In the course of your nursing career, you need allies who can support you in elevating and advancing your journey as a professional nurse.
Allies are easier to come by than you think, but many nurses don’t think strategically about this important aspect of nursing career development.
Since many nurses seem averse to consciously and purposefully building a professional network, here are five strategies to do just that.
Find A Mentor
A mentor is often an ally who has your best interests in mind. During your nursing career, you can always hire a mentor for a short period of time and a specific purpose but there are plenty of mentors to go around among your peers and colleagues.
A mentor is often an ally who has your best interests in mind. Of course, during your nursing career, you can always hire a mentor for a short period and a specific purpose (for example, a career coach), but there are plenty of mentors to go around among your peers and colleagues.
Consider yourself very lucky if you’re a newer nurse and have one of those rare employers offering a well-designed mentoring program. Unfortunately, most nurses fall into the camp of needing to seek out a mentor on their own.
A mentor can be an experienced and compassionate colleague willing to meet with you periodically to help you navigate essential aspects of your career. If there’s someone you think is the cat’s meow as a nurse or leader, you can boldly ask them to be your mentor — let them know what you need, and ask if they’d be willing.
You also have the option of simply closely observing and emulating someone who you think is superlative in the areas where you’d like to grow. Silently watch them, practice as they practice, and allow them to be your nurse role model.
For me, my colleague Donna Cardillo is this type of mentor. I never officially asked Donna to mentor me; instead, I observe her career and how she goes about things, and I often use the example she sets to empower myself to move forward creatively.
Start Small and Easy Finding Allies
If you’re an introvert and networking feels scary and intimidating, don’t worry about trying to find like-minded allies and colleagues at big conferences and meetings. Instead, start small, and make this process easy on yourself.
Look to your immediate circle of colleagues for your true allies. Who always has your back? Who checks in and asks how you’re doing? Who offers help and is always there for you? Your work friends may be a natural gene pool of natural allies.
It’s easy to keep these types of allies close. Nurture these relationships through reciprocal kindness and mutual support.
Leverage Online Platforms and Resources
Over the years, I’ve met hundreds of nurses and professionals through online nursing communities and social media.
I met my former business partner and RNFM Radio cohost, Kevin Ross, on Twitter in 2011 — we then launched one of the first nursing podcasts around, as well as a growing company. Our other partner, Elizabeth Scala, found me on Twitter in 2012; she was looking for like-minded nurse entrepreneurs and allies.
I also met Dr. Renee Thompson — the internationally known expert on bullying and incivility in nursing — on Twitter around that same time. Our Twitter connection quickly developed into a true offline friendship, and I now count her as one of my closest friends.
Dr. Thompson also unofficially mentors me in terms of growing my speaking business. So although we’re close pals, she also serves as a person whose work ethic and approach to supporting the nurses I seek to emulate.
Meanwhile, I continue to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to build my network and meet new people with whom I feel aligned. When someone stands out from the crowd, I reach out, and we expand our relationship via phone, Zoom, or FaceTime, and sometimes we have the chance to meet in person, which is truly the icing on the networking cake.
Think Outside The Box
Your allies don’t all have to be nurses; they don’t even have to work in healthcare.
Your most ardent and enthusiastic allies might be right under your nose.
Think about your family and close friends — who among these groups of your most intimate circles are natural allies?
Who cares enough to ask about your career and how you’re doing? Who shows interest in your professional life? Some may enjoy your company by cracking a beer together, enjoying a meal, or playing baseball on Saturday mornings — that’s fine since you need friends like that, too. However, a select few are true allies to whom you could turn for advice or support when you need them most.
And remember: your therapist, counselor, AA sponsor, or faith leader are all natural allies. Look to them for comfort, advice, support, a shoulder to cry on, and a peaceful place to share your deepest worries and troubles.
Finally, look at yourself. It would be best if you were your own greatest ally. After all, you’re always there, aren’t you?
If there are ways in which you tend to undermine yourself, seek help from a therapist or counselor to unpack those negative habits and thought patterns. Continue to untangle the stuff that holds you back, and consistently move forward in the interest of being self-respecting, healthy, whole, and balanced.
Allies Are Everywhere
Your allies are everywhere. Look within, look without, look online, and look around you. These allies will get you through the tough times and help you grow when it’s time to be expansive.
Gather your allies and create a circle of support for your nursing career and personal growth. It’s part of your life’s work — make it count.
Minority Nurse is thrilled to welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.