Call it people skills, bedside manner, or simply charisma, making and keeping professional relationships can pay off quite well for doctors over the course of their careers.
And while we all hope every doctor is comfortable in the “what” they know portion of their jobs, it’s all too often the “who” they know portion that opens up desirable opportunities in top facilities across the country.
It’s no surprise then that today’s doctors use networking to find new jobs. In fact, a recent study of new doctors found that 40% of residents and new physicians found their first job through referrals and networking.
The number is even higher when looking at how doctors actually searched for jobs, with 48% tapping into their networks for leads on potential jobs. Coincidentally, 51% of these doctors also sought a personal reference or referral.
That’s great and all, but for many doctors, networking doesn’t come naturally. Or easily. If that rings true for you, don’t fret. Networking is a skill. And like any skill, it can be learned, developed, and perfected.
Here are our top ten ways physicians can improve their networking skills.
A smile and a handshake go a long way in making solid connections. But being positive can make that connection lasting. Keep conversations upbeat, and frame negatives in a positive light. Don’t shy away from talking about successes—even when they’re not your own.
It’s far too easy to hope a contact will respond when you reach out, but then turn around and be “too busy” when someone reaches out to you. Remember, networking is a two-way street. Be willing to invest time for others and you’ll be far more likely to get it returned.
In a marriage, it’s cute when you finish each other’s sentences. At a conference or networking event, it’s called butting-in and is just rude. Taking time to really listen and ask interesting questions is a great way to develop a higher level of professional respect and earn a potential contact’s trust.
Use first names
This simple, yet often underutilized networking skill opens lines of communication like few other tactics can. As Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” When it comes to a person’s name, don’t be afraid to use it.
Participating in forums, publishing papers, attending conferences, joining panel discussions, sitting in on team lunches, going to mixers—you get the picture—are just some of the many ways you can get your name out there. Being engaged goes a long way to growing your professional circle.
It goes without question that the value of volunteering extends well beyond simple networking. The positive impact volunteering has in the communities served and within the individual are undeniable. But for those physicians who may struggle with networking, it can also be a rewarding way to put themselves out there.
Don’t burn bridges
Going down in a “blaze of glory” is fun for viral videos and comedy sketches, but it can torch a hard-earned career in a flash. If you’ve left a job in less than ideal circumstances, don’t make it worse by telling everyone who will listen. And remember, you’ll likely see those people again. It’s best to stay positive.
Utilize social media
It’s understandable that privacy and liability concerns can make some physicians feel skittish about going social. But for those who do, it can serve their goals well. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or one of the many industry platforms, try to keep your profiles current and your content fresh to give your reputation a real boost.
For many years, a growing concern in medicine has been physician burn out. In fact, a recent Medscape study reported 42% of doctors feeling burned out. Finding time to engage in activities you enjoy can help drive work/life balance, while also giving you chances to hone your social skills in a relaxed, stress-free setting.
Work locum tenens
Through short-term assignments, locum tenens physicians get a chance to work in new cities, new facilities, with all new teams of doctors, nurses, and administrators. The savvy physician can use locum tenens to their advantage building a reputation of respect with each new assignment.
The bottom line is that when it comes to networking, practice makes perfect. Spending a few minutes each week developing weaker skills and sharpening strengths can have significant rewards for your career down the road.