Many benefits of travel nursing are widely touted by travel nurses and agencies. Some of the more commonly touted benefits include great pay, flexibility, travel, staying out of workplace politics, and increased variety. However, one of one of the least recognized advantages of travel nursing is the enhanced professional networking opportunity it provides. Of all the advantages, this maybe one of the most beneficial.
Why is professional networking important for nurses?
Many working people discount the importance of professional networking. This is unwise. Ask someone who is looking for work and they’ll tell you that they just can’t get their foot in the door. The truth is, professional networking is more important today than it ever has been.
Applicant Tracking Systems Remove the Human Element
The advent of applicant tracking systems has taken almost every human aspect out of the job application process. In fact, it’s extremely rare for a recruiter or hiring manager to even handle your nursing resume let alone speak with you over the phone or in person. Moreover, applicant track systems are getting better and better at ranking candidates based on the attributes outlined in their resumes. So it’s almost impossible to convey your personality or any other personal attribute through your resume. After all, it’s a machine we’re talking about.
But Hospitals Rely on Networking to Fill Jobs
At the same time, it’s no secret that employers of all stripes, including hospitals, have a strong preference for hiring people they already know. They even have lucrative referral programs designed to incentivize their employees to recommend candidates. I’ve seen estimates that as few as 25%-35% of job openings are ever even advertised. That’s because most jobs are filled by word of mouth.
Nursing is Unique
It’s also important to consider how unique nursing is relative to many other professions when it comes to potential employers. Consider a sales professional for example. Sales is a very broad profession. The number of potential employers in any given location is quite high. Moreover, sales professionals can transition into a host of other potential careers. By contrast, if you’re a registered nurse intent on working in hospitals, then there are far fewer potential employers in any given area. While nurses can certainly transition into other careers, most would prefer to stay in their chosen profession.
All of these issues make professional networking more important than ever, especially for nurses intent on hospital work. Travel nursing provide a unique opportunity to quickly expand your professional network. Travel nurses tend to take contracts with multiple facilities per year. They also tend to work a few agency PRN shifts at additional hospitals in the area of their travel assignment. If approached properly, this can be a professional networking goldmine.
How can travel nurses take advantage of professional networking opportunities?
Set a Goal to Expand Your Professional Network
There are several steps that can improve outcomes for travel nurses interested in taking advantage of the opportunity to expand their professional network. First, approach each assignment with a goal to expand your professional network and keep that goal in mind for the duration of the assignment. This will help ensure that the goal factors into your decision making process when appropriate. For example, you might accept an invitation meet with co-workers outside of work when might not have otherwise.
Participate in Work Functions
Speaking of which, it’s always good to participate in work functions and extracurricular activities with coworkers. Try to find out about hospital sponsored events and attend when you’re able. Accept invitations to meet up with coworkers outside of work and don’t be afraid to initiate meet-ups on your own. Also, it’s a good idea to branch out beyond your unit when possible to increase your exposure to healthcare professionals in other areas.
Be a Your Wonderful Self
Of course, being a positive, productive team-player always helps build strong professional relationships. And we’re not just talking about patient care here; every nurse is consistently intent on providing excellent patient care. Rather, we’re talking about your interaction with hospital personnel. I know from working with so many travel nurses over the years that it can be tough to maintain enthusiasm throughout the duration of an assignment, especially when the assignment isn’t going so well. This is understandable given that you know you’re only there for a short period of time. The need to build comradery can seem less important. At the same time, hospital staff also knows you’re there for only a short period so they can have the same disposition. Consistently being a positive, productive team-player will help you overcome this pitfall and forge strong working relationships.
Treat Your Travel Nursing Contract End as an Opportunity
Treat the end of your travel assignment as an opportunity to solidify the professional connections you’ve made during your assignment. Be sure to mention to your coworkers that you’re leaving at least 2 weeks in advance. Request a personal meeting with your manager or supervisor. Let everyone know how much you’ve enjoyed working there and how much you’ve learned. Ask your manager or supervisor for tips on how you can improve. And of course, be sure to ask everyone if it’s okay to keep in touch.
Utilize Healthcare Professional Networking Sites
This is where social media and networking services play a huge role. They provide a way for you to solidify your connection. The best services for this are professional networking services like BluePipes. Sites like Facebook or google+ are also useful tools. These services will help you organize your contacts and provide you with more opportunities to maintain contact with them conveniently.
Professional networking is a more powerful tool than many people give it credit for. Travel nurses have a unique opportunity to capitalize on its advantages due to the fact that they’re exposed to a far greater number of professionals than the average worker. You never know if you might want to return to the facility for a future assignment or maybe even a permanent job. You also never know who your professional contacts might be able to connect you with. A large professional network will open a ton of potential referral opportunities which can help you get your foot in the door when you need to.