"If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people."
This Chinese Proverb is a testament to the magic of networking with other professionals in a similar field. In fact, a survey conducted in 2016 revealed that 85% of jobs were fulfilled through networking. So why are nurse practitioners not actively practicing this method? It is not stressed in school, since our profession is not a sales-driven community. However, networking may land you in a top working environment, or provide you with connections that can continue to benefit you as you transform your professional identity.
Networking Tip #1: Offer Incentive
I am not suggesting you pay for your network, but sometimes it can help if you offer to treat your prospective referral with a coffee or lunch date. The life of a nurse practitioner is busy; work-life balance is an entire topic in itself. It’s courteous to offer to pay for a meal or coffee in exchange for picking their brain a little on their current career position. Suggest that they pick the best time and date for their schedule, so they are more willing to proceed with the meeting. During these unprecedented pandemic times, it may be harder to meet in person due to social distancing. This may work out in your favor for those who are busy! Familiarize yourself with Zoom, and suggest a quick Zoom call to check in and catch up. If you can't offer coffee or dinner, offer your help in some other way, such as promoting their practice or suggesting a referral program.
Networking Tip #2: Rehearse Your Questions and Conversation Starters
Consider your networking event like a very casual interview. Although you will most likely be conversing in a friendlier atmosphere, it is always a possibility a job may come from your networking experience. Write out a few points to make sure you cover during your meeting, and highlight any questions you have for your resource. It is also a good idea to have a quick, thirty second "elevator pitch" about yourself and your current job situation.
Networking Tip #3: Scroll Through Your Rolodex
Not many people actually have a Rolodex anymore, but you understand the concept! The good news about obtaining a nurse practitioner degree is that you are required to have clinical time with other nurses, and this gives you an automatic contact list. These former classmates of yours may be working for employers who are looking for new providers, and they will be able to vouch for you first-hand and speak to your work and school ethic. Don't forget about the friends you made in nursing school, too! Many of them may have become NPs or advanced practice providers as well, and you can pick their brains about where they stand now. Sometimes it can feel awkward to message someone out of the blue, but more often than not your former schoolmate will be excited to reminisce and catch up. If you don't have their number, try messaging them on a social media platform.
Networking Tip #4: Join a Facebook Group and Tidy Up Your LinkedIn Account
Facebook is a great tool to use for networking; the entire premise of the application is to mingle with other like-minded individuals. There are many local and statewide Facebook groups that pertain particularly to nurse practitioners and advanced practice providers, and they can be a great networking tool! The groups highlight many job postings, volunteer opportunities, and educational resources. This may also be an easy way to initiate a prospective in-person meeting, where you can have face-to-face contact with other NPs in your area. LinkedIn is a prime tool for networking – it is literally a network of millions. Update your profile picture, provide some links to your page, and ask some of your connections to endorse you and your skills.
“Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.”– Herminia Ibarra
There is an art to networking, and these tips only brush the surface. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable approaching someone that you do not know very well, but most professions run entirely off of networking. Although the healthcare field does not rely solely on mingling to make business run, if you break your comfort zone a little and make the right connection, you may find yourself in your dream job that would not have been possible previously by a sea of online applications.