The vast majority of travel nursing jobs are wonderful experiences. You’ll enjoy the hospital, they’ll enjoy you, and it will end amicably. I recommend treating every contract-end as an opportunity to advance your career for three primary reasons. First, you may wish to return to the hospital in the future either as a travel nurse or a permanent employee. Second, you’ll want to ensure that you have references for future assignments and permanent jobs. Third, travel nursing presents a unique opportunity to expand your professional network.
Travel nursing is an opportunity to network
The first two reasons are pretty obvious, but the third reason warrants discussion. As a permanent nurse, your professional network tends to be limited to the people you work with at your one and only job. As a travel nurse, you may become a part of a new team every 3 months. This significantly enhances your networking opportunities. Taking advantage of these opportunities will have a positive impact on your career.
Many people are quick to scoff at the idea of professional networking. In my opinion, this is unwise. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised. In fact, I’ve seen numbers from recruitment industry surveys indicating that only 20%-35% of job openings are advertised. A majority of jobs are either filled from within or filled based on referrals from colleagues, current staff, and former staff.
Have you heard of the concept known as “6 degrees of separation”? Most people associate this with the movie star Kevin Bacon. However, there’s a whole interdisciplinary academic field of science devoted to the study of networks, Network Science. Social networks are one of the main topics of study within this field. Researchers have shown that every human on earth has just 6 degrees of separation between every other human on earth through their social networks. Imagine how closely connected the relatively small world of American healthcare professionals is. Meanwhile, the advent of social and professional networking web sites has made it easier than ever for you to manage your own professional network, and for employers to find talent by leveraging their employees’ networks.
Why is networking so important for travel nurses?
There’s a reason that LinkedIn is on pace to generate $915 million in revenue in 2012, just 9 years after being founded. It’s a highly effective tool for both employers and employees. A professional networking service like LinkedIn allows job seekers to view jobs and then see if they have a connection with someone who currently works with the employer, or worked with the employer in the past. Even if the job seeker doesn’t know someone directly, they may have a 2nd or 3rd degree connection. They can then leverage their 1st degree connection to get introduced.
Meanwhile, human resource costs are typically among the largest expenses, if not the single largest expense, for employers. Talent acquisition is a big part of that cost and employers are always looking for ways to reduce their costs. Employers resoundingly believe that interviewing and hiring candidates based on the recommendations of their great employees is a low-cost solution in talent acquisition. They figure birds of a feather flock together. Employers are also more welcoming of those who may be 2nd and 3rd degree connections of their great employees. Professional networking services allow employers to take full advantage of this networking solution to talent acquisition.
BluePipes is an even better option for healthcare professionals interested in utilizing a professional networking service. Studies indicate that employers report better recruitment results when using industry specific services. Therefore, employers like using industry specific sites more than general services like LinkedIn or Monster. As a professional networking service dedicated to healthcare professionals, BluePipes fits the industry specific mold. BluePipes also provides healthcare professionals with features and services designed to help them address their unique career challenges.
I have worked with many travel nurses and healthcare professionals who capitalized on professional networking. In one case, a travel nurse who had traveled for 2 years ended up marrying her high school sweet heart who lived in Kansas City, MO. She moved there and had difficulty landing a job until she sent messages to her professional network connections asking if anyone had any connections to hospitals in Kansas City. She received a response from a nurse she had worked with in San Francisco, CA who was originally from Kansas City, MO. The travel nurse was put in contact with a Unit Manager at one of the hospitals in Kansas City and ended up landing a job.
In another instance, a travel nurse who had previously completed a travel assignment in Houston, Texas decided she wanted to move there when she was done travel nursing. When the time was right, she contacted her old Unit Manager in Houston via Facebook. The Unit Manager had switched to another hospital and offered to bring the travel nurse on staff at the new hospital. The travel nurse accepted and has been working there for 4 years now.
How to network on your travel nursing job?
There are many things travel nurses can do to take advantage of networking opportunities, garner positive references, and be welcomed back to the facility. Obviously, being a pleasant, productive, team-player always helps. Participating in extra-curricular activities with your coworkers helps too. Beyond that, there are steps you can take at the end of the assignment that will go a long way.
Be sure to let your coworkers know that you’re leaving. Let them know you’ve had a good time and thank them for any assistance they’ve provided. Bring treats for your co-workers before you leave if you’d like. Pay particular attention to your supervisors and Unit Manager. I recommend requesting some one-on-one time with them to let them know you’re leaving and ask them how they think you can improve. This shows both that you care and value their input. Ask everyone if they are on a professional network. If they are, then ask them if you can connect with them to stay in touch. If they’re not, then ask them if it would be alright to invite them to yours or stay in touch via email. Finally, try to leave every assignment with at least 1-2 solid references.
You never know where life is going to take you, especially when you’re out there traveling around. Remember, there are only so many hospitals and potential healthcare employers in any given area. Chances are very strong that you’re going to want to settle down as a permanent staff member at some point. Having a strong professional network and references can go a long way toward helping you achieve your career goals.