Use social media, conferences and daily workplace interactions to connect and enrich your career
Networking is a buzzword that we tire of hearing, but it’s really just about building professional connections with others. When you’re in need of advice, support or a recommendation, knowing someone who can help is essential. You can also be of service to others at pivotal times in their careers.
We’ve all had colleagues who’ve entered our lives, changed the way we practiced or thought, and then moved on before we could form a lasting relationship. At the same time, there are people who’ve remained in our circles for years that we barely know. Reviewing my own career, I remember colleagues who contributed to my professional identity and clinical skills, but we moved on and fell out of touch. I wish we had done more to connect so we could now continue to influence and support one another. ➜
Where and How to Connect
Working as a nurse, you have daily encounters with physicians, social workers, dietitians and other healthcare professionals with whom you plan patient care, share information and collaborate. Of course, not all of these individuals will take a shine to you (or you to them), but others could become powerful professional allies or even good friends.
Cultivating friendships is straightforward. You go out for a drink, have dinner or get your families together on your days off. With a professional network, you need to actively seek out opportunities to connect. Building and maintaining these relationships takes time and energy.
Where to start?
1. Day-to-Day Connections
Consider which of your colleagues feel like kindred spirits — professionals you’d like to have in your corner and be in theirs. Make a point of creating an ongoing connection with them that is nurtured via conversation and mutual support. You would of course be wise to create such relationships with other nurses, but interprofessional professional connections are equally important.
2. Conferences, Meetings, Seminars
When you attend conferences, meetings and seminars, see which of your fellow attendees stand out from the crowd. Then, strike up conversations; exchange business cards; and be sure to follow up on LinkedIn or reconnect via phone, text or email.
Conference buddies may or may not become lifelong friends, but having a professional contact in another city can be helpful. If you and a new connection share a particular specialty or clinical interest, it will provide a basis for ongoing contact.
[sidebar] HELPING OTHERS
A few months ago, I introduced one of my New York-based coaching clients to a famous colleague of mine who was going to be in Manhattan for a nursing conference. After I put them in touch by email, they met and had a wonderful time. My client is now “on the radar” of a very prominent nursing thought leader. If she plays her cards right, she can parlay that encounter into a lasting and valuable professional connection.
[sidebar] MY CHARGE NURSE, MY FRIEND
I’m currently the chief nursing officer and director of nursing of a small home health agency. In 2014, we hired a charge nurse who has turned out to be the single most wonderful colleague that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with: conscientious, funny, personable, detail-oriented, supportive, insightful and an astute clinician. This nurse and I won’t work together forever, but we’ve made a commitment to remain professional buddies, serve as references for one another and generally have each other’s back whether we’re working for the same agency or not. This is a great example of the type of strong professional relationship that‘s worth maintaining and nurturing.
[sidebar] GIVE A LITTLE
One way to make connections within professional associations is to volunteer. For example, I’ve lent my writing, podcasting and blogging skills to many of the campaigns and initiatives organized by the New Mexico Nurses Association, which has helped me build relationships with the leaders and other members of this progressive nursing organization.
3. Social Media
Many people feel that social media is frivolous. The truth is that you tend to get out what you put in — if you use such platforms in a superficial way, you’ll certainly have a superficial experience. However, if you use social media as a way to meet like-minded people, establish a rapport and engage in meaningful dialogue, you can connect with other professionals throughout the world from the convenience of your own laptop.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are platforms where a growing number of nurses are spending time. Many hospitals, health systems, and nursing organizations also have a robust social media presence.
Following nursing-related hashtags on Twitter can alert you to timely conversations. Also, a great deal of trending news is shared on Twitter. Once you learn how to cut through the noise, the possibilities for sharing knowledge and making connections are endless.
LinkedIn groups related to specific nursing specialties are also gold mines of interaction and information. Mutual group membership is a perfect icebreaker for reaching out to another LinkedIn user whose work interests you.
You definitely want to be cautious about connecting with colleagues on Facebook, where sharing your personal life is the norm. (See the sidebars for helpful hints for using various social media platforms.)
4. Associations and Groups
Joining local, regional, national or international nursing associations is another smart way to grow your network and nurture relationships. As mentioned above, conferences and seminars are springboards for meeting like-minded colleagues, as are organizations that bring nurses and healthcare professionals together.
[sidebar] FACEBOOK GROUPS
If you spend time on social media, be sure to investigate nursing-related groups like NurseUp, a community of almost 3,000 nurses who connect regularly through Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/nurseup) to offer one another support, advice and friendship. I recently met a novice nurse blogger who wanted to meet other nurses struggling to launch new blogs or websites. I invited him to NurseUp, where he found several mentors and supportive colleagues who are nurturing his blogging efforts.
[sidebar] birth of a podcast
Back in 2011, I made the acquaintance of various nurses by following hashtags on Twitter. I continued several of those conversations by phone and via Skype. Months later, I joined forces with two of those nurses to launch RN FM Radio, which is now one of the most popular nursing podcasts on the Internet. What began with a few tweets eventually flowered into a rapidly growing media company and some very satisfying friendships.
[sidebar] INSIDER JOB-HUNTING TIPS
A client of mine used LinkedIn to find connections who were employed at facilities where she wanted to apply. That effort allowed her to glean important inside information not readily available to other applicants. She was able to use that
knowledge to custom-tailor her resume and cover letters and help her prepare for her interviews.
Tools of the Game
There are several basic tools for networking that can assist in your efforts to establish and
◗ Business Cards
Handing out a business card from your workplace isn’t a bad idea, but you probably won’t be at that particular institution forever, so it’s wise to also have your own cards. Keep them simple, but be sure to include your name, credentials, personal email address (or one you create solely for networking), phone number and the URL of your LinkedIn profile or other professional website.
◗ Resume or CV
Every nurse needs a solid resume or CV. Update it with each new accomplishment so it is always current, and keep it on file. A resume is not just for interviewing for a new job, but is also useful when you’re offering to speak at a group meeting or applying to volunteer.
◗ LinkedIn Profile
Having a robust LinkedIn profile is smart. Consider taking advantage of the many resources on how to use this powerful professional networking platform. Including a professional-looking photo is a handy way to help new acquaintances find you online. Also, be sure to create a customized URL for your profile and add it to your resume, business cards and letterhead.
◗ Cards and Letters
There’s nothing like good old-fashioned thank-you cards or notes. If you meet a new colleague with whom you’d really like to remain connected, send a handwritten note expressing your gratitude for having met or reflecting on the conversation you had at a meeting or conference.
Networking should be about the desire to connect authentically with other human beings. Find the ways in which you feel most comfortable networking, reach out to kindred spirits and nurture your relationships over time. A robust professional network will serve you in myriad ways throughout your nursing career. Network sincerely and you will have a consistent resource of support, connection, opportunity and professional growth.
This article is from workingnurse.com.