EVERY DOCTOR OUT THERE will likely attend at least a couple of conferences every year. It’s part of the job, a great chance to get away from the daily grind of clinical practice and brush up on the latest knowledge and developments in your specialty.
But one thing that doctors are not so good at, especially compared with other professionals, is using conferences as a highly effective networking tool. It’s a huge wasted opportunity if doctors don’t take advantage. That’s because those who are good at it regularly find opportunities from amazing job offers and new career options to interesting research projects and high-level institutional collaborations.
The most successful people around you will also be pretty ruthless networkers.
The key is getting out there and talking to as many colleagues as possible! Here are three common mistakes physicians make:
• Sticking with only your clique
Okay, we’re all intensely tribal beings at heart, and that includes physicians. You may think it’s normal to sit, dine and wander the arena with only the people you know.
There will likely be a number of colleagues attending from your institution, and you may even have a group dinner organized. That’s all very well and good, but don’t hang with them at the expense of not meeting any of the thousands of other people around you, all of whom share common interests and passions. After all, you’re with your colleagues every day.
So start up a conversation with the doctor standing in line with you or the one seated beside you. Turn around and confidently introduce yourself and say where you are from, like the trailblazing doctor you are. And go to some of the organized happy hours, lunches and dinners. You may end up being very happy that you did.
• Not strolling the sponsor booths
Some doctors seem almost afraid of the exhibit hall, which is baffling. Here’s where you will find a number of companies, small and large, all trying to showcase their products. These companies might have an innovative new idea, or they could be a start-up or an established multinational. Nobody is going to force you to buy or sign up for anything— and you may gain profound insights into the health care industry or stumble upon something interesting.
• Running from lecture to lecture, and then right back to your hotel
Your conscientiousness is commendable and you want to absorb as much as possible, packing in all the learning. But you are not in school any more!
Conferences are not all about education and lectures, and you shouldn’t walk around the rest of the time with your head down. Relax, take in the whole conference arena, and then get out and sample some local sights and culture.
If you’re in your early career, you will quickly realize something you should have been taught in school: No matter what profession you are in—yes, even the scientific ones—the most successful people around you will also be pretty ruthless networkers.
That sounds so incredibly obvious. But like many things in life, most people around you aren’t doing it, so just by doing so, you’ll instantly put yourself ahead.
Let me present you with this challenge, particularly if you’re not already good at this. Before your next big conference, make sure you pack business cards and have an updated LinkedIn profile. (It’s astonishing that this even needs to be said, but it does to physicians!)
Set yourself a goal of networking with at least five new people and then sending them a message afterwards via LinkedIn, e-mail or cell, telling them how glad you were to connect at the conference. You’ll be surprised by where consistently doing this will take you in your career.
Suneel Dhand, MD, is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the cofounder of DocsDox, a service that helps physicians find local moonlighting and per diem opportunities. Visit him at www.suneeldhand.com.