When attempting to secure a nursing position, it helps to have a strong professional network. At its core, networking involves the development and maintenance of professional relationships. You can build your network by attending conferences and seminars, requesting informational interviews with other professionals in the field of healthcare, and volunteering to work at nursing-related nonprofits. Although in-person networking often yields more intimate and productive working relationships, you can also network online through forums or sites like LinkedIn.
One-on-one and institutional networking, such as joining the American Nurses Association, can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to keep up with this constantly advancing field.
Networking allows young professionals the opportunity to learn more about a field and to secure their first job, even if they do not have much experience. The process also offers established professionals the chance to learn about new developments in their industry and share their own best practices with others. Through networking, recent graduates and nurses can also gain access to valuable resources, such as scholarships for continuing education.
Like virtually all medical professionals, nurses must remain at the forefront of breakthroughs in medicine, care, and healthcare technology. One-on-one and institutional networking, such as joining the American Nurses Association, can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to keep up with this constantly advancing field.
How Do You Network in Nursing?
Different Types of Professional Networks in Nursing
Three fundamental types of professional networks exist: operational, personal, and strategic.
Operational networks help you succeed in your current position. They comprise your colleagues, managers, employees, and those working outside of your organization who help you do your job on a day-to-day basis. Personal networks, made up of individuals outside of your organization, can help you find a new job or access new knowledge. Unlike operational networks, you often need to build and maintain personal networks on your own. Strategic networks give you the ability to marshal the resources of a group to achieve a broad goal. For example, the head of a nursing advocacy organization may call upon doctors, patients, and community members to join them in pushing for a policy that benefits those working in the field of nursing.
All three forms of networking play an important role in nursing, but new and early-career nurses should focus on developing operational and personal networks first.
Networking Events in Nursing
Networking events represent one of the best ways to expand your professional network. Large-scale events -- typically hosted by hospitals, healthcare companies, and nursing associations -- usually take place in convention centers or hotels. There, you may listen to lectures or panel discussions featuring leading minds in the field. Many companies also use these events as an opportunity to recruit new employees.
When attending a networking event, have a goal in mind for what you hope to accomplish. If you primarily want to learn about new healthcare treatments and techniques, review the conference program in advance and register for appropriate seminars and training sessions. If you want to find a new job, prioritize activities that allow you to talk with your colleagues, such as social mixers or group discussions.
No matter what you hope to accomplish, bring business cards and follow up with contacts you make at the event.
Elevator Pitches in Nursing
If you cannot describe your qualifications and goals in roughly thirty seconds, work on developing your "elevator pitch," or the information you can convey to someone in the time it takes to ride with them in an elevator.
In your elevator pitch, make sure to introduce yourself, provide an overview of your professional background and accomplishments, and share what you can offer the person on the receiving end. For example, when speaking with a potential employer, you may discuss your success in creating a streamlined patient intake process and how that process can help hospitals save both time and money.
Finally, speak clearly and succinctly, and change your elevator pitch as needed to suit your audience.
Social Networking Sites for Nursing Professionals
Online social and professional platforms are increasingly important for networking. While LinkedIn remains the largest of these, AngelList or Meetup may be beneficial too. Professional associations, like the National Association of School Nurses, can also offer more targeted online networking opportunities.
Online networking works best as a follow up to in-person networking. Let's say you meet a chief nurse at a conference who tells you that their employer is not currently hiring, but have plans to in the near future. Connecting with this person online allows you to provide a more detailed overview of your qualifications, hear about any hiring-related announcements the employer makes, or proactively reach out to inquire about the possibility of joining their team.
Tips for Networking in Nursing
Practice networking to become better at it. You may stumble through your elevator pitch the first few times you deliver it. You may forget to follow up after a good conversation or lose a potential collaborator's contact information. But don't let these mistakes discourage you: professional networking for nurses requires dedication.
Request Meetings and Informational Interviews: Many established professionals enjoy meeting with those just entering the field. They see such interactions as "paying forward" the advice and connections they received when they were younger. Make sure to work around their schedule, thank them for their time, and follow up as appropriate.
Attend Events: Conferences and seminars allow you to meet dozens of individuals working diverse jobs within your chosen field. For younger professionals, this can give you a sense of what sort of career path you might like to pursue in nursing. For those with more experience, these events help forge connections that can lead to advancement opportunities.
Know What you Want: Networking often involves an "ask." If you meet someone who wants to help, you need to be able to tell that person how they can help. Think about what you hope to get from networking, whether it is a new job or advice on how to tackle a problem.
Show Appreciation: Whether someone has given you advice over a cup of coffee or works to create a position for you at their company, thank them for their time and assistance. If you do not, people may be less likely to help you in the future. Thank everyone in-person, and for larger favors, follow up with an email or a handwritten letter.
Maintain Your Network: Networking entails more than just developing new connections. You must also actively work to maintain relationships within your field. Congratulate contacts on promotions or new jobs, and try to think about what you can offer to other professionals in your network. Give as much as you take.
Networking Event "Do's" for Nurses
Set Goals: While networking in nursing school, your goal may center on finding a job. Later in your career, you may focus on developing new skills that can benefit you. Before attending a networking event, write out what you hope to accomplish.
Dress Appropriately: Most conferences, seminars, and networking events indicate a dress code, typically business casual. For men, this often means pants and a button-up shirt with a collar. For women, this can mean pants, a skirt, or a simple dress. It's best not to wear jeans or sneakers. When looking to impress, try to dress a step above what the event organizers recommend.
Bring Business Cards: Even in the digital age, business cards play a key role in networking. To this end, bring plenty of business cards with your most recent job title and contact information. Bring a pen to add more information to the back of the card, like a private number or mutual connection.
Be Concise: You need to capture someone's attention within the first thirty seconds of meeting them. Work on your elevator pitch to express who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you can offer to an organization. Make sure to practice your delivery aloud and in front of others.
Follow Up on Connections: Especially when dealing with busy professionals, follow up on any connections you develop. Reach out on LinkedIn or send an email. For more formal connections, send a handwritten note. Try not to call on your first follow up unless your contact specifically requests that you do.
Networking Event "Don'ts" for Nurses
Pass out Paper Copies of your Resume: Business cards fit in a pocket, but resumes do not. Unless an event indicates that you should bring physical copies of your resume, leave it at home. Share the highlights of your resume as part of your elevator pitch, and provide more detailed information when you follow up.
Use a Shotgun Approach: Be strategic. Identify individuals in advance that can help you achieve your goal, whether that is finding a new job or learning about a new treatment. Work to develop connections with these individuals rather than trying to meet as many people as you can.
Interrupt/Talk over Others: During group conversations, wait for a lull or a question before you chime in. If someone interrupts your elevator pitch with a question, stop and respond rather than continuing your rehearsed speech. Politeness can help you make a positive first impression.
Be Intimidated: Although you do not want to interrupt, you also do not want to remain silent. When your opportunity to speak arises, take it. Everyone understands why professionals take part in networking events, and attendees expect you to talk about yourself. If the conversation involves a subject you do not understand, ask questions rather than stay quiet.
Neglect to Follow Up on Connections: Using networking to land a job in nursing requires multiple connections over an extended period of time. Having a single conversation typically does not translate into a new opportunity. Follow up with a note, email, or phone call. Try to ask a question so your connections recognize you want to continue correspondence.