Cultivating a network is vital to any professional development strategy for nursing. Your network includes the people you go to for clinical advice, on-the-job insight and guidance about how to navigate hospital and unit politics. Tapping into your professional network in nursing is also one of the best ways to advance your career and find new jobs.
One study of about 3,000 people in the general population revealed that nearly 85 percent of all jobs are filled by reaching out to your professional network. These networks are also essential for meeting new people and learning about cutting-edge research and technology.
While this data isn't specific to healthcare, it provides support for developing professional networks in nursing, especially if you're looking for new job opportunities. If you're just getting started in your nursing career, building a new grad network with managers at nursing conferences, job fairs and other events can help you land your first job in the profession.
Here are five strategies to develop your professional nursing network:
1. Attend professional development events
Nothing captures the essence of professional development better than this statement by Florence Nightingale: "Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all of our lives."
Whether you're a new graduate who's networking with the hopes of finding a job or a tenured nursing professional exploring a leadership role, attending educational events can support your need for lifelong learning and help with building and maintaining relationships in nursing.
Many nurses feel awkward attending an event outside of their current specialty. However, this is one of the best ways to explore new areas of the nursing practice, learn about opportunities in the niche, and develop your professional network. The educational events you attend will also bolster your resume by showcasing your interest in a nursing specialty.
If you're considering a new specialty, here are a few national conferences to consider, hosted by national nursing organizations:
- American Nurses Association
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- Society of Pediatric Nurses
- National Association of Orthopedic Nurses
- National Nurses in Business Association
2. Leverage your social media connections
Social media can be critical to developing your professional network in nursing. You can find other nurses (as well as healthcare and professional organizations) on just about all social media platforms. When you connect with others, you may discover information about advocacy, education and career opportunities.
New graduates who connect with managers at conferences should follow-up via social media to continue the professional relationship. If you're not using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to expand and develop your professional nursing network, you could be missing out on excellent professional opportunities. Here are a few ways you can use these three popular platforms:
- Twitter is all about the hashtags. Search for hashtags that interest you to find opportunities and other nursing professionals who have similar interests. Some of the top nursing hashtags include #nurse, #nursing, and #nursingschoolproblems for new grads.
- Facebook is an excellent resource to find people with similar interests and pages for organizations and healthcare networks. Here are a few popular Facebook groups and pages you should check-out:
- LinkedIn is a goldmine of resources and connections to new people. Maintaining your LinkedIn profile makes it easy for tenured nurses and new grads networking with managers at conferences to follow up and further build the professional relationship. You can also connect with recruiters and others looking for nurses with a specific skill set that you possess.
3. Volunteer your time
Volunteering is far more than a college and retirement activity. Carving out time to give back can be integral to developing your professional nursing network.
Find an organization that aligns with your professional nursing goals. For example, if you have a passion for cardiac care, consider becoming a volunteer for the American Heart Association. If you want to advance the future of nursing, find volunteer opportunities at an American Nurses Association event.
Volunteer experiences are excellent to add to your nursing resume and cover letter to show your level of commitment to the profession. (When it comes time to write both documents, put our Resume Templates and Cover Letter Templates to use, and get the job done fast.)
4. Request informational interviews
Many applicants do online research to understand what it takes to succeed in various nursing specialties. However, sometimes the information you need may not be available online. Having a professional nursing network can be beneficial in these situations. Find someone who is currently in the specialty you're considering and request an informational interview.
Start by searching social media for nurses certified in your area of interest or connect with someone at your facility or during an event. Reach out to request a quick video call to discuss how they got started and what they like best about their nursing specialty. Be clear that you're not asking for a job, just their advice and perspective.
If you're at an event and a presenter's story resonates with you and where you want to be in your career, stick around after the session to ask further questions about their career path. Not only will you gain invaluable information about the nursing specialty, but you'll further develop your professional nursing network.
New grads networking with managers at conferences can use this strategy, too. If you meet a nursing leader who you'd like to collaborate with in the future, ask to set up a time for an informational interview. Be sure to jot down specific questions about their specialty and any educational requirements or nursing certifications you might need. If the call goes well, let them know you're exploring new career opportunities and inquire if they know of any that might be right for you.
5. Build your nursing application
Developing your professional network in nursing can help you find a job, show pride in your accomplishments, and leave a legacy of nursing excellence behind you. The conversations you have with your network should help inform how you write your cover letter for a specific job, as well as the experiences you choose to highlight on your resume.
Our Resume Builder can help you highlight your skills and experience, while our Cover Letter Builder will help you position yourself as the best candidate for your next job. When you find a new opportunity, your application will stand out, and you'll have the power of your network behind you.