When you’re deep in the throes of a nursing program—be it for an Associate Degree, BSN, RN to MSN, or a PhD—the book learning and clinical experiences are generally foremost in your mind, as they should be. However, there’s more to education than book learning, and keeping your mind open to other aspects of the experience is prudent.
We normally think of networking as something we do out in the professional world, but it’s actually a practice that can be integrated into most every aspect of our lives. You can network at the grocery store or playground, when you’re online, as well as during school; you never know when a meaningful relationship will sprout, so pay attention to the signs and recognize when a new connection is ripe with potential.
Networking and your nursing education
Whether you’re attending a bricks and mortar nursing school or an online program, the relationships you nurture with your professors, clinical preceptors, mentors, and fellow students truly matter.
In online learning programs, you may collaborate on projects with other students, participate in online discussions, and connect with students and professors on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other platforms. Many online students talk on the phone or Skype with one another; some may even meet in person when traveling for business or pleasure.
The networking mindset
Every relationship with another individual—whether they’re professional colleagues or not—has the makings of a meaningful connection. While some relationships may not specifically move your career forward, you cannot predict the future impact of that connection.
For example, a fellow student in your healthcare statistics course might introduce you to a colleague who is able to help you land your dream job after finishing the program; or perhaps your clinical preceptor at the local hospital decides to recommend you for a position that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Or maybe, when you decide to move across the country, a former student colleague connects you with just the right people in your new hometown.
The networking mindset is like an open flower that welcomes every drop of rain that falls on its petals. Some drops might roll off, land on the ground, and feed the flower’s roots, while others may settle into the bulb and sparkle in the sun.
If your mind is open to the possibilities, connections with others may eventually germinate into unforeseen positive outcomes, but only if you maintain an awareness of the potential inherent in each relationship.
Build it consciously
You can deepen your professional networking during a nursing school experience in many ways. You obviously don’t want to appear desperate or manipulative; you likely already know people who network like vultures. Rather, you intuit which relationships have potential, water and feed them conscientiously, and allow the best ones to bubble to the surface.
See nursing school as yet another milieu for creating meaningful professional relationships; your nursing career and your sense of professional satisfaction will grow apace.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist for Nurse.com. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at NurseKeith.com.
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