As health and exercise professionals, credentials are important but also necessary. Credentials are what set us apart among the fitness celebrities and influencers who may take liberties with science and nutrition in order to sell a product. Professional networking is another aspect of professionalism that allows us to stand out, grow, and advance. Professional networking, when nurtured and maintained, allows experts to gain knowledge from other professionals in their field. It is worth taking the time to assess who you are in your “circle” as well as who you should be considering connecting with.
Building a professional network can be daunting initially, because there is no “science” or method that will help you get it done. Building a professional network takes four key ingredients: patience, time, and meaningful action. Networking is about cultivating connections, sharing the fruits of your efforts and tending to them. You can take it step by step and explore these seven ways to connect with other healthcare professionals and expand your reach.
- Focus on alignment. There are personality and philosophical underpinnings to every profession. But, instead of trying connect with everyone, you should focus on aligning with professionals with similar values and different experiences. Do not limit your exercise professional network to the same types of professionals. Learning and growing is the purpose of a network. Find other professionals who can assist you in achieving those goals. Also, find people with whom you can share your knowledge and experience. Reciprocal relationships are essential for a strong network.
- Engage with others’ social media content. You must be a supportive professional to build a network. This includes sharing and promoting the content of your network members’ social media pages. Follow your contacts on social media and do more than a “like”. Make comments, reshare the post, tag clients or other professionals who could benefit from it. If the message is in line with your values, you will promote it often.
- Build and share relevant content. Your followers, which may include other allied healthcare professionals, will continue following you and engaging with your content if they find it meaningful, consistent, and relevant. Alliterations are a favorite with social media followers. Try themes such as “Movement Monday”, which showcases a new exercise, or “Try It Tuesday,” where you share a tip or “hack” that has unique behavioral-change benefits. You can also create a unique aesthetic to help your followers recognize your content.
- Communicate regularly and often. This tip is more than just engaging with professionals’ social media content. It’s about personalizing a message and taking the time to do so. Reach out to your contacts to ask how they are doing, or to follow up on points you shared in an email or conversation.
- Explore collaborative opportunities. Each allied healthcare professional has a different scope of practice. We cannot provide meal plans or detailed nutrition analysis as certified personal trainers or health coaches. A registered dietitian has a much wider scope of practice in nutrition. Talk to a registered dietitian within your network about possible partnership opportunities. These could include lunch-and-learns or workshops for your clients and theirs. Your reach is expanded and you can offer a unique experience to your customers by joining forces.
- Celebrate accomplishments. You and your contacts will be able to celebrate accomplishments and professional achievements. You might see a colleague publish a position, give a live webinar, or offer their expertise in another way. These milestones should be celebrated with them. This is a virtual “bragboard” or “winner’s wall.” Don’t forget to promote your own accomplishments.
The Conference Rule. As professionals we are used to attending conferences and webinars. One rule that I promise to follow is to send an email or a note via social media to presenters thanking them for their contributions to my knowledge and the industry. It is amazing how many professionals, including presenters, who I consider to be “above” me and “royalty” in the industry, take the time and write to me to thank me for their participation and enjoy their presentations. This rule has helped me add two professionals to my network in the past two months.
Networking is a necessary practice in any field, and it requires more than an invitation to “connect” or a handful of “likes” on a shared meme. Networking takes thought, intention, and consistent deposits to the rapport bank account. As you would plan for continuing education or skill development, so do you plan for networking. You can plant the seeds, nurture them and reap their rewards.
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