Professional networking may sound intimidating, but it plays an important role in modern job searching and career development. When you network, you actively seek relationships within your industry to pursue your professional goals. You may form these connections in person, through an industry-specific organization, or online. No matter how you meet or mingle, it is critical to establish a personal rapport. Professional networking for nurses allows professionals to explore the field and develop a strong support system within the medical community. Networking helps nursing graduates find new positions, discover new specialities, and share their knowledge.
Networking in nursing school or after graduation helps professionals open the door to fulfilling careers in the medical field. Graduates uncover what they want in a job and what type of specialty they wish to pursue by talking to other professionals. In a competitive field, having a strong support system makes a big difference.
How Do You Network in Nursing?
Different Types of Professional Networks in Nursing
Nurses can use different types of networking to grow their professional connections. Operational networks focus on developing strong bonds with people who help you accomplish your day-to-day work to ensure coordination and trust. Operational networking offers limited scope and little room for growth. Personal networking seeks connections outside of your place of employment, such as through professional organizations and social media, to provide new perspectives and different opportunities.
You may struggle to differentiate between these vast personal connections and identify who plays a relevant role. Strategic networks aim to develop specific relationships with people who can help further your defined career goals. As in personal networking, strategic networking challenges you to determine who can positively contribute to your professional aspirations. Nurses should practice all of these strategies when seeking employment, although personal and strategic networking hold the most promise for those desiring a career shift.
Networking Events in Nursing
Using networking to land a job in nursing requires effort and attendance. Networking events play a crucial role in the field, as nurses often gather at convention center nursing meetings, hospital or company-sponsored events, continuing education seminars, or conferences where they can work with their peers and meet other professionals. Networking events often focus on education with lectures, job fairs, or social events where nurses can bond with like-minded peers.
Once you arrive at the event, focus on connecting and establishing rapport with new people. Handing out your business card, LinkedIn page, or email allows new contacts to keep in touch with you. Sending a quick thank you email to your new connections is also a great way to make a lasting impression and potentially turn acquaintances into future references.
Elevator Pitches in Nursing
An elevator speech provides a succinct summary of who you are and what you do. The 25-30 second speech should include a snapshot about you, what you offer, how you differ from others, a brief example of your skills, and a call to action. Nurses should highlight their interest areas and clinical strengths. Don’t load your elevator speech with jargon or recite it for the first time at your first networking event. Practice ahead of time and make your sentences clear and simple. Listeners should feel that what you just said matters.
Social Networking Sites for Nursing Professionals
Several social networking sites beyond LinkedIn aim to connect nursing professionals. Some sites only offer online components while others, such as Meetup, offer in-person meetings. The advantage of social networking as compared to in-person networking lies in its accessibility. Both free and paid sites show people opportunities all over the world and help create a global network of nurses. However, individuals may struggle to distinguish legitimate connections and leads.
Tips for Networking in Nursing
Just like any skill, your networking abilities improve over time. With experience comes the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, what should be said and what shouldn’t. The practice and patience required is worth it when you start making connections and forging friendships.
- Arrive Early: By showing up before the event, you can scope out the scene and pinpoint who you want to talk to. The calmer and quieter atmosphere offers a better environment for talking than if you were to show up late and frazzled to a much busier room.
- Share Your Passions: At a natural point in the conversation, demonstrate your passion for what you do. Give professionals a quick glimpse into your interest areas and clinical strengths, but don’t overdo it and venture into the hard sell. Win them over with enthusiasm and involve them in the conversation by finding mutual focuses.
- Ask Questions: People usually like talking about what they do. An easy question is a great way to start a conversation. Ask simple and straightforward questions, and then listen to the replies. Learn what they need, and you just might get a chance to show them what you offer.
- Smile: Nurses manage stressful careers, and networking events give fellow nurses a chance to bond over similar situations. Smile and keep a positive attitude as you reminisce about the joys of your job. Optimism goes a long way in the job hunt.
- Follow Up: People remember you based on how a conversation ends, not begins. When you connect with someone new, get contact information up front and make sure to reach out to thank them for their time. If they mentioned a job opening, reiterate your interest. Highlight that you were paying attention to the conversation, and you enjoyed your time together.
Networking Event “Do’s” for Nurses
- Set Goals: Consider what you want to achieve before you attend a networking event. If you want a new job, prepare some questions. Research attendees and get ready to reach out to them. Being prepared and setting goals gives you a purpose and helps structure your conversations.
- Dress Appropriately: Wearing professional attire sets the stage for future collaboration. You don’t want to make a bad impression by appearing overly casual. A proper outfit also lends confidence, and you want to be self-assured when going into a networking event. Additionally, crisp, finely tailored apparel shows that you take networking seriously.
- Bring Business Cards: Keep extra business cards easily accessible in a case. This allows you to quickly give someone your contact information. You also appear professional and prepared for the event. People may keep your business cards in the case of future opportunities, whereas names and numbers typed into a mobile can be forgotten.
- Be Concise: Don’t spend too much time talking about yourself as your listener may lose interest. Be clear and concise, and be sure to ask related questions. Focus on quality, not quantity, of conversation. Focus on building rapport rather than overloading with information.
- Follow Up on Connections: Following up after a meeting remains one of the best ways to make a good impression. Mention something specific from your discussion, and work on fortifying the relationship. Concluding with a final thank you and a nice note makes you look professional and courteous.
Networking Event “Don’ts” for Nurses
- Distribute Paper Copies of Your Resume: It is never a good idea to distribute your resume without being asked. It indicates that you do not wish to establish a real connection or gain new knowledge from the connection. Instead, it appears that you only care about what they can do for you.
- Use a Shotgun Approach: Do not pass out your business card without forming a real connection first. By using a shotgun approach and distributing your contact information to as many people as possible, you fail to make any lasting connections. You miss out on the opportunity to make a good impression on a few key people.
- Interrupt or Talk Over Others: Interrupting other people demonstrates that you do not care enough to listen to what others want to say or what they could teach you. Acting disrespectful and talking over others does not encourage potential connections to support you in your career search. Instead, show that you want to listen and learn from them.
- Be Intimidated: Never act afraid or intimidated when you talk to someone. People are just people, and they want to be treated fairly and with respect. People at networking events wish to develop their professional life and learn new things. If you feel confident and act composed, you can better guide the conversation.
- Neglect to Follow Up on Connections: Neglecting to follow up on conversations may mean that those connections dissipate. Work to maintain rapport and grow a relationship. Following up shows the person that you want to continue the discussion.