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Networking - getting to know more people.

Networking comes easily for some people, usually those who are naturally gregarious. They heartily greet everyone they encounter, ask them probing questions, talk about their accomplishments, and come away knowing the person's name and several memorable facts about them. Other people cringe at intruding on someone's private space, resist asking seemingly nosy questions, feel that boasting is offensive, and don't mind that they cannot remember the name of the person they just talked to. Even though it is difficult for some, networking is an essential part of the job search.

Sometimes people feel that they should not get a job through connections--almost as if that is cheating. If they are good enough, they can get the job by themselves. That's the job by themselves. That's just not the way it usually happens, so you must face that you have to play the game because it's the only one in town. Another prevalent attitude is that networking is using people. If you return the favor somehow, someday, it's not using; it's what we all need--help from each other.

Gary Cohn in the Wall Street Journal says management consultants and executive recruiters recommend, "Don't be shy: The best way for an executive to gain entry to a company is through a personal recommendation, so pull out all the stops to get the word around you're available. Executives seeking upper-level jobs should generally seek help from upper-level contacts." [1] Cohn claims 70 percent of jobs are landed because of personal contacts, 15 percent from placement agencies, 10 percent from direct mailings, and 5 percent from published openings.

Once you have accepted the fact that you must network, how do you do it? Make phone calls and then follow up with letters so people will have a written reminder of your conversation. If you want to move to the southeast, contact your medical school alumni office and find out which of your classmates live there. Then call them. Take the time to inquire about their lives before you immediately say what you want. Then go for information on the health care employment scene. You have a right to politely ask for information. You do not have a right to be pushy. The world out there does not owe you a contact just because you have gotten up, or have always had, the nerve to ask for one.

Attend meetings where people are gathered who are doing what you want to do. A 1988 article in Medical Economics lists organizations for groups of physicians interested in topics such as flying, art, law, ecology, handicapped physicians, and the like. It also lists professional topics that gather physicians together in organizations, with the American College of Physician Executives (then the American Academy of Medical Directors) heading the list: "...a forum for physicians with administrative, management, or leadership responsibilities." Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society members are "manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biotechnology, cosmetics, food products, other items; lawyers, doctors, consultant, others in the regulated health care field (also attend)." [2] Other organizations you can join are Group Health Association of America, American Hospital Association, American Group Practice Association, and American Managed Care and Review Association. The AHA Guide to the Health Care Field, a reference book published annually, lists these organizations and others.

Networking is not just begging for a job when you need one, although it is letting people know you are looking. It's ongoing, keeping up with people, staying in relationships, talking to them at meetings, calling occasionally to see how they are doing, writing a note of thanks when appropriate. Networking is also being visible. Without being obnoxious, let people see what you can do. Dress well, speak well, write for journals. Volunteer to speak on something. Do a good job and give people valuable information. They'll remember you think of you for a job.

Even as they try diligently to increase their networks, some very bright people have trouble remembering names, no matter what mnemonic games they try. One physician, who had just learned a remembering trick, says he met someone with the last name Dasher and thought, "No problem--one of Santa's reindeer." He says over time he called that man everything--Donner, Prancer, Vixen. Even if you have this problem, keep trying to remember. Be friendly, and maybe they'll remember you. Whenever possible write the name and something about the person down. Sometimes writing will imprint the name in your brain. Keep a file of the names, where you met, what they had on. Sometimes a bright color will stay with you as a reminder.

Before you go to a cocktail party or call someone on the phone, do your homework. Dale Carnegie described how thoroughly Theodore Roosevelt did his homework: "Whether his visitor was a cowboy or a Rough Rider, a New York politician or a diplomat, Roosevelt knew what to say.... Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before, reading up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested. For Roosevelt knew, as all leaders know, that the royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most." [3] If you are planning to go to a cocktail party at an ACPE meeting, be sure you have read at least the current issue of Physician Executive so you have possible topics of conversation. Many physicians write for the journal and you may want to talk to one of them about an article he or she wrote. Also read publications such as College Digest, New England Journal of Medicine, or Modern Healthcare for advertised job openings. You may want to find someone from a particular organization at the meeting and ask what it is like to work there.

Go through the list of attendees at a meeting when you arrive and see who is from an area where you would like to live and work. Find them at a session or cocktail party and talk to them about what they do. Don't just go up and tell them you are looking for a job. People may be put off by that approach because they may not know of anything and may feel burdened by your request. Just get to know them by asking questions and listening. Your turn to talk will come if you invest time in the relationship.

Before a social event, rehearse a two-sentence introduction, especially if making contacts is difficult for you. You should be able to tell who you are and what you do without hesitation, fumbling, or rambling.

If you want information from a particular person, try to find out something about the individual ahead ot time. Talk to someone who knows him or her. Then you have a conversation opener.

When you meet people, ask them what they do, tell them what you do, and patiently let a friendship evolve. "...People generally like to talk about themselves and their ambitions, frustrations, accomplishments. And they like to be helpful in ways that enable them to feel potent." [4] To get people to talk about themselves, ask questions such as "The last time we were together you mentioned that you were going on a cruise. When did you get back? How was the trip?" Listen actively. Nod your head, say uh huh, look interested. Make yourself be interested. People will know it if you fake it too long.

As you listen to others, try to cue in to ways that you could help them. They will often remember and return the favor. If someone helps you, immediately send a thank you note. As you talk to others, don't be a whiner, complainer, naysayer all the time. No one needs another one of those in the organization.

After you've talked to someone for a while, introduce them to someone else. Include some personal or professional information when introducing others so they have some topic to begin with. Also learn to tactfully break away from a conversation and meet others; introduce the other person to someone else and then move away.

Some Logistical Suggestions

At a cocktail party, hold your drink in your left hand so you can shake hands with your right hand. In today's society, anyone can offer a handshake first. Avoid messy food if you are truly trying to talk to people. Dripping ribs are just too difficult to manage. Carry fresh business cards in your pocket, but use discretion. People are offended if you are pushing business cards at everyone whether they ask for them or not, but you certainly want to have them available. The easiest thing to do is have some loose ones in a pocket so you don't have to fumble for them.

When you are considering a career change, you will not only attend meetings, but also want to talk to as many people as you can in all areas of your like. Make yourself contact at least five people a month. If you are in a hurry to make a change, that number will be higher. To jog your memory, here is list of the kinds of people you can contact:

* Other physicians in your area.

* Physicians in the area you would like to move to.

* Members of committees on which you serve.

* Members of your professional society.

* Medical school and undergraduate classmates.

* Military colleagues.

* Friends.

* Family.

* Lawyers.

* Accountants.

* Competitors

As part of the networking process, you will want to contact physician executive search firms. These people will not immediately say to you that they will find you a job, because they work for the organizations doing the hiring, not for the physician, but if you tell them about yourself they will keep you in mind as they try to fill positions.

Figler uses an elaborate metaphor to describe the networking process: "Everyone has a frind who has a friend. Somewhere in that chain of friends you are standing with your arms at your sides and your eyes closed. Now if you carefully open your eyes, reach out to the two friends waiting on either side, and grasp their hands firmly, you will feel the electricity of a personal contact network begin to course through your body. It will be stimulating, but not shocking. You will feel alive with the circuit of energy that comes from plugging into people networks. However, be aware that any time you drop your hands and close your eyes again, you have broken the connection. The life of the circuit depends on your ability to keep the switches open. I don't know how to help people who are asleep at the switch." [5]

Even if you are not literally holding the hands of people, you are making contact if you are talking to them. So get out there and talk--maybe more than you want to or are used to--but keep talking and increase your network.


[1] Cohn, G. "An Executive's Quest for a New Job Is a Lesson in Coolness and Strategy." Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 1985.

[2] Holoweiko, M. "Somewhere, There's an Organization for Every Doctor." Medical Economics, June 20, 1988.

[3] Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Pocket Books, 1981, p. 94.

[4] Figler, Howard. The Complete Job-Search Handbook. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1979, p. 190.

Barbara J. Linney is Director of Career Development, American College of Physician Executives, Tampa, Fla.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Linney, Barbara J.
Publication:Physician Executive
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1991
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