Networking is important in any professional field, and massage therapists should be prepared to begin 'massage networking' almost immediately after graduating from massage school in order to get leads for jobs, professional advancement, and new clients. Massage networking is similar to 'standard' networking in that you should always try to connect with other professionals in your field for advancement, but specific to massage therapy in that networking opportunities not only help you find jobs, but help you become a subject matter expert, bring in more clients to your practice, increase your knowledge about modalities, sharpen your entrepreneurial skills, etc.
Networking with Massage Therapy Instructors
Massage therapists should take advantage of the opportunities offered to them by the instructors and administrators in massage school. Chances are that these professionals have years of varied experience in all facets of massage therapy, anywhere from spa management, to human resources/hiring, to working as a therapist, skin care esthetician, chiropractor, or doctor. Whatever their experience, they can provide you with a wealth of massage networking opportunities and knowledge about the industry, and can give you invaluable advice about starting off in your career. Who knows? Maybe they even have an 'in' at a local practice or know other massage therapists who can provide you with a recommendation that can help you land your first job as a massage therapist.
Even after you finish massage school, stay in touch with your classmates and massage therapy instructors either by meeting for a monthly lunch or seminar, or even by simply staying in touch via LinkedIn or Facebook, or some other type of social network for massage networking. LinkedIn is an excellent way for massage therapists to learn about opportunities in the field and network with a limited amount of effort - by adding instructors and classmates to your network, you can give and receive opportunities that come your way just with the click of a button.
Massage Networking with Continuing Education Courses
Massage therapists are required to take continuing education courses every two four years, depending on where they live, to maintain licensure. You should not take any type of classes available just to get the credits out of the way, because you might be missing out on an excellent massage networking opportunity. For example, say you have an interest in sports massage, but there are no sports massage courses available within your recertification cycle. Instead of taking something you are not interested in, think about taking a course in Thai massage or reflexology. Yes, it is not quite sports massage but these are both types of therapeutic manipulation that could come in handy during a sports massage event. And chances are, there will be massage therapists or instructors in these classes who are also interested in the same types of modalities as you, and could help you with massage networking opportunities that can assist you with following your career path further down the line.
It is also important to know that the instructors who teach continuing education courses often travel between regions or sometimes across the nation at the request of schools who want them to teach their specialized courses. Because these instructors are so experienced, in-demand, and well known, consider politely asking them how they became a subject matter expert in their field, and ask if they have any tips they can give you to help you excel within your preferred modality.
Massage Networking with Massage Therapists at Conferences
While massage therapists are not required to attend conferences, these types of events are incredibly resourceful and beneficial to novice and experienced massage therapists alike. Conferences are like giant massage networking conventions –you not only have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits, but you also have the opportunity to meet with renowned massage therapists, interact with the widest variety of massage therapy suppliers nationwide, get to experience videos and seminars you may have never even heard of, and can witness some highly educational demonstrations that you can take back to use in your practice.
While you are at these seminars, follow the same type of thinking as previously mentioned for continuing education courses to get the maximum benefit from massage networking. Consider the fact that many attendees at these conferences are seasoned massage therapists who have a variety of knowledge and experiences that they can bring to the table. Whatever your preferred modality or level of experience, by networking with other professionals at these events, you can gain a great amount of knowledge in a short amount of time that you may not have gotten from simply reading industry journals or books, or even attending continuing education courses within your state.
Finally, the wonderful thing about massage networking at conferences is that you get to travel as part of your profession, and can experience the different types of modalities practiced by massage therapists around the country. Attending a conference on the west coast or Hawaii? Look into learning about the healing art of Lomilomi to expand your knowledge about your practice. Booking a hotel for a conference in Miami? Make sure to stay an extra day or two to see if you can schedule a tour of the Touch Research Institute, founded by Tiffany Fields, Ph.D. If you find yourself in Boulder, Colorado, see if you can visit The Guild for Structural Integration, founded and named by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, founder of the structural integration method known as 'Rolfing.' These are not massage networking opportunities in the way one traditionally views networking as a face-to-face opportunity, but through the knowledge that massage therapists gain from this direct experience, one can bring invaluable first-hand knowledge, discussions, and experience back to his or her practice.