- There is a lot of information available on the “networking basics.” But there are ways to build a wider variety of deeper connections.
- To optimize your networking opportunities as a therapist, collaborate with others, chat over coffee, offer added value, streamline your processes and create new opportunities for yourself and others.
Networking is valued by business professionals across all fields. As therapists, we are not exempted from this practice if we want to build strong professional networks on which we can lean.
In fact, it is my belief that professionals are only as strong as the professional networks they have built. It is important to be able to reach out for support, guidance and brainstorming.
But more important than that, having a strong professional network reduces the chances of isolation. When you have many strong professional relationships with others, you are giving yourself the tools to connect when it means the most.
As this is my experience with networking, I started building more diverse and deeper relationships with other professionals as soon as I opened my private practice. This process has taken many forms.
At first, it consisted of sending emails to professionals in my network about my new professional endeavours. It gradually morphed into reaching out to professional mentors and close connections for guidance and advice.
My latest networking endeavour was a stranger one. I reached out to thirty other mental health professionals working with individuals affected by illness to ask them one question: What is the one thing you wish your clients affected by illness knew?
I received about 10 emails back—with professionals sharing their wisdom and their practices. This enabled me to compile their valuable insights in this blog post.
This turned out to be quite an interesting way to network with like-minded professionals, as had been suggested by Pat Flynn from whom I had heard of this activity. I had quite a few great conversations with professionals as a result of this activity.
There are important things I keep in mind when networking, otherwise known as the networking basics many of us know. But here are 5 ways I optimize my networking opportunities as a therapist.
1_Collaborate With Other Professionals
As I already alluded to in the introduction, collaborating with other professionals is one of my favourite ways to build stronger connections. In doing so, I make sure that the collaboration is profitable for both parties, and as often as possible, more profitable for the professional I am wanting to collaborate with more than for myself.
In this moment, my mind is running with many ideas for possible collaborations—blog posts, e-books, webinars, and presentations. It truly makes networking more fun! It also creates opportunities for you to have new “co-workers” during the time of the collaboration.
2_Chat Over Coffee In-person (or Virtually)
Taking the time to reach out to another professional, inviting them for coffee, establishing a plan for the meet-up and enjoying some time chatting with them hints to two things. First, you value this person as a professional and human being given the time you are investing in the process. And, second, you see the worth in having honest and deep conversations as professionals, and therefore developing stronger relationships.
For me, investing time into chats with other professionals allows me to build deeper relationships with them. As a solo practitioner, it means developing professional friendships similar to those you would build with co-workers.
3_Provide Value to Others
Like I mentioned in my first point, focusing on adding value to the professionals you are networking with is a must to ensure that you are building strong connections. The value that is brought forward will look very different depending on the context and the professional. It could include, but is not limited to, giving them access to your own network, introducing them to potential clients, and giving them information.
By focusing on the value that you can offer, you are making it almost certain that you will find value in the networking opportunity as well.
4_Streamline Your Connection Processes
The main way that you make professional connections are through referrals and individual in-person or virtual chats. What I have found is that you can easily get overwhelmed with trying to manage the professional connections are you making. Especially if you are making many connections in a short amount of time.
This is why it is very important to streamline some processes for you to record your connections as well as to facilitate future connections. For example, having an easy process for other professionals to refer clients to you is a great way to optimize the chance of making a connection with them.
5_Create Opportunities for Connections
There are many ways to connect with professionals in today’s world, in both the virtual and live formats. Opportunities include sending emails or calling, hosting webinars or presentations, and writing blog posts or short e-books.
The important piece is not really in the details of the opportunity itself. It is more important to focus on the opportunities you can create for yourself. As a professional wanting to network, you cannot wait for opportunities to be presented to you. Rather, you need to proactively search and create these opportunities for yourself and others.
At the end of the day, I remind myself that it is always worth reaching out to other professionals. This process will always provide me with an opportunity for learning and growth, and, in many instances, for building new or deepening old connections with other professionals.