Brittany Chambers, MPH, MCHES®, Vice-chair and Director, NCHEC Division Board for Professional Development; and Monica Lathan-Dye, CHES®, Director, NCHEC Division Board for Professional Development
Pre-COVID networking was done in a variety of ways, through face-to-face conferences, seminars, meetings, and even in the grocery line or at your local Starbucks. They say necessity is the mother of invention. That being said, the emergence of COVID has required us to explore different ways to make connections in a socially distanced world. It has also become increasingly evident that we need some form of interaction – outside of our standard Zoom meetings – and that it is an important aspect of mental health and wellness. We want to share some exciting and more creative virtual ways to network as CHES® and MCHES® in this new post-pandemic era, and why it’s so vitally important both professionally and personally.
The Top 5: Why Is Networking So Important?
Networking allows you to:
- Exchange ideas: It creates a space for dialogue and innovation. If you are working on a project and want to get another perspective it opens the doors for new ideas.
- Establish partnerships: It allows you to build collaborations with others. We cannot make big differences alone. For instance, you may formulate a new partnership through the chance to co-author or co-present with someone you admire or desire to work with.
- Promote Diversity: Broadening your scope through networking gives great opportunities to welcome diverse ideas and provides exposure to diverse people and communities. Diversity is power.
- Create and leverage opportunities: It exposes you to people and events that can lead to professional growth and a wide range of opportunities.
- Build confidence: It allows you to connect with others and express your authentic self. Sometimes it takes practice, but the more you network the better and more confident you will become. You can also take courses or read up on ways to network or become a more effective networker. Then network, network, network!!!
Top 5: What are the Best Ways to Network in a Virtual World?
1. Widen Your Network by Utilizing Social Media:
Social media is an ideal way to broaden your network and learn more about professional opportunities that might interest you. Social media is not just for entertainment, but can be beneficial to your professional advancement in several ways. First, networking using social media provides the opportunity to connect to groups and stay tuned with upcoming events. Next, it allows you to broaden your network exponentially. You’ll be surprised how vast your primary, secondary, and tertiary networks can be, how many mutual colleagues you have, and common interests you share with those within and outside of your inner circle. Speaking of the inner circle, another key attribute of social media is the ability to connect to people around the world at your fingertips.
- Join groups on LinkedIn (e.g., NCHEC)
- Follow/connect with fellow MCHES® and their network (e.g. #CHES® #MCHES®).
- Participate in Health Education Twitter chats or conversations (e.g. #HealthEdCareers)
2. Listen and Get Your Voice Heard- Engage in Professional Forums:
Another great way to network is to join professional organization forums. Professional organization forums provide various opportunities to be seen and heard virtually. Being part of online forums fosters the sharing of thoughts on interesting topics in health education. These forums also can raise awareness of other learning opportunities that can potentially be used to fulfill your CHES® or MCHES® certification requirements. So stay tuned and stay connected.
3. You’ve Got Mail- Join Listservs: Listservs are not a thing of the past, but they have now been reinvigorated, especially when used strategically. Listservs can be leveraged to share the latest news, events,or opportunities. Being part of relevant listservs can allow you to stay connected with your alma mater, get the latest job listings, newsletters, or even free educational opportunities. Take the time to maximize your networking capacity through the dissemination of information. In addition, if you are hiring, listservs allow you to share vacancies on a wider platform and in many cases being part of a listserv is free.
4. “Getting to Know You:” Schedule Informational Interviews
Have you been interested in a particular organization and want to know more? Perhaps you are interested in making a career change where you can maximize your health education skills? Now is a great time to take the initiative to reach out to leaders in the companies or professions you wish to learn more about. Informational interviews can give you a chance to explore and better understand what others do. It also offers another great way to share information and resources by building reciprocal relationships. If you are actively seeking new networking opportunity, your goal should be to schedule 2-3 informational interviews per year.
5. Stay Connected-Attend Virtual Networking Events or Conferences
You don’t have to be there to be present. Many organizations are offering a safe and easy way to stay connected and network through virtual conferences. The virtual events give you the benefits of seeing some headliners in public health and health education from the comfort of your home. For larger conferences, you can view recordings of sessions you may have missed and the virtual platform in some cases allows organizations to offer more sessions without the overhead. This can translate to more CHES® and MCHES® credit opportunities.
- Virtual conferences (e.g., Navigate and Network: APHA 2021 Virtual/Hybrid Meeting, Health Literacy Conference, Advocacy Summit)
- Alumni or current students - search for offerings to connect (e.g., Drexel Alumni Mentoring program)
- Virtual Learning- By enrolling in a virtual training you can learn a new skill or information and meet new people at the same time. Check out the NCHEC training portal to ‘sharpen the saw’ and get Category I credits at the same time.
**Remember it's really all about making human connections and staying connected! **
Please drop your Twitter or Instagram handle in the Comment box below, and share your own idea for how to network in a virtual environment!