Most physicians think about networking for two main reasons – job openings, and referrals. Although attending networking events, making connections with other physicians, and keeping up with conferences or seminars are great ways to get your name out to doctors in your community who might be interested in hiring you or passing your name on to patients, there are plenty of other reasons to network as well.
Doctors in Canada face a diverse professional landscape with plenty of changes to the traditional healthcare career path in the last decade and many more likely to come. Between virtual health care options, locum roles, retirement questions, and deciding whether to join a group practice or open your own, there are lots of areas of practice that could benefit from the insight or experience of another physician.
Talking to the other physicians in your community is your chance to get not only referrals or learn about job openings in your field, but also get exposure to new ways you can practice, advice from doctors who have taken professional career leaps that you’re considering, or mentorship. Now more than ever, it’s important for physicians to make the kinds of meaningful connections with their colleagues that will help them in their future – so here are some ways to get started:
Stay in Touch
The experience of working with someone doesn’t need to end when you leave the practice. One of the easiest ways to network is to make an effort to keep in touch with your colleagues from school, previous employers, or residency positions. While you might not have seen some of these physicians in a while, if you enjoyed working together then there’s no better excuse to catch up. Send them an email, message them on social networking sites like LinkedIn, or connect over the phone. They will likely be happy to hear from you, and making the connection lends itself naturally to talking about what both of you are up to professionally.
Make the Effort
Not only is it important to maintain relationships after working with someone, it’s also important to make the relationship something worth remembering in the first place! Even if you’re not the most social person, small gestures – like holding the door, remembering someone’s name, or saying good morning – are easy ways to show kindness. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but in your own practice you’re likely going to refer to a physician you like and feel comfortable with – so you can assume other physicians will do the same.
Attend or Organize Events
Busy physicians and social introverts might be tempted to skip opportunities to meet other doctors, but attending conferences, golf tournaments, or holiday parties are all great networking opportunities, and showing up even for a short amount of time is a worthwhile investment in your professional network. You could also think outside of the box – forming a book club, playing a recreational sport, or planning another fun activity is another great way to bring people together, and having shared interests makes conversation flow easier.
Get a Hobby
Sometimes it’s necessary to spend most of your time in the office, but when it comes time for networking for doctors, it could also mean you won’t have a lot to talk to other doctors about. What are you interested in? What are you looking forward to? What makes you interesting to talk to? Many physicians enjoy the same type of leisure activities, including biking, jogging, playing instruments, or gardening, so keep an open mind – even something as simple as biking to work every day can make for good conversation. Travel is another popular topic; don’t be afraid to ask other physicians if they’ve done any great trips lately, or offer some advice on places you’ve visited yourself – and with nearly 50% of doctors interested in gourmet cooking, it doesn’t hurt to share your top spots to eat!
If being the one to initiate conversation at networking events scares you, don’t worry – asking questions about other people’s specialty, interests, or career path can take the pressure off of you and give you time to think about what you want to say, as well as breaks the ice and gets the other person talking. Not only that, but you can gain valuable professional information – finding out what opportunities or career paths others are taking might give you some ideas for yourself. Just be sure to listen to their answers carefully, and ask follow up questions to show you’re engaged in the conversation!
Tell a Great Story
People love hearing personal stories – and doctors have more exciting stories in their repertoire than most! Rather than talking about some of your drier accomplishments when asked about yourself, think about something you’ve done recently or something interesting that happened to you. This can not only break the ice, but help make you memorable – which will come in handy if you need to use the connection later on for referrals or job openings.
Chances are you picked being a doctor because it was a good fit for your personality – and chances are, the rest of the doctors in the room did the same thing! Although every physician is different, the combination of passion and work ethic required to get where you are is something you all have in common. So don’t worry about trying to stand out or fit in: being yourself is the best way to connect with colleagues, especially if you’re passionate about what you do.
Stay (Mostly) Sober
Limiting your drinks at social events is not only good for your health, it’s also good for your reputation – getting too drunk could end up being embarrassing or put off other physicians. No matter how boring the event might be, or how much fun it might be to have a few too many, drinking and networking isn’t a good mix. After all, you don’t want to be remembered as ‘that doctor’!
Although many people feel comfortable sticking around their existing colleagues at events such as holiday parties or golf trips, the point of these events is to meet new people. Even if it’s something as small as talking to someone in the buffet line, inviting someone new to sit at your table at breakfast, or making small talk while you’re in an elevator, it’s worthwhile to branch out.
If you’re having trouble getting to networking events or forcing yourself to mingle, you’re not alone: as opposed to other professions, doctors are rarely encouraged or required to network for success in medical school or residency. To beat the temptation to duck out early, set yourself goals for the evening such as ‘I will collect 10 business cards’ or ‘I will add 5 new people to my LinkedIn’. Goals are satisfying to tick off at the end of the night, and give you incentive to stay engaged.
Even if you’re not the biggest social butterfly, networking for doctors is a great opportunity to connect professionally but also to meet like minded people and connect around your shared passion for medicine. Talking to other healthcare professionals should be fun – and the opportunity to chat can bring you not only referrals and job opportunities, but also options for mentorship, advice on different career paths, and ways to expand your practice.