to improve it is always a good idea. Some people specialize in this, or you could just ask a trusted colleague to help you.
Create a networking card
Business cards used to be more common. In the medical community, business cards are often used as appointment reminders. Regarding networking, it can be helpful to have a card that lists your name and title and links to any appropriate social media, such as a LinkedIn profile. Ensure that you have your resume online and access set up so that someone with a link can easily view it. Add this link to your networking card. Having just a hundred of these cards printed does not cost much and could bring you many fantastic opportunities in the future.
Never have paper copies of your resume at a networking event. This is simply trying too hard and makes it appear that you are only talking to someone to get something from them.
Practice your social skills
Although plenty of us spend considerable time on social media, we don’t always develop the skills required to socialize in a crowd or be a public speaker. It is important to develop these skills so that you can be confident when networking in person.
Public speaking skills are something that can truly set you apart from others. Those who can speak confidently to a group of people have a skill that leaders, managers and teachers value. In the nursing world, there is a strong demand for skilled nurses who want to advance their careers by taking on leadership roles. This is due to so many older nurses retiring.
Making the most of a networking event
Networking events are busy places. There are often more activities and speakers than you have time to fully take in. Here are some tips for attending almost any networking event and having a rich experience.
It is important to make the best first impression possible. Wearing at least business casual attire is highly recommended unless another dress code is specified. Dressing professionally shows that you take what you are doing seriously. That being said, plenty of conferences have some fun activities planned outside of the professional aspect of it, so bring some casual clothes if this is something that you might take part in. Check the conference schedule thoroughly to understand what you might expect.
Have an idea of what you want to get out of the event
Going into a conference with an idea of what you are trying to get out of it is advised. Are you there primarily to learn? Are you being sent to represent your medical facility? Which speakers and attendees do you most want to connect with and why?
Planning your time wisely helps you stay focused and get the most out of your conference time. On the other hand, always allow some time just for general mingling or that you can fill in with other activities if they arise. Perhaps a potential collaborator wants to talk to you more, or you just need a little downtime to refresh yourself for the next phase of the event.
Be a good listener and conversationalist
It is important not to get nervous and try too hard to impress others. Talking about yourself is fine, and you should answer any questions that others have about you, but you need to ensure that the conversation is not all about you the entire time. Make sure that you ask questions of others. Don’t extend conversations that have reached a standstill. If you want to connect with someone later at the end of a conversation, give them your networking card and ask for theirs if appropriate.
Make yourself memorable
While you do not want to stand out in an outlandish way, there is something to be said for wearing something that looks professional but still allows you to be memorable. This could be as simple as wearing an attractive but uncommon outfit color or adding a classy piece of jewelry. Use your best judgment depending on the type of crowd you will be networking with and if you are networking on your own or as a representative of your medical facility.
Explore future careers in nursing
Networking also allows nurses to learn about different careers that are open to them at various stages of their careers. While plenty of nurses remain regular registered nurses throughout their careers because that is what they like to do, there are many advanced positions to explore.
The benefits of MSN degree programs, for example, are that you can become a family nurse practitioner or qualify for management positions at your medical facility. Wilkes University offers an excellent online MSN degree program for working healthcare professionals who wish to advance their careers. You can also study within a specific specialty. Wilkes University offers Nurse Practitioner degrees with specializations in Psychiatric Care, Adult Gerontology and Family.
Networking allows you to meet people who have worked in the positions you are considering entering. You can ask questions and carefully consider whether this path is right for you or whether you want to pursue another degree or position.
Be certain that you are presenting yourself as confident and not intimidated. Even if you meet someone with an incredibly prestigious reputation and position, you should avoid acting so humble that you appear intimidated. Many are uncomfortable with someone acting this way regardless of their success and position. Treating a prestigious person with the same kindness and respect you pay anyone is exactly what you should do. Making them aware that you know of their work and giving a polite compliment is fine – beyond that, you should consider if your comments are too much.
Don’t forget to make contact after the conference
If you get someone’s networking card or contact information, you should write them at least a quick note within a few days after the event. You don’t have to write a lot. You could just mention that it was nice to meet them. Even mentioning that you remember talking to them means a lot. This shows that you valued your time with them and opens the door to future collaboration or friendship.
Do not be offended if someone does not reply or takes a long time to write you back. The medical and academic world is very busy, and just because you do not get the response you want right away does not mean that the person is not interested in further contact.
Remember to give as much as you get
When you are at conferences or networking events, remember that there are those there who you can also help. While you are looking for support and connections, others are also, and you might be able to fill that role for another person, especially as you gain experience and extra credentials.
Many nurses find themselves in a mentorship position at some point. Being a mentor is a great way to gain leadership experience and help prepare yourself for higher-level positions later in life.
Take time at conferences and events to talk to those who are less experienced than you, not just those who you think might be able to help you later. Showing that you care about others is important in any field. It lets people know that you do not mind going the extra mile.
Nurses should take networking seriously throughout their careers. Through networking, there are a lot of opportunities for jobs, collaboration, support and friendship. Attending networking events also helps nurses prepare for advanced leadership and teaching positions later in their careers.
Sometimes employers ask for members of staff to represent their facility at conferences. Volunteering to be that person when appropriate is a great way to show initiative and help your employer. Taking on this role offers opportunities to improve your social networking skills and learn how to interact in a professional environment that is not a clinical setting. Nurses who see themselves pursuing administrative positions in the future should network as much as their schedule will allow.