It feels like everyone is talking about the importance of networking; it’s really become one of the ‘hot topics’ and even a selling point of conferences (in all industries, not just pharmacy). With some pundits estimating that 70% of jobs aren’t even listed and are instead filled with connections, it’s no wonder people are scrambling to be ‘well-connected.’
I happen to have experience getting some of those jobs that aren’t listed. I also have never been to a pharmacy conference (I’m not putting conferences down, just stating the facts) and thus have not networked at one, am an introvert so not particularly talented at making small talk, and have no social media accounts except LinkedIn (OK I’m currently dabbling in Twitter for my site PharmCompliance.com, but we’ll see how that goes).
I’m also going to buck the trend and say – stop networking.
Why is that? In our frenzy to “make connections” and “get to know people in big places,” we can forget a few key things:
1. They are people, not chess pieces in your career game.
2. As humans, we all need true connection, not social media popularity.
3. Most people are looking to benefit their jobs, organizations, and careers – not yours.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way – what do I think you should do? Here are two big things to start:
Make friends, not ‘connections’
Alex Barker and I got to know each other somewhat through Pharmacy Times. We were reading each others’ posts for some time when he actually sent me a video message through email (very creative!). Basically, we had similar interests – creating a fulfilling pharmacy career, taking care of your well-being, finance for pharmacists, etc. – so he suggested we find a time for a phone call to talk a little about where we’re both headed.
Essentially, we started with no idea from either of our ends how we would ‘benefit,’ from a strictly career perspective, but rather just got to know each other first and kept in touch. Since then we have worked on projects that interest both of us and I think will provide some career benefit in the long run as well.
As mentioned previously, social media is unfortunately where most people go to ‘network,’ and it can be a great place to break the ice (I’ve definitely started there too!), but it can also be a huge time waster. Adding “connections” (I really don’t like that word in this context, but it’s what LinkedIn calls it) to rack up your numbers is not going to help your career in any way.
If, for example, you want to connect on LinkedIn, why not send me a note along with the invite about why, how you found me, etc.? A good example of a recent one for me is a pharmacist who wrote she was interested in getting more into medical writing and saw that I was also a pharmacist that had done that. It sounded like she was interested in learning more about how I got into the business. I happened to have written an article on that very topic so forwarded it over to her and certainly hope it helps.
What’s even better than LinkedIn? If you really want to get to know others in your community who could be working for your next employer (or help you get your next gig), why not go to Toastmasters, join a local healthcare task force, or check out Meetup groups? Skip the computer for once. I got a speaking gig once to present continuing education to the local Department of Health staff through a local healthcare working group I was serving on, for example.
Think about mutual value, not just yours, and pitch from the other’s perspective
The most important job I’ve ever gotten that was not advertised is my current part-time job, at a health-system in Jacksonville, FL.
I was previously in a full-time management position and my medical writing had taken off. I had just gotten the chance to work with a large medical information company on a NAPLEX review course, and I could get a lot of hours every week. In order to take that job, and truly dive into writing, I had to back off my current job, meaning I had to ask my boss to go part-time.
What would have been the wrong way to do it? Saying (or emailing) something like “My business is taking off and I need to go part-time. Can I work less?”
Notice this doesn’t tell him at all how going part-time will benefit him or the organization. That’s presenting a problem to him, not a solution.
Instead, I spent a little time brainstorming reasons why this was a good thing:
1. It will give us more flexibility to staff up and down in the pharmacy, reducing payroll costs;
2. I will have more flexibility to work on creating new service lines, standardizing procedures nationally, working on outreach programs, and other tasks we need to do but are difficult to do while staffing in the pharmacy;
3. Because my writing work is typically flexible, I can be flexible about coming in at the hospital, hopping on phone calls, and working on things even for 30 minutes to an hour on one of my writing days to keep projects moving.
If you want to get a job (especially one that’s not even open), the chance to work with someone new, or a business opportunity, speak in terms of the other person’s benefit, not yours.
In the end, if you follow these principles, you’ll make new friends, be happier and less stressed, and open career doors - truly a win-win. As Richard Branson has said, “I know I'm fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven't; in fact it's the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.”
Alex Evans, PharmD, MBA is a pharmacist and medical writer based out of Jacksonville, FL. He is the founder of PharmCompliance.com, a website dedicated to helping community pharmacists with compliance and operations.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.