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Are you like many clinicians who hear the word “networking” and groan?

Does the idea of networking fill you with dread; not knowing how to answer the questions you know are going to be asked – you know the question:  “What do you do?…” Then you answer.  “I’m a rehabilitation counsellor” (well that’s me anyways) and then I’m met with a look something like this:

When we explain our job title or clinical discipline as what we do, have you noticed how many people back away?

Then there is the great business card swap. Where people walk around a room, interrupting conversations to press a business card into your hand – as though this shiny piece of card is going to answer all the questions you have about referring someone to them.

You know all that time and effort that went into designing your logo, deciding on your colours, and then getting your cards designed? How many of those precious pieces of your soul have been thrown carelessly in to a bin?

There are so many business networks in our communities. There are Chambers of Commerce, BNI’s and then there are professional networks, networking for company directors, C-suite professionals. A burning question many practice building clients have when they start working with me is what business networks should I join?

However, I’m wondering if you are like I was, where these networks were unhelpful. Ten or so years ago when I was a baby private practice owner, I was attending as many local networking events as I could. Like many people I thought if I could be seen then I would be heard, and my business would flourish. NOPE.

Despite all my efforts, and time, and social anxiety, I found these networking events really, really unhelpful. I remember one particularly early breakfast meeting (I hate early morning meetings) at a “referral network” where your entry into the “club” was that you had to be a unique business and you would commit to referring to the other people in the room. OK I thought, that sounds like it could work for me, I need people spreading the word about my availability.

When it got to my turn to do my 30 second elevator pitch (because that didn’t make me nervous at all) I was left with silence. And I had practiced my pitch, I had followed the rules of how to create an elevator pitch. Everyone else thus far had questions from other’s in the room about people they could refer and asking about their services specifically as a way of educating themselves. Me, I was met with nothing. So, yes AWKWARD.COM … can a giant hole now appear under my feet and swallow me into the earth?

Person #1 said “that’s nice dear”.

Person #2 – who happened to be the leader – actually went on for the next, oh I don’t know, 4 hours (that’s what it felt like) about how my business could not work … that people would never pay for my services, and that I needed to become an event manager.

Yes, I – a veteran of all things work and career – was receiving career advice from someone who had met me for 30 seconds.

No, I did not go back.

And I hated networking. It was all the things I dreaded it would be. It was costly. It was humiliating. It was not profitable. Stupid, stupid networking.

We all too often get caught in the trap of networking being a transaction. If I go to this event, then I will get new clients. If you accept a business card from me, then that means you will send new client’s to me. We all have these stories about how networking is supposed to work. And we forget that we don’t sell widgets, or fix broken plumbing, or clean people’s houses. We are in the business of humans in all their vulnerability and messiness, and just because we know people need us – they are NOT going to admit this when they are in a room of peers where they are trying to “sell” themselves as professionals, competent and needed. Nope, no way. Ain’t gonna happen.

Networking is not a transaction. It’s relationship building. It takes intentional effort and it takes practice. You use relationship building skills to build a network of people. You’ve got this dear clinicians, we do this every single day with clients – we just call it treatment, or therapy, or intervention.

Being able to network with people and then having your own referral network are two different things. Being able to network is the actions you take to build a referral network. Your referral network then becomes a group of people you know, like, and trust; who will gladly and easily recommend you, refer people to you, and you vice versa.

However, it takes time and effort to help people to know you, like you and trust you.

Think of the people you have referred your friends and family to.  We usually refer others we care about to people we have had a positive experience with. We want to help our friends and family avoid those people we have had a not so good experience with.

Well the same is true when we want people to refer to us. To help people refer to us we need to have a few things in place, and these things might just surprise you.

  1. You need to be able to express who you are, and who you serve, and how you help in more than just a clinical title or function.
  2. You need some stories about how you have helped people in the past (yes without breaching any privacy concerns), about the value you bring to your clients, using language that non-clinicians use.
  3. You need to be likeable and relatable.
  4. You need to be interested in the other person, and be prepared to go first in building the relationship – ask questions that help you get to know them, maybe you even need to refer to them before they refer to you (gasp, what????).
  5. You need to educate people about how they can talk about you to potential referral sources.

If you knew without any doubt that in 12 weeks you had 5 people that you could go to, at any time, and say; guess what, I’ve had space open up on my schedule and I’m ready to see new client’s, and they would send new client’s to you – what would that be worth?

If you know that in 12 weeks you had your “elevator pitch” down, so that it rolls off your tongue effortlessly and in a way that engages people listening to you, what would that be worth to you?

If you knew that in 12 weeks, you had a referral network that cost you a couple of hours a month to maintain, that kept your practice full, what would that be worth?

  • You would have a LOT of time back in your week.
  • You would have a lot of energy back in your life.
  • You would actually start making more money – with greater ease.

I know there is a lot of competition for your marketing focus, your energy and your dollars. It often feels like there is always a new marketing hack, or skill we’re suppose to be learning that is going to be THE magic thing that helps us fill our practices. Helping you fill your practice is one thing, helping you have a process and system to keep it full – that’s an entirely different game.

You can’t be in the business of people and humans and not have some networking skills under your belt. Most people reading this article will have desires to build information products, become a well-known author, or to start speaking to large rooms of people. I can assure you that NONE of that will happen unless you know how to network, and build relationships, with the right people to help you make these things happen.

For me, learning how to network, and build a referral network, was the most cost effective method of filling my practice. In the beginning I had more time than money – so I used my time to go and build relationships.

Within 6 weeks I had more work than I could handle WITHOUT A WEBSITE.

And now I want to invite you to learn and practice the same skills I have been using for 10 years to grow and keep my practice full.

I developed this 5 part video training series for my coaching clients, and would love to share with you with my compliments. Head to

Who is Jo Muirhead?

Jo Muirhead

Content contributor

Jo is passionate about helping people make work, work well.  Jo is an engaging speaker, coach and the founder of PurpleCo a team of specialized allied health professionals who help people reclaim their lives and return to work following injury, illness and trauma.   Jo is also the author of the book The Entrepreneurial Clinician.

How to contact Jo: e: p:  +61 414 276 265 w: li: fb: ig:  jo_muirhead



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