Networking is by far the most effective way to find a practice opportunity that is a good fit with both your skills and personality. About two-thirds of all positions are filled through networking, because it only stands to reason that employers would prefer to hire someone referred by colleagues they know and trust.
Networking not only expands your chances for finding the type of position you are seeking and may reveal unpublicized openings, it also affords you an opportunity to learn about various practice environments and get to know influential physicians in your field.
Obviously, how and where jobseekers choose to employ this strategy depends on their professions, but the techniques and rules are similar for everyone. Networking is about building relationships and quality, not quantity, is what counts. Knowing what you want–private practice, academic research institution or public health facility–and geographically where you prefer to live will determine how and with whom you build relationships.
Self-promotion can difficult even for a social butterfly, but it is especially painful for shy individuals. That’s why it is recommended that you begin honing your networking skills on people you already know, rather than strangers. Start by letting your circle of colleagues and friends with whom you work or attended medical school know what you want to do. People who know you and respect your work are apt to help if they can. Talk with your residency program director, hospital department chairs and other physicians about the practice settings that interest you and locations where you would like to practice. Ask for names of recent program graduates who might be willing to share their job-hunting experiences and contacts with you.
The best way to build relationships with acquaintances or strangers is to ask for their advice or find common ground for discussion, such as research the person might be doing in your specialty or a new procedure the individual practices. Asking for advice, rather than help, is something people are willing to give, because it doesn’t involve commitment, and people like to talk about their work when someone shows an interest.
One effective networking technique involves requesting a short interview with a seasoned professional working in the jobseeker’s field of interest. In the case of a physician, this should be an established physician in your specialty or field of interest. You might begin the conversation, for example, by telling the person that you are interested in learning a certain procedure or surgical technique and ask which facility offers the best training program. You might go on to explain that you are just finishing up your residency program or specialty training and are seeking advice about facilities and/or physician groups that would provide you the best experience in your field. Where the conversation goes from there depends on the discussion and your ability to build rapport with the interviewee.
Medical meetings, including monthly meetings for physicians on staff at your hospital, local medical association and American Medical Student Association meetings, and medical conferences, present excellent networking opportunities. Although medical conferences are expensive, medical students are usually offered cut-rate registration fees, and some even offer free registration for students willing to spend some of their time helping out with menial chores at the conference, like manning the registration desk. If you’re looking for a position in another geographic location, you might want to consider spending the money to attend the conference or finding out if there is an opportunity to work off your registration fee.
Other tips for making the most of conference networking opportunities, include:
• Stay in the conference hotel if possible.
• Look for informal places to meet attendees like the fitness center.
• Attend workshops and poster presentations of interest to physicians in the type of practice or area you are interested in working. Workshops and poster presentations are less formal and involve fewer people than general sessions and, therefore, provide better opportunities for mingling with attendees.
• Spend time in the exhibit hall talking with other conference goers.
• Attend conference cocktail parties and participate in other special activities, such as a golf game or tour of the city where the conference is being held. Pharmaceutical companies and other vendors may also host parties, so find out what’s going on when and where.
If you want to relocate geographically, you might also tap into the resources offered by medical specialty associations. Most medical societies have programs designed to help young physicians starting their careers connect with members. Additionally, association Web sites usually have a physician locator search function, which can help you find established physicians in locations you are considering. Remember all physicians once were starting out themselves, and many are willing to help others get started too. So, don’t be afraid to call them up and request a time for a short phone interview to ask about the environment and potential openings for a physician there. But be considerate of their time. Send them a letter of introduction and your CV in advance and learn as much as you can about the area before your meeting. For relocations resources, click here.
Finally, the Internet provides a multitude of opportunities for connecting and networking with peers in various locations through one-on-one correspondence and network discussion boards like Medscape.com’s non-clinical open forum. But when communicating on the Internet, you should bear in mind that the goal is still to cultivate professional relationships and the same networking rules of asking for advice and finding a common ground for discussion still apply. While communicating electronically reduces some of the stress involved in making new connections, it does not provide the multi-dimensional experience of a face-to-face to meeting, which includes body language, tone-of-voice and other nuances. The one-dimensional interaction provided by electronic communication actually makes it more difficult to built rapport with someone than a face-to-face meeting. Consequently, first impressions are extremely important, and great care should go into composing your first post on the message board. Before composing that first post, take the time to follow the discussion of others, and take your cues from them. While these discussions might be about practice and healthcare industry trends and issues or the sharing of advice on a variety of matters, the underlying goal of participants is most likely to develop professional relationships.
No matter which communication medium you use to network, remember to show respect for other people’s time by preparing a brief description of your background and career goals in advance; send cover letters and CVs electronically so they can be easily forwarded; and above all, always follow-up with a thank-you note when someone takes the time to meet with you in person or on the phone or sends a referral to a colleague on your behalf.
About the Author:
Wesley D. Millican, MBA, CEO and Physician Talent Officer of CareerPhysician Advisors, LP, and CareerPhysician, LLC, provides comprehensive talent solutions for academic children’s hospitals, colleges of medicine and academic medical centers across the nation. He possesses a longstanding passion for career development of all young physicians and serves as a go to career resource for training program directors and their residents and fellows. In continuing his commitment to the “future of medicine”, Mr. Millican speaks nationally at residency and fellowship programs. His Launch Your Career® Series is a proven resource for today’s residents and fellows and has served as a go to resource for program directors over the last 15 years.