Breaking the Ice: How to Make the First Move When Networking

digital network of respiratory care professionals on ipad

All the experts will tell you that getting ahead in your chosen career requires substantial networking with other people in the field. Well, that’s great, except . . . how do you get started when you’re a new RT who really doesn’t know many other people in the field except for your fellow new grads and instructors?

Long-time AARC member and respiratory care manager Tim Buckley, MSc, RRT, FAARC, offers some great advice for newcomers in this short interview —

First, why do you think it is important for RTs to network with other RTs and other clinicians in health care? How does networking help boost their careers?

RTs need to be secure in working with other RTs and clinicians across the country. While we have the proverbial “hospital down the road as a competitor” mentality, we need to see that we are all facing the same problems at one point or another.

If we are all asking the same questions, why would we expect that the answers would be different? I am a big believer in surrounding myself with smart people and letting them loose. It is difficult in smaller RT departments due to the necessary hierarchy. Expanding beyond your locality often yields outstanding options.

RTs are the most open bunch of clinicians I know. Having a strong network is an asset in job advancement. Often times when reaching out to non-RT clinicians there is a statement early in the conversation along the lines of, “I didn’t think RTs were interested” or “I was never asked that by an RT.” Physicians, nurses, PTs, and OTs are very open to professional sharing, but I don’t sense that they are getting a lot of calls from RTs.

What’s the best way to approach someone you want to begin networking with the first time and why? How can RTs “break the ice”?

As with anything else, I start with research. Once I can see who has published on a particular topic, I shoot them an email or make a call to them or their department to see what I can find out. If they can’t answer my question, they often know someone who has faced my problem and come up with a solution.

Reaching out to nationally recognized experts, I have never had anyone refuse to talk with me. The AARC Open Forum and the published abstracts are a great source of information and potential experts who have been down the road I am on. It is important for young RTs to realize that the problems they are facing are rarely unique. There is almost always someone who has faced the problems before.

Another great source is the AARC Help Line. Sometimes you can get an answer just by posting, but no one should be shy about direct contact to further expand the answer or get more details than can be had from a posting alone.

I have personally found that when presenting new programs/procedures, it is good to let the powers that be know that my thoughts are based on my network of experts. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I know what she is thinking.