‘Networking’ is perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords of the past 20 years. When you think of networking, maybe you think of The Good Wife, or Suits, or maybe you even think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde mixing her charm and intellect to make the most of her (and Bruiser’s) career.
It’s partially true: networking is a learned skill, and it can take a lot of cold introductions and coffee dates to get up to Elle’s standards. However, it’s not just a playground for charming extroverts. When you get right down into the science of it, you realise that networking is a quantifiable skill that is far more nuanced than you’d probably previously expected.
In this article, you’ll learn the differences between the three main types of networking – operational, personal and strategic – as well as how you can apply them to your work in the healthcare industry. So let’s jump in!
Operational networking refers to the creation of a network within your workplace. The purpose of this network is for you to be able to do your job efficiently, effectively and with as little error as possible. The inclusion of multiple people in workflows mitigates most of the risk associated with inaccuracies, which is why fostering strong and open professional relationships with them is important.
In healthcare, this may look like having a coffee every week with someone you’re often in interprofessional care teams with. Or maybe it looks like regularly calling the person in a neighbouring department who is in the same role as you to troubleshoot management issues you’re both having, bouncing ideas of each other and coming to fine-tuned solutions.
Everyone is doing this every single day in healthcare: essentially, operational networking is another term for working collaboratively.
Personal networking is the classic view of networking: making personal connections both inside and outside your organisation or industry with the hope of ‘enhancing your professional prospects’ (Psychology.org Staff Writers, 2022). While it’s a hard skill to learn, personal networking is a great opportunity to gain insights, resources and exposure to your chosen industry while also making a new connection.
In healthcare, this may look like a first-year graduate paramedic scheduling time every six months to meet with a paramedic further on in their career who is willing to provide insights and advice. Alternatively, this may look like a senior manager and an executive providing each other with professional support given they’ve had similar experiences due to both being members of a racial minority.
Strategic networking is the most complex of the three: strategic networking is an attempt to stay ahead of trends. Essentially, you’re maintaining connections with people in the hope that they’ll provide you with guidance as to future organisation and industry trends – whether those are trends relating to skills, areas of investment or workforce allocation – and then using that to withstand (and flourish as a result of) changes.
In healthcare, this may look like you keeping an open line of communication with people in the education department in order to regularly ask what skillsets are most attractive in prospective nursing managers. Alternatively, this may look like a young midwife having a community group on Facebook where young midwives discuss specialisation and areas of growth in the industry.
What else do you need to know?
Firstly, it’s important to remind yourself that nobody finds networking easy. Some people are perhaps more natural with the gift of the gab, but it’s hard for anyone to go out of their way to create a connection out of thin air. That’s why you need to view it as a skill as opposed to a talent.
Secondly, if you’re new to the concept of networking, you are probably wondering how it’s actually done. Use the following resources to find out how you can become a great networker, and pair it with the information in this article to find out why that’s so important:
Psychology.org Staff Writers, 2022. ‘Professional Networking in Psychology.’ Psychology.org: Resources. Accessed 29 June 2022 via https://www.psychology.org/resources/professional-networking/