No nurse is an island. In fact, nursing career success hinges on the support of a network of friends and family, but also colleagues, peers, and nursing leaders (just like any other profession).
Engaging with others in the nursing profession isn’t just important for finding a job. Networking exposes you to new people, and therefore, new experiences, knowledge and insights. And one of the best ways to rejuvenate a career, discover a new way of thinking, or embark on a new career direction is through being inspired by others around us.
Not sure how to network exactly? Here are a few tips.
- Write up a paragraph or have a 20-second “mini speech” that explains your nursing career or practice. Make sure you can recount this casually in conversation. Tip: This is not a sales pitch. This should be a clever, interesting synopsis of what kind of nursing you are interested in or already are in, and why you are passionate about it.
- Start networking with your current network. Make up a list of people you know and speak to them about your interests and goals.
- Research the area you want to specialize in; read journals, and do web site searches for experts you may want to get to know.
- Join professional associations and actively participate in related interest groups. For example, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario has quite a few interest groups. Join one today.
- Attend conferences and workshops on related topics. When you are there, speak to attendees as much as possible, as well as to the speakers after presentations.
- Have a plan of attack for a conference or workshop. Find out who will be there and learn as much as you can about the attendees and speakers you’d like to meet.
- Don’t worry about walking up to someone (with a smile, extending your hand and introducing yourself). Everyone is at a conference or workshop or event with the expectation of meeting new people.
- Nervous? Think of networking as a chance to meet new people, period. The less you focus on it being a business opportunity, and the more you focus on socializing, the more natural, relaxed and effortless it will be. You’ll be surprised how people will be drawn to you.
- Don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions about the nursing challenges your contact is experiencing, so you can follow up later with a note that explains why you might be of assistance in tackling those challenges.
- Have business cards made – it is easy and inexpensive. Ask at any business or printing store. The business card should list your name, nursing credentials (i.e., RN, BScN) and contact information such as your personal email and personal phone number. Add some colour or an image to the card so it stands out as unique.
- When you hand out business cards, write a brief note on the reverse to remind people where you met and who you are.
- Send a thank you note or email to those who took the time to speak with you. Subtly mention your interest and experience.
- Try social media networking, including visiting nursing forums and blogs. Embrace technology.