When you think of a crowd of professionals entering a networking event with business cards at the ready, you might not picture a group of nurses at first. Even though nursing careers are based in quality education and serious credentials, taking the time to forge new professional relationships is still an incredibly important component of building your nursing career. Here are a few tips and tricks to ace those tricky first impression moments when meeting with other medical professionals in a networking environment.
If the idea of chatting up a complete stranger in hopes of landing your next job gives you sweaty palms, dry mouth, and the jitters, you are certainly not alone. Networking is difficult, even for the most extroverted and sociable types of people. Just know that many other nurses there feel the same way. Think of networking events as a low-pressure way to make new connections and stay engaged in your industry.
If nerves really are an issue for you, prep yourself by finding a calming or confidence-boosting tactic to practice in the hours leading up to your networking opportunity. Over-worrying about your first impression doesn’t help you make a better one, but taking a deep breath and going into it with a positive attitude definitely will.
While it isn’t a good idea to recite an over-rehearsed elevator pitch, it’s a great idea to have the sketch in mind of how you’ll reply when someone you’ve just met says, “So, tell me a little about yourself.” Are you fresh out of nursing school and looking for your first job in the medical field? Do you want people to know about how your previous professional life will have a positive impact on your future as a nurse? Do you have a particular specialization in mind and want to find a nursing mentor to show you the ropes of that particular job search?
Think of what makes your story stand out and rely on your genuine interest in nursing to help your strengths as a nursing professional shine through. Whatever your unique story may be, get ready to tell it in a concise way that opens up the possibilities for a conversation with anyone you might meet.
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One of the best ways to overcome the nerves that accompany networking and make great first impressions is to aim to be truly curious about the people you meet. Approaching conversations with the plan to learn about the other person takes the focus off you, which can be relief from the spotlight after you deliver your elevator pitch. When you make it a point to become curious about the other person in the conversation, it gives them the chance to talk about themselves — especially when you become an expert at asking insightful follow-up questions.
Networking goes both ways. Be excited about how your new connections might be able to offer you a leg up with your next career move, but realize most people at the event are also in the same boat. As a nurse, you already know that you can get a sense of purpose and happiness in helping others. Listen to the goals of the people you meet to see if you might in fact be the helper in certain situations. You could be a seasoned nurse wanting to meet someone new to the medical field. Helping someone with less experience than you is a way to pay it forward and strengthen the ties of the nursing community in your area.
Stepping out the door at the end of a networking event can mean your mind is swirling with leads for future positions, ideas for your resume, and new mentors to reach out to in the coming days. Before you lose the momentum of the connections you’ve just made, remember to follow up. Send a quick note by email or LinkedIn to the people you’d like to stay in touch with. It doesn’t need to be much — if anything, the simpler, the better!
Trust that the connections you made will mean the people you met will be delighted to hear from you again. And remember to give yourself a pat on the back for overcoming any social discomfort you had at the beginning. Getting out there to advance your nursing career is certainly cause for celebration.
Sometimes you may meet a new friendly face, but find that you and this person have nothing to offer one another in terms of professional development. But with the winding career paths of 21st-century professionals, don’t be surprised if one of these people turns out to be the hiring manager for a job you seek out a few years down the line.
Networking isn’t about getting immediate results, but rather it’s a chance to grow your list of trusted contacts. When you make relationships built on mutual industry knowledge and professional camaraderie, you never know how you may be able to help one another over the course of your careers. Even the knowledge that you’re in touch with other nurses and medical professionals can lend extra confidence and a wonderful sense of community.