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What is networking?

“Are you daunted by the prospect of networking? Think of it as a professional friendship”- Anita Fletcher

It’s a word used extensively in the workplace. The word itself can evoke different emotions: discomfort, stress, even anxiety. How does it make you feel when you hear someone say ‘networking’? Do you avoid it or look forward to it?

Many doctors feel that they are not ‘good’ or ‘natural’ networkers. They feel uncomfortable approaching more senior clinicians for advice, or to ask them for help with things like:

You likely talk to people each day or message them online, whether it’s personal or work-related. When you consider that these discussions are a form of networking, you’ll begin to understand that it’s something you’ve been doing without realising. The ACT of networking is something we do regularly, so why does it make us nervous?

If you take away the emotional aspect, one of the definitions of networking from the Macquarie Dictionary is: “The establishing of communication links with other people as a means of exchanging ideas and information”. To simplify this further, networking is a means of communicating with other people via different channels, such as face to face, video conferencing, online messaging, or phone calls. We like to call it a professional friendship.

The past two years have seen social skills impacted as most of us have had little direct contact with people. The health service is no exception. After being isolated for so long it can take time to hone the techniques of effective networking. We will go through a few tips for both online and face to face networking to help you become more comfortable talking to others, especially people you don’t know.

So, how do you network like a pro?

There are some techniques that you can employ to take the pressure off yourself and turn the focus onto the person you want to talk to. People do like to talk about themselves, so by asking targeted questions, this will have the added benefit of helping you relax.

Watching other people when they’re networking is a great way to work out how to do it right (or wrong). Think of someone you admire. How do they communicate with others? How do they start a conversation? Watch, listen and learn. Take note of the people around you in your workplace and how they interact. It’s a great learning opportunity. Take the aspects you admire and practice using them yourself.

Let’s look at some techniques we can use when communicating online and also face to face.

How to start a conversation online

There are many online apps and tools that are used for communicating, so we’ll focus on the main one you’ll use in a professional capacity – LinkedIn.

When using LinkedIn, there are a few different ways to communicate:

Direct messaging is where the online networking takes place. Here are a few suggestions on how to start a conversation online:

Once you make the connection and start a conversation, aim to set up a phone call or face to face meeting. Be honest about why you want to talk to the person.

How to start a conversation face to face

Networking in person – it doesn’t have to be hard. When you remember that people like to talk about themselves, it becomes easier to start a conversation. And when you do talk to someone, really listen and engage with what they are saying. Don’t make the mistake of being distracted by thinking of the next question you want to ask. Stay present and show interest in what is being said.

Following are some suggestions on how to nail those questions to ask:

Conclusion

No matter whether you want to network with colleagues, medical consultants or senior doctors, all it takes is one open question to start a conversation. When you focus on the other person (what you can learn from them) instead of worrying about what they might think of you, it becomes less scary. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Take the first step and connect with me on LinkedIn – don’t forget to add a note of introduction.

And finally, I’ll be hosting an exhibition booth at the MedCon Conference in Perth on 22/23 July. If you’re attending, feel free to try some of these conversation starters on me directly – I’d love to talk with you!

 

 

 

 

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