Learn how, why, and where to network yourself as a mental health providers
As many of us are in school or actively working in the field we might not realize the importance of networking. Our educational programs may have briefly discussed this in one form or another, or maybe you found it was not discussed at all. You may find this to be similarly true during your field placements or practicums, or even as you have entered the work force. We are often reliant on your places of employment to provide us with referrals sources for clients and hope we make positive connections with our colleagues and supervisors and that those alone will sustain us in the field. Well for most of us that isn't sufficient to feel supported and successful in the field (whatever that looks like for you). This field is ever growing and the burnout is real. We cannot solely rely on the little connection provided to us to be enough. So how do we advocate for ourselves, we network!
A few common and key components of networking, including knowing what it means, why it is important, and of course, how do you do it? Well you have come to the right place. We are going to discuss the following in todays post:
1. What is networking and why do mental health providers need to network?
2. How to network effectively as a mental health provider?
3. Where to network as a mental health provider?
4. Tips for making the most of networking events.
Let's get started.
What is networking and why do mental health providers need to network?
Networking is building and engaging in connection with other individuals, groups, and communities within your field. For mental health providers that can be a large field to connect with, as we may need to make referrals to doctors, lawyers, treatment centers, case management, housing, etc. Don't feel overwhelmed by that prospect. Start small with individuals in the field who may have similar roles as yourself, engage them build connection, and share connections and resources.
Why is this important for mental health providers? It has a multifaceted purpose. First, we need to be able to assist those we are serving, we cannot and will not be the only service and support they will need, maybe for some but they are the few rather than the many. Although boundaries are important in the helping field, if we can assist clients in the referral process as we have a plethora of resources it can decrease our own distress and responsibilities with the clients while providing needed services to improve the quality of life for the client all at the same time.
Additionally, it helps us as the professional in a few ways. As noted above, it decreases the time we might feel obligated, or maybe we are obligated, to find a resource or referral for a client. This decreases our burnout and general time spent outside of direct care where we can be attending to other needs. We need support for ourselves. We can do this in making connections in the field. We can find new opportunities that we may not have thought were available to us before or supports in unexpected places. I know personally it has been a lifesaver for myself to grow in the field through connections. We often forget the value and we get stuck or focused on our day to day work and often feel drained from it but it is worth it to spend a little time and effort making connections. Start small. And if possible never burn bridges.
How to network effectively as a mental health provider?
This can feel overwhelming and for some down right scary. We work in the field where we must build rapport with out clients, we are simply building rapport with our peers, colleagues, and other professionals in the field. You do not have to be perfect just be yourself, and try to be somewhat prepared when possible. You never know when you may run into a possible connection in life, so always be open to the opportunity. Here are few things you can keep in mind to feel prepared whether you are at a conference or training, or run into a stranger at the grocery store or at a doctors office.
Be yourself - be uniquely and positively you. Smile and be inviting to sharing about yourself as well as learning about others.
Carry business cards (physical or digital) - if you feel more comfortable carrying business cards to have on hand at the drop of a hat that can be great and still beneficial, even in the digital age. If you don't want the weight or cost of business cards you can create digital cards or a QR code for free others can scan that will take them directly to your website, or other contact information (you can create these for free to Canva).
Take their information and take notes - when you go to ask them for their information, jot it down in the note pad in your phone and write a few key points or information about that person next to their phone number for reference later.
Have your elevator pitch ready - What is an elevator pitch you might ask? It's your speech about who you are and what you offer/do that you could give to someone in the time you may be stuck with them in an elevator, keep it short and to the point.
Be open to connection and questions - we can enter these conversations and engagement to get our name out there but remember its about building connection, it isn't a therapy session where it is one sided. We must be learning about those we are seeking to connect with and being open to them learning in their own way.
Where to network as a mental health provider?
Although it may seem as if there are not many opportunities nowadays to meet others and build connections, it is possible. There are many platforms and opportunities to be intentional about your networking.
Attend local events, meetups, conferences, and trainings.
Attend you yearly professional conference.
For instance the national or state counselor, social worker, marriage & family therapist conference, or any other governing body conferences available.
Utilize online platforms to connect with others such as:
Facebook - join local groups to your state or city, look for networking events that might be in your area or available virtually. Interact and engage with others. Do not just go to ask for something or offer your services blindly. This is an opportunity to provide support and build connections on a deeper level.
LinkedIn - similar to Facebook, you can join groups and engage with others to build connections and a network in on a platform specifically geared towards building a network.
Alignable - up and coming networking and social platform for professionals. Similar to Facebook and LinkenIn, benefits is that it is smaller and can be easier to connect.
Meetup - a wide variety of services platform, but it has business networking events available. Or create your own on the platform.
CREATE YOUR OWN!
Create your own platform and use the above places to promote and fill it. If what you need doesn't exist, make it happen.
Tips for making the most of networking events.
Determine a location (in person vs. virtual). If in person you will need to find a venue or location for hosting. If virtual, what platform will be easiest for everyone to utilize?
How long will the event last, and make sure it is appropriate for the event type. Time of day it will begin and end.
Make sure it is long enough to accomplish the goal of the event, but not so long it has a negative impact or deters people from attending.
Determine the appropriate demographics to invite. It is only counselors, is it for a specific population need, etc.
Determine how they might register and how you will provide them the information for attending.
Create a flyer for the event and market it (in person at local places those you are marketing to might see it, on your social media platforms as outlined above).
Have an exit survey.
Let me know if you have questions or need support.
Until next time...Stay Motivated!