Networking Tips to Advance Your Nursing Career
Written By: Dawn Papandrea
No matter what career direction you take in today’s nursing job market, it’s important to be a good networker. In a nursing career in which there are so many professional paths to explore, networking can be especially helpful for finding out about new positions, meeting mentors, learning about interesting industry events, and other career development opportunities.
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Networking is a great way to make personal connections and build relationships with other nursing professionals “in the trenches” so that you can share tips and advice, lean on each other for support, and commiserate. After all, although it’s a very fulfilling vocation, sometimes nursing can take a physical and emotional toll on you -- something to which only fellow nurses can completely relate.
Most importantly, if you hope to advance to a managerial or leadership position, or eventually move into a specialization in the nursing field, networking can help you take those next steps. It’s true that the demand for nurses is high, but as you advance, the competition for jobs will become more fierce; having a strong network behind you can help set you apart.
So how can you become a well-networked nurse? Read on for strategies on how to make connections and nurture them.
Build Your Own Network
While professional associations are a good start for meeting others in the nursing profession, the anchor of your network will come from within. In other words, cultivating relationships with the people you meet in school, on the job, and in your personal life can provide a great deal of value.
From the time you’re a nursing student, you should start building your network by exchanging contact information with those you meet. Keep in touch on social media or through email, and try to meet up in person for some face time, too.
As great as making online connections can be, nothing beats in-person networking. That’s why attending nursing conferences and events is another great way to get out there. Strike up conversations and have business cards made up so that you have something to exchange with the people you meet.
If you work for a large hospital or health care organization, try to attend any mixers or company-sponsored events that are offered. Remember, you want your network to include not only fellow nurses, but also members of the other healthcare professions.
Nurse Networking: Where to Start
The easiest way to get your networking going beyond the people you know in your personal life and at work is to join professional nursing associations. There are many to choose from – those for student nurses; local nursing organizations; those that focus on a nursing specialty; etc. There are literally hundreds of these groups, so ask your nursing colleagues, professors, and classmates which ones they’d recommend.
The goal is to join a few organizations that align with either your current nursing status, and/or the career aspirations you have for the near future. Nurses get a lot out of these affiliations since they have formal and informal networking events, virtual chat and message boards, and other resources for getting to know others in the field. You may also receive discounts on continuing education seminars and courses.
Chances are, once you land a full-time nursing position, you won’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to in-person networking. That’s where social media and online networking can fill the void.
LinkedIn is the most obvious platform since it is geared toward professionals. Be sure you keep your profile updated with your latest accomplishments (not just when you’re looking for a new job), and connect with colleagues, nursing friends, and others in the healthcare world. You can also join industry-based LinkedIn groups to discuss nursing trends and best practices, as well as follow the company pages of top healthcare organizations and hospitals. Find Nursing Organizations here. Another way to keep your account active is sharing interesting articles on your feed and commenting on things that other people share.
Beyond LinkedIn, the lines between personal and professional connections are becoming blurred on Facebook and Twitter. Even if you follow mostly friends and family, try not to post anything that you’d regret your colleagues or bosses seeing, and definitely don’t post anything specific about patient interactions since that could get you into legal trouble.
That being said, your connections on all of these platforms can end up helping you professionally, whether it’s an acquaintance referring you to a job you didn’t know about, or finding out about your nursing school’s alumni events.
In addition to the major social networking platforms, there are many nursing-specific online communities that you can join, many of which are free. They may offer articles, blogs, e-mail newsletters, CEUs, forums, and/or other tools to keep you informed, and provide you a way to communicate with other members.
Networking Best Practices
What’s most important with online social networking (as well as in-person) is that you should try to be generous with others and always give more than you get. Being kind and supportive to other nurses in your network will come back to you someday when you are in need of support.
Help others who might be looking for job leads, endorse coworkers, or share articles and posts from someone you admire in the industry. People will take note of your networking goodwill, and it just might open doors for you in the future.
A good face-to-face networking tip is to try to strike up a conversation even if you don’t know anyone in the room. This can be challenging if you’re on the shy side, but the more you practice introducing yourself, the easier it will get.
Finally, as busy as you might be, try to make some time for networking. Whether it’s ten minutes updating your social profiles or committing to attend a few conferences each year, consider it a wise investment of your time.
You’ve worked hard to attain all of your nursing credentials – now it’s time to put your skills to work in a professional setting and make your contribution to the healthcare profession. By honing your networking skills, you can be a part of something bigger while taking your nursing career to the next level.
Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.