How Networking Can Work For You

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and it can pay off big.

Networking may be an overworked buzzword, but it’s the most important thing you can do for personal and professional success. But what exactly is networking?

Networking is, very simply, making personal contacts and connections with people. It involves meeting new people and staying in touch with those you already know. Networking is about building relationships. It’s a reciprocal process of giving and getting information, advice, and assistance. Networking is done in person, by telephone, by written correspondence, and, now, over the Internet.

Have you heard the expression that no one succeeds alone? This means that you need a network of colleagues, a “success team” of friends and associates that you can stay in touch with, exchange information with, compare notes with, give and get referrals from, and so on. Although networking takes a little effort on your part, it will pay off in ways you never imagined.

OK, you say, I’m convinced networking might be important. But how can it really help me? Here are a few ways:

Networking is the best way to find and get a new job. It’s been said that 80 to 90 percent of all available jobs are never advertised or placed with agencies—they’re networked. Seeking the advice and referral of others is the best way to plug into this most effective employment vehicle. Did you ever hear someone say she got a job through word of mouth? That’s networking.

Networking can make you more effective in your current job. You can tap into your network or create one for information, idea sharing, to bounce ideas off of, and so on. Years ago, I accepted a managerial position and was later told I would also be given responsibility for hospital-wide quality assurance. Having had no experience with quality assurance, I got on the phone and introduced myself to the directors of quality assurance at 5 area hospitals. I asked them what associations I needed to join if they had a policy and procedure manual I could review, the key issues in the industry, and so forth. Many of these people remain part of my network today.

Networking is critical to your success in starting and running a business or private practice. Not only do you want to learn from experienced people and not re-invent the wheel, but most business is gotten through referrals and word-of-mouth. Many people assume that another business owner won’t help them because they’ll be perceived as competition. Smart business owners know that collaboration, rather than competition, is the way to succeed today. I was amazed at the helpful advice I received from other nurse entrepreneurs when I started my business.

Networking acts as stress relief. It decreases your feelings of being alone, gives you an opportunity to let off steam, and even helps you laugh about your problems. Associating with others in your same situation and area of work is empowering. But it’s also important to network with people outside of your specialty and even outside of nursing.

Getting out and about

Now that you know what networking can do for you, where do you go about networking with others? Opportunities are everywhere. I’ve made incredible contacts in the beauty parlor and on the convention shuttle bus. Be sure to get out to association meetings, conventions, and career expos. These are important networking arenas because so many people are gathered in one place. You’ll stay connected to those you know, make new contacts, and pick up the latest information about your profession, your specialty, and healthcare in general. It also helps you to stay visible. Remember, it’s not just whom you know, but who knows you, that is important.

Many nurses have stayed isolated for years in their department in their hospital. Let’s face it; many nurses from one department don’t talk to nurses who work in other departments in the same hospital. That’s how you develop tunnel vision, limit your contacts, and wedge yourself into your current situation.

Although you may not feel you have the time or energy to network, getting out and meeting new people, or just talking more to those you already come in contact with, is energizing. Getting out and meeting new people or learning more about what others do is exhilarating. It’s also how opportunities you’ve never thought of will open to you.

Look for my next article in mid-December on the practical aspects of networking. Learn how to strike up a conversation with total strangers, how to “break the ice” with someone you’ve just met, tips for shy networkers, and strategies for maximizing your networking efforts. Please e-mail me with questions or to tell me how networking has worked for you.

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