Networking: The Power of Three

Strong professional, personal and strategic networks foster creativity, help build robust careers

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By K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, Chief Caregiver Officer

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Networking is important to personal and career development. It leads to the exchange of ideas, information and different perspectives; influences one’s thinking and confidence; and helps people learn, grow and try new things. It introduces interesting and relevant opportunities and offers unique possibilities for best practice sharing, career advancement and more.

In my nearly 30-year healthcare career, I’ve belonged to many organizations and associations, each with its own benefits. I’m a firm believer that the intellectual reward from networking is invaluable. I’ve learned vital lessons from leaders in my own industry — and other industries — who bring a breadth and variety of experience to the table. They’ve taught me how to overcome challenges and encouraged me to think more strategically and in different ways. They’ve helped me be a better manager and leader and have encouraged my growth.

To make the most out of networking, I suggest a three-pronged approach: Create strong professional, personal and strategic networks.

Professional network

Having an extensive professional network offers endless opportunities for broadening your knowledge about your field. A professional network allows you to seek advice from those who have been in your seat before. Professional networks offer introductions to industry stakeholders, and they present vast opportunities to garner feedback that can help ensure you are meeting the needs of your business.

Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of your work. If you’re feeling stuck on a project, a brainstorming session with people in your professional network can jumpstart idea sharing that leads to faster problem-solving.

For years, I’ve been a member of an advisory board for chief nursing officers. Nurse leaders from across the country meet periodically to discuss current topics in healthcare and offer creative solutions. We’ve discussed some of healthcare’s greatest challenges. From this group I’ve taken many ideas back to my organization, including strategies and creative solutions for implementing and executing the electronic documentation of health records, for example.

Personal network

Personal networking involves engaging with colleagues who have a shared interest — typically outside your line of work. Having a solid personal network not only helps your personal development, it can also help others in their personal development.

Diversity is key to growing a strong personal network. It’s good to seek relationships with people who can introduce you to other experiences or perspectives. It’s also important to diversify your personal network with people who have varying experience levels, from entry-level to veteran.

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As a female leader, I’ve found it extremely helpful to seek advice from other female leaders. I’ve garnered some of the best advice from my membership in the Northeast Ohio In Counsel With Women, which supports female executives. We strategize together and offer one another advice that is backed by many years of experience. Women in Sports + Events (WISE) Cleveland is another networking group that has helped me grow as a woman in business. The organization encourages women to maximize their potential, sharpen their skills and advance their careers through peer support, mentoring and professional development.

Strategic network

Strategic networking is all about connecting with colleagues to support business needs. The primary idea is collaboration that influences growth or brings benefit to your organization. It involves sharing best practices and strategies via webinars, social gatherings, virtual meetings, phone calls, publications and other resources — and it’s all linked to a higher goal.

A strategic network allows you to create an integrated web of personal contacts that provides a different course for support and feedback. Think about how your interests and goals align with those of the people you meet and how that dynamic can help you forge meaningful working relationships. Strategic networks also demonstrate your drive and initiative to others and can help you realize your own potential.

I recently turned to my fellow Leadership Cleveland members for guidance on how to ensure the work I was doing was impacting the community the way it should. The expertise and guidance I received from other leaders provided a different perspective that helped inform my decision-making process. I got a glimpse of how my peers had overcome similar challenges and was able to apply those principles to my own work.

Within each network, one tip is critical: Work hard to strengthen each relationship, and don’t let any weaken. It’s also important to remember that networking is a two-way street. Embrace opportunities to give as much as you receive.

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