Building and maintaining a professional network is an essential skill and activity for all professionals, especially those in healthcare. With complex environments changing so rapidly, however, it is often all too easy to neglect. The turbulent nature of healthcare today, makes the commitment to being professionally connected vital. The need to understand external trends and foresee the implications of all that is happening is essential to top performance in your current role. At the same time, system expansion, organizational redesign, and financial imperatives have made long tenured leadership positions within one organization rare. You find yourself making a career change unexpectedly. A well developed and nurtured professional network helps to keep you cutting edge in your current role and provides support when seeking a new professional opportunity.
The value of a strong professional network is clear, but have you made it a priority? The key is to know your expectations, develop a plan, and commit to it — but it won’t be easy. For many professionals in the healthcare industry, building a robust professional network of colleagues can be somewhat intimidating or simply sidelined by more “important” priorities. Learn how to advance your healthcare career by actively building a professional network that propels you to success.
Professor Julia Hobsbawm with Editorial Intelligence reports that 1 in 4 don’t currently network at all. Networking should take you out of your comfort zone which is scary for some. But networking done well will expose you to new thoughts and ideas and expand your view and command of the landscape.
Why Do We Avoid Networking?
- It requires a time commitment outside of your normal work hours
- It can be overwhelming
- Meeting new people can sometimes be uncomfortable
- You may not know what to say
What Are the Benefits of Professional Networking in Healthcare?
- Make valuable, new connections
- Gain insight into industry news and trends
- Connect with expertise and resources valuable to your career
- Learn about and find new job opportunities in healthcare
- Reach your personal and professional goals faster
- Identify continuing education opportunities
- Share experiences with like-minded professionals in your field
- Help a colleague achieve their goals
Where Should You Begin?
Both internal and external networks are critical to being an informed and connected professional whether you plan on staying in your current organization or you’re looking for a new opportunity. Start by assessing the status of your current connections. Put pen to paper or fingers to key pad and take note of who you know, what they do, how they can help you and how you can help them in return. Then identify gaps, reflecting on the status of your current role and where you want to go next or even post-retirement plans. Strive for a mix of professionals from within your current career “sweet spot” and those on a broader platform.
Networking should be a give and take relationship, a symbiotic exchange of resources. It’s also helpful to know if you have any common connections with those in your circle. LinkedIn is a great tool to automate that process for you and essentially acts as your modern-day rolodex, cataloging all of your connections throughout the years. Next, develop your high-level career goals and then smaller, bitesize objectives you can achieve through professional networking.
Join a Professional Organization
Cast a wide net. Begin with researching the many professional organizations available to you in your field and local community. The majority of healthcare roles are represented by a national society or professional association, whether you’re a physician, nurse or technician. Choose an organization that aligns with your career goals, schedule and area of expertise. In addition to forming connections with other healthcare professionals, joining a professional association is a great way to keep current with best practices and industry news in your field. Membership alone however is not enough though. Seek a committee, event or activity that you can fit into your schedule to actively engage with others. As healthcare evolves, so should you and your professional network.
Create and Maintain Your Social Media Networks
If you want to continue to grow professionally, you should be on social media. This doesn’t mean you should be on every platform. The most popular platforms serve different functions.
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with hundreds of millions of members. Their mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. This is the ideal platform for the healthcare professional looking to expand their network quickly. Your profile should be professional, without errors and accurately reflect who you are.
- Facebook – Facebook is a social networking site that has evolved significantly over the years. A growing number of people keep their Facebook profile separate from LinkedIn and Twitter. Consider keeping your Facebook profile separate (if you choose to have one) from your LinkedIn profile and work-life in general. Monitor your friends list accordingly to reflect this.
- Twitter – Twitter takes a different approach to social sharing. From breaking news and entertainment to sports and politics, you can obtain the full story with all the live commentary via Twitter. Twitter is micro-blogging, social sharing, a news source and a business tool all rolled into one platform. Many professionals from different industries have turned to Twitter to share and consume quick updates on industry insights and innovations. It’s a medium that allows for quick exchange of information in real time.
Social media platforms can be a powerful tool in building your professional network, but don’t make the mistake of relying exclusively on these. Professor Hobsbawm also reports that 68% of junior level professionals value networking face-to-face above online. The personal touch is the lasting foundation to long term relationships.
Make Networking Routine
Networking really is an art — the more you practice, the better you’ll be. To gain a return on investment, incorporate networking into your routine and set time aside for its pursuit. It is much too important to leave to chance or circumstance.
Strive for five – Try to meet five people for coffee or lunch every week. Do you have an hour in the morning to spare? Attend that breakfast round table before your workday begins. Are you free over lunch? Sign up to attend that charity luncheon. You might just be surprised who you meet and what you learn.
Finish with the Follow Through. Rinse. Repeat.
Once you’ve established a new connection, follow-up with them. Send them a short email expressing how nice it was to meet them and request a meeting to solidify the relationship. It’s also sometimes a good idea to follow-up with a phone call. Evaluate your connection and go with what you think will be the more valued method of communication.
Whatever the method, it’s important to maintain your mutually beneficial professional relationships much like your personal ones. Long-term development is necessary when building valuable professional relationships. Always be willing to help others, too.
Dale Carnegie may have said it best: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
The best way to achieve your goals is through long term relationships. Have you made professional networking a priority lately? Leave us a comment on LinkedIn or Twitter to share your experience or contact Kirby Bates Associates with any questions. We’d love to hear more.