Effective networking involves developing relationships with other people, sharing relevant information and resources, and providing mutual support and encouragement on the path to reaching your goals.
When one hears the term “networking,” their mind may immediately jump to “social networking”—and indeed, technology tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide a powerful and convenient means of developing and maintaining your personal and professional connections.
But there’s more to a network than the number of people who “friend” you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. On a deeper level, effective networking involves developing relationships with other people, sharing relevant information and resources, and providing mutual support and encouragement on the path to reaching your goals. One’s network can also open doors to potential career opportunities and collaborations.
Network the noun is a group of people who share ideas and resources. Whereas, networking the verb is the actively creating and discovering connections between people. Networking depends on relationships.
Networking is an essential aspect of any profession, and the field of ophthalmology is no exception. Building a strong network of contacts can help you stay informed about the latest developments in your field, find new job opportunities, and gain valuable insights from other physicians. However, networking is often seen as a time-consuming and daunting task, and many physicians struggle to make the most of their networking efforts.
One of the keys to successful networking is to approach it with intention. Instead of simply attending conferences or networking events and hoping for the best, it's important to set specific goals for your networking efforts. For example, you might want to meet a certain number of new contacts, or connect with a specific individual in the field. Having a clear sense of what you want to achieve can help you focus your efforts and make the most of your time.
I think of networking like mentoring. We’re strengthening exiting relationships and expanding our circle, and there are multiple benefits, including:
Another important aspect of intentional networking is to be proactive. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, seek out opportunities to connect with other physicians. This might mean reaching out to colleagues in your field, or joining professional organizations and committees. By actively seeking out opportunities to connect with others, you can increase the chances of making valuable new contacts.
One of the most effective ways to network is through personal interactions. This can be done by attending professional conferences, or even better, by organizing events such as roundtable discussions or panel discussions. In-person interactions allow you to establish a personal connection with others and to build trust, which is essential for networking.
What networking is not
It is important to note that networking is not about selling yourself, nor is it “Hello, what can you do for me,” but rather “Hello, let’s get to know each other. What can I do for you?”
We need to get into the mindset of giving to others without expectations of payback.
In addition to attending events, social media platforms and online networking sites like LinkedIn are also great ways to connect with other professionals in your field. These platforms allow you to connect with a wider range of people and to stay informed about the latest developments in your field.
It takes only a moment’s conscious decision to become a networker, with no interference in your daily routine. All it requires is a slight shift in attitude and adopting one simple rule: Greet each new acquaintance with an openness to learn more about that person, and a willingness to help.
In conclusion, networking is an important aspect of the field of ophthalmology and it can be a valuable tool for career growth, professional development and staying informed about the latest developments in your field. By approaching networking with intention, being proactive, and leveraging the power of personal interactions, you can make the most of your networking efforts and build a strong network of contacts in the ophthalmology field.
Here are several tips for you to consider:
Go beyond business cards and little black books. Write down quick notes in “contacts of iPhone” about what you spoke about, their interests, how you might be able to benefit hi m or her in the future and how he or she may be of help to you. These notes are not shared even if you share the contact with others.
You can offer to volunteer at the check in desk. This allows you to see who’s at the event and easily make connections without standing at the sidelines seeing which group you can try to make small talk with.
Block out some time each week to follow up on connections, post on LinkedIn, and engage with connections.
By following these tips and recommendations, you can gain an edge in networking and develop a strong and useful network of contacts in the field of ophthalmology and beyond.
You can even take action today by practicing your intro/elevator pitch and by connecting to 2 people on LinkedIn.
Identify your goals: Before attending any networking event or conference, take some time to think about what you hope to achieve. Are you looking to connect with other physicians in your specialty? Are you interested in learning about new research or treatments? Identifying your goals will help you focus your efforts and make the most of your time.
Research potential contacts: Before attending an event or conference, research the attendees and identify potential contacts that align with your goals. This will allow you to make the most of your time.
Prepare your elevator pitch: Having a clear and concise introduction about yourself and your area of expertise can be very helpful when networking. Practice your elevator pitch before attending any event so that you can present yourself in the best possible light.
Follow up: After attending an event or conference, be sure to follow up with any contacts you made. Send a quick email or LinkedIn message to thank them for their time and to continue the conversation.
Attend or organize local events: There are often local ophthalmology events happening in your area such as lectures, seminars or roundtable discussions. Attend these events or even better, organize one of your own, it's a great way to connect with other ophthalmologists in your area and to build a strong network.
Leverage social media: Social media platforms like LinkedIn can be a great way to connect with other physicians in your field. Create a professional profile and make sure to update it regularly. Follow leaders in your field and participate in discussions to increase your visibility.
Zaiba Malik, MD,
Zaiba Malik, MD, is a medical director at Medpace. A board-certified ophthalmologist, she is also CEO of EyeMed LLC, and a has been a clinical assistant professor at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine since 2008.