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‘Tis the Season’ for Networking

Whether you’re attending workplace parties or family gatherings amongst colleagues, peers, or friends, the holiday season is invariably primed for social interaction. This same social interaction provides opportunities for personal and professional networking. Now let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that your dermatology future hinges on a chat with your Uncle Fred over egg nog! However, the more we construe networking as a regular, everyday activity, the easier it becomes.

First, it is helpful to define networking to qualify its daily applications.  Net·work, verb; to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career [Merriam Webster]. Could networking really be more than using social media like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook?

Networking is more than social connectivity.  It is a form of learning with exposure to new ideas, perspectives, and processes – and quite simply – the more, the merrier. In healthcare, networking should be framed as a concrete form of continuing education, in my view. Paradoxically, although often unrecognized in residency, it is a permanent by-product of our daily interactions borne in-training. It is helpful to recognize the potential impact of these daily interactions, preferably sooner rather than later.

Once you embrace a definition of networking, how do you apply it to your busy to-do list and daily clinical demands? Quite possibly the easiest first step, and perhaps most feared, is to step out of your comfort zone. Although it takes focused effort, the latter of which is minimal compared to patient care, you do not have to travel a long distance. Local university-based Grand Rounds, state dermatological societies, or regional/national conferences are all optimal settings for jumpstarting your career – you’re likely already networking. Start approaching colleagues that you do not know and initiate a conversation; try to be relaxed and laid back, and of course, be yourself. By meeting two to three new colleagues at these events and following up on conversations, we could further advance our specialty through professional networks.  These should be considered our future gold reserves for our specialty.

Above all, it is important to avoid a pitfall that networking is a form of schmoozing. If you consider networking in this way, you will likely truncate any substantive relationship that is devoid of mentorship. Extrovert or introvert aside, we all are capable of being successful networkers.  So aim for the rolodex that will boost your career, elevate your practice, and indirectly provide sustenance for our specialty in 2018 and beyond.