Building your network is sort of like flossing – it may not seem important at the time, but sooner or later that lack of attention’s going to catch up with you. And that ‘catching up’ is likely to be when you can least afford it, for example, when you want to make a job change.
At the same time, creating and sustaining a robust network can take time (that you may feel you don’t have right now) and may also feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to connecting with people and regularly creating new relationships. Not to worry.
There are some really easy, painless networking techniques that will help you get going. See if you can comfortably fit some of these into your regular routine to keep growing your community of connections.
1. Be curious
One of the easiest ways to build a bond is to simply ask people about themselves. What do they love about their job? What’s their favorite thing to do on the weekend? Where do they want to take their career? What made them want to enter the healthcare profession? People appreciate it when you take a genuine interest in them, and it’s a fun way to get to know more about them and what you might have in common.
2. Find your tribe
It’s important to have a diverse professional network – that is, people who do work similar to yours but also people who do all sorts of different things, which may open up additional career opportunities for you. But it’s also really enjoyable (and sometimes downright comforting) to hang out with people with whom you share something – a passion, a work interest, a hobby, or even a set of values.
Building relationships through common interests (this might be volunteer work, participating in a community chorale, or becoming active in the local medical informatics chapter) gives you an immediate topic to discuss or experience to share, the gateway to building a solid bond.
3. Ask for help
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; to the contrary, it can often be a sign of confidence because you feel strong enough about your overall competence to be willing to learn new things. From a networking perspective, asking for help enables the other person to demonstrate his or her knowledge and invest emotionally in your success, whatever you may be attempting to do/learn.
Your appreciation of their expertise gives them a chance to shine, but also your sincere ‘thank you’ lets them know you value their effort on their behalf.
4. Offer to help
Yep, there is such a thing as career karma – generally speaking, what goes around does, in fact, come around, but often in a very indirect manner. This works two ways. First, when you ask for help, you’ll always want to offer to return the favor. The reality is that you may not be able to provide anything of value to that individual in the moment, but you’re clearly signaling that you’d like to establish a reciprocal relationship, the basis of building a healthy, mutually beneficial network.
But also, whenever possible, you want to offer to help others who might benefit from your expertise (or need help filling out that admin paperwork) as a way of investing yourself in a new networking relationship. There’s a saying that you need to ‘give before you get,’ and in networking this is not only a great way to establish a common bond but also a clear signal that you are willing to help others without needing or expecting an immediate payoff in return.
5. Make the most of your classes
Right now you’re in a target-rich environment as you work your way through the American Sentinel courses. You’re working with fellow students, faculty, and administrators on an ongoing basis. You’re likely to find several (or more) people that you really enjoy or admire – these are the easiest network-building connections you can make!
Make sure that you establish a connection with these individuals (connecting on LinkedIn is a great option here), and find ways to stay in touch. Let them know why you value them, and that you’d like to be part of their professional community going forward.
Develop a network-building mindset
Try one of the above action items every week for the next five weeks to see which ones are easiest and/or most enjoyable for you. Those are the ones you can most easily use to start building your network or community of colleagues. Then continue to look for opportunities to add new relationships as opportunities arise.
Developing this ‘network-building mindset’ will ensure that as your professional healthcare skills grow, so will your career opportunities.
If your goal for 2016 is to empower yourself with knowledge, look no further than American Sentinel University’s online nursing programs. Take control of your career and visit www.americansentinel.edu today. This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.