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Monday
Nov292010

Networking Your Way to Career Change ... Are You Ready?

In my work with physicians expanding outside of their clinical roles, one of the biggest success factors I see with docs who are able to do this well is their ability to network.  

No, not the kind of networking that many of us think of ... the attending networking "events", approaching strangers, handing out business cards in desperation, making small talk to find out what they can do for me - kind of networking ...

No, the kind of networking that works. The kind that is about building relationships, and expanding your circle of trusted colleagues that allows you to become one of their trusted contacts. Networking is about finding a common goal and a common mind-set with other professionals and capitalizing on that for both of you. It's about finding a "win-win".

An Emergency Physician that I recently spoke with told me that his recognition of networking in this way totally changed his approach and his success with his own career change. While still practicing, he began reaching out to his close friends and colleagues to share with them his ideas for career expansion. The good news is that he had done his homework and knew the direction he planned to take outside of medicine (which in his case was independent consulting work for a healthcare consulting firm). He told me that having a point of view and a sense of how his skills/experience fits the industry helped, as it framed the questions he asked and the people that he connected with.

What started as a few conversations with colleagues he knew well (particularly one, a physician he had been in residency with who had left clinical practice to do consulting work), grew into more focused and directive conversations with "friends of friends", and others within the industry who helped him both build the confidence and the knowledge he needed to make an educated career move.

He also told me that he did his best to connect others as he networked, and found that doing so added value for the people he was meeting. He said that creating this reciprocal relationship was critical in his networking - it not only provided a benefit for the people he introduced, but it also positioned him as someone who could recognize a need and "connect the dots" - a big win for his reputation.

This physician is now working for a boutique healthcare consulting firm, and while he told me that it is not his "optimal" role yet, it has moved him significantly in the direction he wants to go. And he confided that he would have never had the courage, or the inroads, to move into this phase of his career without the people that he met and built relationships with.

A terrific resource for people trying to begin networking is Keith Ferrazzi's book "Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets For Success One Relationship At A Time".

If you want to step it up a notch, I've heard good things about his more recent book on building your personal / professional network - "Who's Got Your Back: The Secret to Finding the Three People Who Will Change Your Life".  

I highly recommend them both.

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