Despite their public-facing profession, many nurses put networking activities at the bottom of a to-do list. But keeping a strong professional network is important in good times and bad. You want to have colleagues and professional peers you can reach out to when you are looking for professional opportunities; but in a strong network, you are also able to offer help to others.
Even if you hate networking, keeping up a professional presence beyond your workplace is essential to your career. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to chat up 50 people at a networking meeting (unless you want to!). Networking encompasses a broad scope–finding what you’re comfortable with and staying active in that platform is important. Every now and then, add in activities that are beyond your comfort zone as those kinds of activities offer tremendous opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Here are a few ways to get started.
Get an active social presence
Nope, that doesn’t mean meeting people face to face. Nurses who have a solid professional presence on social media–including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok–are establishing a professional identity and building a reputation for expertise. Share important news from your organization, your alma mater, your professional organizations, or colleagues. Relay your own experiences and what you have learned in your life to help others. Keep all your posts professional, positive, and informative. Aim to make at least one post a week.
Show your face at events
Yes, in-person attendance is great, but not everyone is able to do that. Find professional organization meetings on Zoom and go to those. Attend seminars, both local and far away, that can help you meet other nurses and folks in other professions. Attend and participate in breakout sessions. Try to schedule this at least once a quarter, more often if you can.
Offer to help
Networking is not a one-way street. Good networking helps your career, but you can also help others–no matter where you are at in your own career. Even as a new nurse, you can offer to help nursing students who are trying to navigate their next steps. Nursing students can give talks at high schools to help introduce younger students to a nursing career. Or stretch past nursing and offer to share your talents in organization, communication, or advocacy with others. The key is to give back to keep your network moving both ways. Try to reach out to help once a month.
Don’t be shy
Networking is a dynamic process and requires attention. Send notes and messages when you see a peer has won an award. Inquire after an event to see how it went or wish good luck before a big presentation. React with praise if warranted to a peer’s LinkedIn post. When you are consistent about reaching out to others without asking for anything in return, it won’t seem so uncomfortable to ask for help when you need it. Nurses are used to taking care of things themselves and asking for something often is the last thing they want to do.
As you become more comfortable with networking and as your network grows larger, you’ll notice how frequently people rely on each other–whether that is for landing a job in your dream organization or for finding a speaker to fill in for a last-minute schedule change at a convention. Practice asking for help, watch how others do it, and begin reaching out to others. Connect with others frequently–this should happen at least once or twice a week.
Building and nourishing a network takes time and effort but will develop meaningful personal and professional connections.