The word of the day is “networking.” What does it make you think of?
A.) Furiously amassing LinkedIn contacts that you never actually speak to.
B.) Awkward gatherings where you end up with a hundred business cards from strangers.
C.) That's what you call the IT guy to deal with, right?
D.) None of the above, thank goodness.
The Truth About Networking
If you picked D, you're not only lucky to have avoided some annoying situations, you're also correct. Networking, done either online or in person, is about building the personal and professional relationships that make all of your lives better. When you put the owner of your favorite coffeeshop in touch with a local bakery that makes the best scones in town, that's networking. When you join a Facebook group for poodle owners and swap grooming tips, that's networking too. We all network in our daily lives, and we generally enjoy it.
While knowing how to keep Fifi's coat fresh is helpful, there are even more benefits to networking on a professional level. Attending massage networking events can help build your business, improve your skills, and renew your passion. Wondering how? Here are six important benefits professional networking has for massage therapists.
1. Discover Opportunities
If you are searching for a new job or a change in scenery, other massage therapists are your biggest ally. Even in a small networking group, there is bound to be someone who knows someone who is looking for somebody like you. There is so much diversity in the massage community that someone else's “not for me” might just be your perfect match! Networking won't necessarily land you the job or facility of your dreams, but it can definitely help you know where to look.
2. Find Your Ideal Clients Through Referrals
You have a cousin that you know needs some really good bodywork, but she's pregnant and you don't offer prenatal massage. You'd hate to have her miss out on getting the therapy she needs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you knew a trusted massage therapist who did just that kind of work, and did it well? Networking can help massage therapists provide appropriate referrals to one another, which means they gain the kinds of clients they really want in their practices . When Jane Doe knows you'll be thrilled to take on her clients for deep tissue work, and you can send your clients to her for spa treatments and pampering, everyone ends up doing more of what they love.
3. Meet Your Mentor
If you're a newer massage therapist, there's nothing like having someone more experienced around to guide you through some of the more unexpected pitfalls of building your career. But how do you choose someone to ask for advice? Who do you really trust? When you network, you develop relationships with other therapists, and get to know their skills and experience. At that point, finding a mentor becomes as simple as asking a friend for advice. For therapists who've been practicing for a while, you surely have lots of learning accumulated. What better way to make use of that knowledge than to share it with others in an environment of mutual support?
4. Develop Collaboration
While massage is provided one-on-one, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration between therapists. You might decide to:
Work together to provide couples massage for the holidays
Design a clinical research project
Volunteer as a group in the community
Save on costs by purchasing supplies together
Develop a marketing campaign that promote multiple businesses
The first step to any collaboration, though, is finding your collaborators. So start reaching out!
5. Moral Support
The greatest cause of burnout among massage therapists isn't physical, it's emotional. While we work with people all day, there's a difference between a client to whom you always show your best side, and a colleague who can feel awful with you when you finish the story, “and then I kicked over an entire jug of jojoba oil, right onto the clean sheets!” While your mom might be a sympathetic listener, it takes another therapist to really appreciate the nitty-gritty of what you do. Networking offers the chance to create those relationships that get you through the day.
6. Break Out of Your Box
One of the biggest pitfalls of isolation is that after a while you start believing that the rest of the massage world is just like you. If you work in a clinical environment, it's the most important setting for massage. If you work in a spa, you believe the same. The energy workers are everywhere. Or the skeptics. Or nearly everybody is an employee, or an independent contractor, or a business owner. No matter how “you” is defined, you become your own norm.
Networking breaks those illusions down more quickly than anything else. The news, information, opinions, and personalities you discover not only broaden your perspective, but are great for exploding you out of a creative rut. Who knows? You might just discover a whole new professional direction that you never knew existed before you began networking outside your immediate circle.
How to Get Started Networking
While you could organize your own networking event using whatever resources you have at your disposal, there are plenty of folks who've already gone through the trouble for you.
Check Meetup for any gatherings of massage therapists in your locality.
Ask other massage therapists you know about whether they have any networking suggestions for you. Quite often there are wonderful but poorly-advertised mailing lists, regular events, and casual groups that it's difficult to discover unless you know someone who is personally involved.
Your AMTA chapter has many opportunities to meet and talk with other massage therapists from across the state. Check out our events page for volunteer opportunities, classes, and chapter meetings and education.
Good luck, and happy networking!