Why Networking is a Critical Best Practice for Helping Professionals
So many people HATE networking. Especially helping professionals, in my experience. Many helping professionals think that networking is selling or passing a million cards out and hoping they get a referral. That’s just wrong. This mindset can be very short-sighted and, potentially, dangerous.
It’s time to shift our mindset around networking to elevate our practices!
Why you should network:
- Decrease your isolation and the related dangers. When anyone works in isolation, it can be lonely and difficult. None of us can really do our best when we have no support. Further, there are risks to working on your own. Helping professionals often working with clients and patients in very difficult and personal times. If you don’t have other professionals to ground you in best practices, you can wander into unethical territory. Helping professionals must consult with other helping professionals to make sure their work is clinically informed and ethical. Without people in your circle, that’s just not available. You cannot work in isolation and expect your clients to get your best work.
- You can’t do everything! In addition to seeking support for yourself,you have to seek additional support for your clients. You cannot do or be everything for your clients. You cannot specialize in everything. And you are not the best to provide all the resources to your clients. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to do that much AND it is unethical to work outside of your scope or specialty. You need to find resources that complement the work you do best. That is the only way that your clients will receive high quality, comprehensive treatment.
- Vet the resources that your clients need. When your work is helping people, you’re often called upon to provide additional resources for your clients. (Because remember – you can’t do everything!!) When you’re able to confidently refer your client to a therapist for their child, an attorney or mediator for their divorce, or a care manager for their aging parent, you not only feel good about it, but your clients benefit and see you as a resource. Yes, you can search ad hoc for these resources, but you cannot be sure of the quality if you don’t have time to vet that resource. When you make a referral, if it doesn’t turn out well, it impacts your client’s perspective of you. It could even hurt your relationship with the client, if it goes really wrong. You must check these resources out. What better way to do so, than to meet with them and really get to know them? You can vet the resource and have additional information, so that you can refer confidently.
- Create a collaborative team. As you vet your resources, you oftentimes find folks you can collaborate with on more than one case. You have complementary services and styles and are able to really make a difference in each other’s clients’ lives. You cannot find these important relationships without networking. When you create a collaborative team – you’re doing better work and begin seeing additional ways that you can serve your clients. When you have a strong collaborative team, you have better outcomes.
- Strengthen your referral base. The usual reason people network is to get referrals. That usually doesn’t happen when you’re too sales-y. However, if these referrals come through developing the collaborative relationships I just talked about, it’s magical! Each team member is seeking and finding clients of his or her own, that’s what we do when we work for ourselves. However, when you really enjoy collaborating with someone, you start looking at your clients to see if any would be an appropriate referral. You are looking for cases to collaborate on. This means that you have other people seeking clients for you. You and all of your collaborative team members (i.e., referral partners) are looking for clients for you and for each other. You all win – both through the collaborative work and through the increased clientele.
What do you think? Does this make sense?
Who do you need in your network? How are you going to meet them?