Professional networking for nurses means making connections with people who can help advance your career. Networks are ways to share information, experience, and resources. They are important because you never know when somebody in an unrelated field might share a job posting or article that helps you land your next job. Networking can help launch a career while enabling you to grow both professionally and personally.
Whether you're making friends at work, attending conferences, or interacting with others in social media, networking exists in many forms. Learning some of the basics helps you build stronger networks and benefits you and those in your network. Networking is especially important in a competitive field such as nursing. Knowing someone in a particular hospital or specific subfield can be the key to landing a job, promotion, or spot in a graduate program.
Use the following guide to improve your own professional network and networking skills.
How Do You Network in Nursing?
Different Types of Professional Networks in Nursing
Nurses can use three networking types. Operational networks consist of colleagues, superiors, peers, and subordinates. These people directly impact a nurse's work. Personal networks consist of people outside of work, such as fellow alumnus or personal interest communities, who can provide external viewpoints. Strategic networks consist of people outside the direct workplace of a given nurse, but who are related, such as people in other areas of hospital employment.
All of these networking models benefit nurses looking to advance their careers. Using networking to land a job in nursing will most likely draw on personal networks unless you are already a practicing nurse, in which case the other models can help you land promotions, raises, or better jobs.
Networking Events in Nursing
Networking in nursing school can be a big help in launching your career. Seize opportunities to meet professionals at lectures or job fairs. Conferences are especially useful, since you can generally meet many people in a short time. Social events such as mixers or departmental gatherings provide facetime with people you might not otherwise see.
Business cards connect contact information to a skill set, instead of just remembering a name or email address. Always keep business cards on hand, especially at conferences or job fairs, as these are easy to store and many people collect them at such events. Business cards work in many networking situations, but they are easy to forget when attending smaller social events.
Elevator Pitches in Nursing
An elevator pitch is a succinct summation of your work, career goals, or credentials that takes about as long as an elevator ride. Know what you want to say and why. Also know what is appropriate. For example, a pitch about your capstone project might not work at a job fair. If you are attending a hiring event, consider how to succinctly pitch yourself as a potential employee. A successful elevator pitch leads to a more detailed conversation, and it could even lead to a job.
Social Networking Sites for Nursing Professionals
Professionals can explore several websites, such as LinkedIn, to network. These sites allow you to interact with people you might not otherwise meet, but they can also present an overwhelming sea of faces to meet. It is helpful to narrow down the list of potential contacts through groups or other search functions. Many sites offer free membership with paid membership providing additional benefits. Talk to colleagues and professionals to see which sites they use and how they can help you.
Tips for Networking in Nursing
While important, professional networking for nurses can sometimes be difficult. Networking is a skill that must be learned and improved over time. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes, and remember these tips.
Arrive Early. It might seem smarter to arrive at a networking event once it is packed with people, but it is better to arrive early. Attendees haven't had the chance to form groups, and you won't have to wedge yourself into conversations.
Join the Conversation. Don't try to dominate conversations. Networking is a give and take, and as much as you want to say your piece, so do others. Listen, pay attention, and acknowledge others to make potential contacts feel like you are worth getting to know.
Connect on a Personal Level. Networking isn't just about adding contacts to a list. People like to work with those whom they have a personal connection. Ask questions and learn about the person, not just the business contact, and be willing to share about yourself as well.
Bring a Friend. If a fellow nurse or colleague can join you, you can help each other by talking each other up, covering more ground, and meeting more people. Just make sure that you both benefit from the event.
Have Fun. It might sound silly, but try to enjoy yourself at networking events. It is hard to make personal connections if you're not having a good time. Don't overthink or overplan.
Networking Event "Do's" for Nurses
Set Goals. Try to have a goal in mind before you arrive. Are you seeking a job or just trying to make contacts? Knowing why you are there helps you know what to say and how to say it.
Dress Appropriately. Every event is different, right down to people's attire. Business casual attire is generally a safe choice as you won't appear too casual or overdressed. Wear something comfortable so your clothing won't distract you.
Bring Business Cards. Every networker needs business cards. They don't take up much space, are affordable to print, and people tend to save them. Make sure they include your name and contact information, and distribute them to new contacts when appropriate.
Be Concise. This is where you use your elevator pitch. Having a concise idea of your goals is helpful at events where you may only get a few minutes of anyone's time. Expressing yourself briefly helps sell you as a savvy professional.
Follow Up on Connections. Meeting someone isn't the same as networking with them. Follow up with new connections and remind them how you met. They might get back to you first, but if not, try to follow up within three days.
Networking Event "Don'ts" for Nurses
Distribute Paper Copies of Your Resume. If you hand out your resume at a networking event, expect it to be thrown away. It is simply too much information and too formal a presentation. Unless somebody requests your resume, don't offer it, and even if they do, email it so they won't misplace it.
Use a Shotgun Approach. Networking events aren't about numbers. Making meaningful connections with a handful of contacts is better than giving your business card to dozens of people. Trying to meet as many people as you can makes each meeting less meaningful and less likely to help anyone.
Interrupt or Talk Over Others. Aside from being rude, at a networking event it gives people the impression that you think you're more important than everyone else. This is not an impression you hope to make.
Be Intimidated. People attend the event for the same reasons as you: They want to meet more contacts and expand their networks. Everybody is on a pretty level playing field, so have confidence when speaking about yourself and what you offer.
Neglect to Follow Up on Connections. Following up is important, as everybody at the event met new people and it is difficult to remember everyone. If you want to start a solid relationship with someone, reach out to them. You can't expect everyone else to contact you first.