So, you have made it. No longer a resident, you are now a rising star in one of the best fields of medicine. You are an overachiever and tireless perfectionist. But, you realize that now you have become a small fish in the big pond. What are some tactics that will help you become a big fish? Network…
It’s vital to be self-determined, proactive and resourceful when networking. Unlike business school, where honing and applying your networking skills is par for the course, networking is not something you’re taught in medical school or residency training. This important professional skill is a neglected aspect of medical training, as is the general financial and business acumen needed to succeed in most business ventures. This is in contrast to its central place in the training and development of MBA candidates and business executives. A primary goal for many professionals who attend business school is not only to harness skills and gain additional knowledge necessary to take the next step up the corporate ladder, but also to ‘build the rolodex’ and make friendships and contacts to carry one’s career forward.
Refining your skills
Most skills important for effective networking are not found or learned in the classroom. In the most primal sense, you have to show initiative and be willing to put yourself out there. Be willing to get outside of your comfort zone. Cast a wide net to identify influential contacts and then follow through to make inroads with those individuals who could be in a position to help you achieve your goals. Target individuals who have proven leadership abilities, even if it outside of your core competency. Be aware that live in-person networking is always the best, as you can build a bond and rapport with that person that is sometimes elusive when using social media or networking outlets. People are in general better at remembering faces than names.
It is important not to limit your options to traditional venues such as medical meetings and congresses. Creative venues include becoming an active member of your community or attending charitable events. Be mindful that you can also network outside of your field of expertise. Every time you are in a social situation, you should look at it as an opportunity to build your network.
Social etiquette or emotional IQ is an art you should be aware of since other people are often very aware of it. When in a social setting, be natural and genuine, not overbearing or desperate. Like a good guest at a social function, make a good first impression and don’t overstay your welcome. Be attune to these cues.
People can often see through the actors or actresses. Don’t look at networking as solely a ‘in it for myself’ event, rather, as an opportunity to make friends, acquaintances, gain knowledge, and, in general, to also have fun.
You can learn from everyone you meet, not from just those in your field, so expand your horizons. Remember, networking is a two-way street, so don’t forget to be a resource for others. Also don’t forget that in meetings or social gatherings you are not alone and others are likely observing your mannerisms or listening in on your conversation. Discretion is advisable, as you don’t know who are friends with whom. As your mother always told you: if you have nothing nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.
Networking is clear and important part of your professional journey. It is a long-term investment with the potential for large “capital gains.” Therefore, you should be cognizant of your goals and where you want to be in five, 10, 15 years. Be mindful of the present, but you need to have some semblance of where you are going, or at least where you would like to go. Networking, in conjunction with hard work and perseverance, is one of the ways to make these goals a reality.
Humility is also an important attribute to consider as we discuss networking and professional advancement. When you have attained success, don’t forget the people who helped you along the way. A few simple words of gratitude will go a long way. Follow up with those people who have made an impact in your life. Finally, be mindful that as you progress in your own career and climb the professional ladder you will be in a position to help others.
In the end, be sure to have fun, be sincere, and don’t just look at other people as a means to an end, but as individuals who are generally interesting and gracious. In doing so, as you travel towards your destination, it will be a stimulating and fulfilling experience. Seize the day.
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