Since such a large number of nurses seem averse to consciously and purposefully building a professional network, here are five ways to build your network of nursing career allies.
1. Find A Mentor
A mentor is an ally who has your best interests in mind. During your nursing career, you can always hire a mentor for a short period of time and a specific purpose (for example, a career coach), but there are plenty of mentors to go around among your peers and colleagues.
If you're a newer nurse and you have one of those rare employers that actually offers a mentoring program, consider yourself very lucky indeed. Most nurses fall in the camp of needing to seek out a mentor on their own.
A mentor can be an experienced and compassionate colleague who is willing to meet with you on a regular basis to help you navigate important aspects of your career. If there's someone who you think is the cat's meow as a nurse or leader, boldly ask them to be your mentor -- let them know what you need, and ask if they'd be willing.
You also have the option of simply closely observing and emulating someone who you think is superlative in the areas where you'd like to grow. Silently watch them, practice as they practice, and allow them to be your ultimate nurse role model. For me, my colleague Donna Cardillo is this type of mentor. I never asked Donna to officially mentor me; rather, I simply observe her career and how she does things, and I often use the example she sets as a way to empower myself to move forward.
2. Start Small And Easy
If you're an introvert and networking is scary and intimidating, don't worry about trying to find like-minded allies and colleagues at big conferences and meetings. Start small, and make this process easy on yourself.
Look to your immediate circle of colleagues for your true allies. Who always has your back? Who checks in and asks how you're doing? Who offers help and is always there for you? Look among your work friends for your natural allies.
It's easy to keep these types of allies close. Nurture these relationships through reciprocal kindness and mutual support.
3. Leverage Online Platforms And Resources
I've literally met hundreds of nurses and professionals through online nursing communities and social media.
I met my former business partner and RNFM Radio cohost, Kevin Ross, on Twitter in 2011 -- we then launched one of the first nursing podcasts around, as well as a growing company. Our other partner, Elizabeth Scala, found me on Twitter in 2012; she was looking for like-minded nurse entrepreneurs and allies.
I also met nurse bullying expert Renee Thompson on Twitter around that same time. Our Twitter friendship quickly developed into a true offline friendship, and I now count her as one of my best friends. She also unofficially mentors me in terms of growing my speaking business; so although we're close pals, she also serves as a mentor.
Meanwhile, I use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to build my network and meet new people with whom I feel aligned. When someone really stands out from the crowd, I reach out and we expand our relationship via a phone or Skype, and sometimes we have the chance to meet in person, which is really the icing on the cake.
4. Think Outside The Box
Your allies don't all have to be nurses; in fact, they don't even have to work in healthcare at all.
Your most ardent and enthusiastic allies might be right under your nose.
Think about your family and close friends -- who among these groups of your most intimate circles are natural allies?
Who cares enough to ask about your career and how you're doing? Who shows interest in your professional life? Some may simply enjoy your company by cracking a beer together, enjoying a meal, or playing baseball on Saturday mornings -- that's fine, since you need friends like that, too. However, a select few are true allies to whom you could turn for advice or support when you need them most.
And remember: your therapist, counselor, AA sponsor, or faith leader are natural allies. Look to them for comfort, advice, support, a shoulder to cry on, and a peaceful place to share your deepest worries and troubles.
5. It's You
Finally, look to yourself. You need to be your own greatest ally. After all, you're always there, aren't you?
If there are ways in which you tend to undermine yourself, seek help from a therapist or counselor in unpacking those negative habits and thought patterns. Continue to untangle the stuff that holds you back, and consistently move forward in the interest of being self-respecting, healthy, whole, and balanced.
Allies Are Everywhere
Your allies are everywhere. Look within, look without, look online -- and look around you. These allies will get you through the tough times and help you grow when it's time to be expansive.
Gather your allies and create a circle of support for your nursing career and personal growth. It's part of your life's work; make it count.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a Board Certified Nurse Coach offering holistic career development for nurses and healthcare professionals. All things Nurse Keith can be found at NurseKeith.com.
Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession. Keith has written for Nurse.com, Nurse.org, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, BlackDoctor.org, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog, NursingCE.com, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George. You can follow George the Cat on Instagram using the hashtag, #georgethecatsantafe.