During my early days in nursing, a great mentor told me about the importance of networking and the role it could play in my career. I never forgot the advice, and later as a nurse leader I appreciated how sage it was.
Whether you've been in leadership for a long time or if you are just starting out, it's important to understand and appreciate what networking is and what it can add to your professional growth and advancement.
It's all about connections
In electronics, components and circuits are connected to form networks. In air travel, planes fly safely because control towers have networks. In communications, news is transmitted locally, nationally and globally via networks. Networks bring us together, and in nursing as well as other professions and businesses, they're crucial. Leaders create them, use them and benefit from them.
When we network with each other we connect to something larger than ourselves, something that's more important and more powerful than we would be alone. Networks bridge, bond, strengthen and reinforce, and most of us like being part of them.
I've found the need to belong is a rather basic need among leaders. Most of us want to establish connections with other bright, powerful, savvy, involved professionals. We want to increase our knowledge and we know involvement in professional networks can help us do all that. As we move from novice to expert in leadership, we grow in our appreciation of the power of networking. We learn more about the give and take of working together and how to be teacher as well as student. We find that working with others and sharing thoughts, experiences or advice can lead to good things. We learn to navigate the twists and turns of our career paths, and find that our professional growth happens best in the company of our colleagues. Becoming part of networks doesn't just happen. We need to reach out, work at it and make those all-important contacts on our own.
- Join in
- Become part of things
- Make calls
- Accept invitations
- Be the initiator
The lessons we learn we also should teach
Leaders can always grow their networking skills, but they also should teach its importance. Talk with your staff about networking. If you have students in clinical rotations, tell them how quickly and positively networking can affect their careers. Tell them to look around at what's going on in the hospital or medical center, and caution them not to limit their vision to their own units. If you work in a large facility, encourage staff members to attend company-sponsored events. Let them know it's a good way to expand their network of colleagues to include not only nurses, but also members of other healthcare professions.
Discuss the value of professional organization memberships and committee work. Emphasize how both are good ways to meet nurses who share the same goals and objectives. Tell them that while organizational memberships are great ways to network, cultivating relationships with nurses from other specialties and facilities also can be of great value.
Attending nursing conferences or events is a way to get out there and meet and greet. Organizations continually look for new members because memberships keep them going and allow them to offer large conferences, seminars and annual meetings. Encourage staff (or even make it a benefit or bonus) to attend and participate. Most of all, advise your staff to start building networks early. From student days on, they can hone their networking skills via social media and email and by finding ways to meet colleagues in person.
Point out to them that as great as online connections can be, nothing beats in-person networking.
Networking should be an integral part our professional lives. Great leaders know this -- and they teach others.
Take these CE modules, which offer more career-building tips:
Networking for Career Advancement (1 contact hr) Networking is one of the most important career-building tools available to any professional, including nurses. So whether a nurse is hunting for a job, seeking a promotion, running for office, starting a business, seeking consultative work, pursuing higher education, entering public service or writing for publication, networking is an effective sales and marketing strategy for building a positive power base to attain long- and short-term career goals. This educational activity will provide guidance on networking for career advancement. Facebook: Know the Policy Before Posting (1 contact hr) The fundamental function of Facebook (and other social networking sites, such as Twitter) is allowing "friends" to share information. Friends are people who have agreed to communicate with and allow one another some level of access to personal information. Anyone with access to the Internet can join Facebook, the most popular social networking site, and connect with contacts. As of June 2015, Facebook claims more than 1.49 billion monthly active users. In healthcare, Facebook posts can influence the hiring process, violate patient privacy and result in termination of employment. This module informs healthcare professionals of the risks of social networks, which break down the walls separating our personal and professional lives. Transforming Practice: Taking the Leap to APRN (1 contact hr) As healthcare continues to evolve and advance practice nurses enhance their vital role, many nurses are contemplating advancing their careers and practice as well. However, its not always an easy decision. Program choice, cost, schedules, specialty ... how do nurses make this decision? This webinar will discuss the importance of the APRN and how nurses can make the important decision to transform their practice into this role.