By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN
If you’ve ever read my online column, spoken to a career coach, or read any best-selling books on career management, you’ll know that networking is one of the best things you can do for professional success. But misunderstandings and misconceptions about networking and what it can do for you abound. Here are a few of the more-common myths.
Myth #1 — Networking is just for job seekers. While networking is one of the most effective ways to explore career options and find a job, that’s only one of its benefits. Networking has long been touted by career experts and others in the know as the most effective way to stay cutting edge with your information and knowledge, remain visible and connected to your profession, promote a business or service, and keep your social skills sharp. Networking can make you better at your current job. Use it to solve problems, get information, share ideas, and let off some steam. More important, use it to help others. Networking is a two-way street.
Myth #2 — Networking was a ’90s thing. While the phrase “networking” became a buzzword in the 1990s, especially with yuppies on the fast track, it’s far from just a ’90s “thing.” Before then, networking was simply a well-kept secret used by many successful professionals. Existing well before the 1990s, networking will continue to be an ace in the hole for those who use it. It’s a powerful tool for the 21st century.
Myth #3 — You have to leave home to network. I often hear people say, “I can’t get off from work or leave home in the daytime/evening to get out to networking events.” Fortunately, technology has greatly expanded our ability to communicate almost anytime and anywhere. The telephone and your computer are excellent networking venues, as is good old-fashioned letter writing. The Internet has chat rooms, bulletin boards, e-mail, etc. With cell phones, headsets, and beepers, people are easier to reach than ever. And the US Post Office is still a reliable and inexpensive way to communicate.
Myth #4 — The Internet has made face-to-face networking passé. While some of us spend a great deal of time online, the Internet will never be a substitute for face-to-face networking. It will never replace the human connection. There’s still nothing as memorable, meaningful, and effective as a face-to-face meeting.
Myth #5 — Networking occurs only in formal arenas. While professional association meetings, conventions, and career fairs all are important formal networking arenas, there are opportunities to network virtually everywhere. I’ve made some great contacts at the beauty parlor, on a shuttle bus at a convention, even in the ladies’ room! Force yourself to talk to people that you encounter. Introduce yourself or start with an icebreaker like “I couldn’t help noticing the book you’re reading” or “Your job seems so interesting. How did you get started?”
Myth #6 — Networking is something only managers and executives do. Some nurses think that networking is only for the powerful and influential. That myth may have arisen because once someone starts actively networking, he or she is almost guaranteed to advance in stature and position. Most managers and executives got where they are by networking, but they were networking before they were managers. Networking is sure to make anyone in any position more effective.
Myth #7 — You have to personally know someone in a specialty/company to get in. This is perhaps one of the biggest networking myths of all. You don’t have to know someone to make connections on “the inside,” whether it’s a particular company or specialty you’re interested in. You simply have to talk to enough people until you find someone who does. People know people who know people. That’s the power of networking. Talk to everyone you know and let them know what you’re interested in. It’s just a matter of time before you find someone who knows someone who can help you.
Myth #8 — Business cards are only for business owners. Don’t let the terminology fool you here. A business card is simply a calling card. It’s a professional way to exchange contact information with another. This is how professional people network. Writing your name and phone number down on a piece of scrap paper to give someone is not only tacky, but it makes you seem unimportant. If you can’t get business cards at work, have some made on your own. Carry them with you at all times. Important people have business cards, and you are a very important person.
Myth #9 — You have to network with people in your own geographic area. The power of networking is far-reaching. I once made a contact in Texas that eventually led to an opportunity in New York. I recently met a nurse who wanted to work in a certain city. She had lots of contacts in her specialty out of town, but thought they couldn’t help her in her new location. I advised her to activate her current network, no matter where these individuals were located. She did and was delighted to get two good contacts in her current location. Networking has no geographic boundaries.
Now that I’ve dispelled the common myths of networking, there’s nothing to hold you back. Get business cards made, get out to professional events, use the Internet and telephone, stay in touch with your current network, and always look for new contacts.
If you aren’t actively networking, you’re missing the boat on your journey to career excellence.
Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness(sm) Online (www.nursingspectrum.com), All rights reserved. Used with permission.