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Lisa W. Goldstone, MS, PharmD, BCPS, BCPS
Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy/Associate Director of Residency Programs
University of Southern California School of Pharmacy

If I had just one sentence to summarize how I built my network in the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP), it would be “it all started with just one connection.” Learning how to network effectively can help you build the professional relationships needed to reach your career goals.

The art and science of networking has been extensively covered in publications in other fields such as business, but less so in pharmacy. One suggested approach to networking in healthcare includes planning, communicating, and following up.1 Researching the person or persons with whom you wish to establish a connection, introducing yourself, and following up with a phone call or email after your initial encounter is a process that can be used when you are aware of an upcoming opportunity to network. These situations could include asking a speaker a question following his or her presentation or attending a small group meeting.

Social media, such as LinkedIn, is another channel that can be used to build your network. Keep in mind quality is preferred over quantity when it comes to networking. Rather than attempting to connect with the greatest number of people, join groups in your areas of interest and participate in discussions. One insightful comment can open more doors than simply liking twenty posts. Twitter is also used by professional organizations and individuals to discuss issues related to healthcare.2

Conferences such as the CPNP Annual Meeting, are a great venue for meeting people and expanding your network. Reviewing the attendee list prior to arrival can help you identify some key persons whom you may want to meet. Keep in mind networking also happens outside of the official conference schedule. Opportunities may present themselves in restaurants, airplanes, and even hotel gyms.

Below are a few of the networking tips and tricks I have used in my own professional career. Some of these are specific to networking during conferences whereas others can be used in almost any setting.

  • Meet new people. People tend to sit and associate with individuals they already know. This limits your ability to network as you are less likely to talk to someone new if you are already deep in conversation with your co-resident or preceptor. Make it a point each day to talk with at least one person who you do not already know.
  • Take advantage of your mentors. Your mentors in the field have their own connections. Ask to be introduced or included in settings in which there is opportunity to interact with individuals with whom you share common interests. 
  • Always carry business cards. If you meet a large number of new people in a shorter time frame, it can be difficult to keep track of names, affiliations, and what was discussed. A business card helps others to be able to put a name to your face and paves the way for future contact. I occasionally write notes on the back of a business card I’ve been given immediately following the encounter so I can remember what was discussed.
  • Attend special interest groups, communities, and roundtables. These activities allow you to meet others with similar interests in small groups which are ideal settings for networking. My first major connection within CPNP occurred when I attended a medication education group roundtable. I didn’t know anyone when I sat down but ended up meeting colleagues with whom I would collaborate on future projects. This ultimately led to other opportunities within the organization and on a professional level.
  • Be social. You cannot meet new people if you isolate. Go out to dinner with others and attend receptions but be cautious regarding alcohol consumption. It is okay to drink alcohol with your colleagues but in moderation. You do not want to be remembered for less than ideal behavior.

The final point to consider is that networking should be mutually beneficial for both parties.1 This differs from mentoring in which the mentee may be gaining the greatest benefit from the relationship. Always remember to reciprocate and keep those within your network in mind when you have available opportunities as this further strengthens your existing network.

In conclusion, networking takes effort in both building and maintaining your professional relationships. Consider all interactions to be potential networking opportunities as just one connection can make a significant difference in your career.

References

  1. Goolsby MJ, Knestrick JM, Effective professional networking. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 207;29(8):441-5.
  2. Hart M, Stetten NE, Islam S, Pizarro K. Twitter and public health (part 1): how individual public health professionals use Twitter for professional development. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2017;3(3):e60.
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