Steps for Successful Networking
Donna Cardillo, RN, BS | Verticalnet, Inc.
Have you heard of the value of networking but don’t know how to get started? Do you consider yourself shy and uncomfortable striking up conversations?
Then join the crowd. Most people feel exactly as you do and dread going out in public and meeting new people. However, once you learn a few practical tips on how to get started and get a little practice, you’ll be on your way to creating a rich network of contacts.
Opportunities to network are virtually everywhere. A great place to start is at local professional association meetings. If you belong to an organization and haven’t been to a meeting for a while, I encourage you to go. If you don’t belong to a group, contact your state nurses association or specialty organization and find out when and where your local chapter meets and make arrangements to go as a guest. All professional associations welcome guests.
Dress in your best professional clothing to feel more confident and make a good first impression. When you arrive, tell the greeter, “This is my first meeting. Could you introduce me to someone who can tell me more about the organization and introduce me to other members?” This way you won’t have to walk into the meeting room alone and will immediately know someone.
Going to a meeting with a friend is fine, but don’t just talk to that person all night. Nurses have a habit of traveling in “packs” and sticking with those individuals. If you do that, you’ll never expand your circle of contacts. Whether attending alone or with a group, set a goal of meeting at least one new person at every meeting.
How to break the ice
Most people are afraid to strike up a conversation with strangers. Because most people already feel that way, the important thing to remember is that others are usually relieved when you say something first.
Rather than just introducing yourself, start with ice breakers such as, “Did you have far to travel to get here?” or “Have you been to these meetings before?” Then tell the other person your name and where you work or what your specialty is and ask about theirs. Most nurses feel comfortable talking about their work and this is something you certainly have in common. If the other person isn’t a nurse or you have no way of knowing if she is, you can start with the same two ice breakers and then introduce yourself as above and ask about them.