How to network successfully

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Build a team to help you reach your professional and personal goals.
by Donna Cardillo, RN, BS

In today’s fast-paced, competitive world, you’ve got to be well-connected to keep up with the competition and stay current. Your best tool for success is a network – ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships with many people. But establishing a network involves more than just passing out business cards or calling people when you need help with something.

In this article, I’ll describe what networking can do for you and how you can start building your success team.

Why network

Whatever your objective, networking will get you there quicker and more effectively. Networking can help if you’re:

Job hunting. Networking is the most effective method of finding out about job opportunities and getting interviews.

Starting a business. Networking will put you in touch with people who need your services, can get you referrals, and can hook you up with others in the field.

Expanding your expertise or exploring new areas. You can gather information on career options and keep abreast of trends in health care.

Getting started

One of the best ways to get started networking is to attend professional association meetings in your area of interest. This is one of the top methods to maintain visibility and make new contacts.

Conventions, career forums, seminars, and job fairs are other excellent places to network. Dress professionally so you’ll make a good first impression. Approach people with a smile and an extended hand, make eye contact, and tell them who you are and what you do. You’ll get better at it and braver as time goes on.

The World Wide Web is another great place to network. Through electronic mail and forums for nurses you can meet nurses from all over the world, and staying in touch is simple.

Exchange business cards when appropriate. You can have cards made if you’re not employed or your employer doesn’t offer them. Include your name, certification initials, address, and telephone number. Carry cards with you all times, especially when you’re at a function. You never know when you’ll need one.

Networking basics

Here are some etiquette points to remember:

• Prepare before calling someone you don’t know. Know what you want to say or ask. I find it helpful to write a script or jot some “cue” notes for myself so I don’t fumble over my words or forget questions I want to ask. When you call, tell the person who you are and why you’re calling. Ask if now is a good time to talk.

• Maybe you’re reluctant to pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know, especially if you’re calling to ask for help or advice. Remember that most people are sincerely glad to help others. In the future, you may be able to return the favor.

• Send a follow-up note. Contacts you’ve recently met or spoken with on the phone will be sure to remember you if you follow up with a note stating that you enjoyed meeting or speaking with them.

• Send thank-you notes when appropriate. Acknowledge anyone who was particularly helpful to you, spent considerable time on the phone or in person with you, or gave you a lead or referral (whether it worked out or not).

• Keep in touch with your network. You’ll see or speak with some people regularly, but other connections will need to be cultivated or nurtured. Consider sending a holiday greeting card with a personal note about the progress you’ve made on something previously discussed. If you call someone periodically for help and advice, occasionally send a note just to say hello – don’t call only when you need something. Also, don’t call the same person all the time. Have various sources and contacts.

Networking can open doors of opportunity that you didn’t know existed. So try something new and network you way to success!

Reprinted with permission from Nursing98 Career Directory
All rights reserved.