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Networking: An Important and Often Overlooked Part of Professional Development
by Christopher W. Crank, PharmD, MS, BCPS; ICHP Executive Vice President
Does the mere thought of networking make you cringe? If it does, know that you are not alone. Many people state that the idea of networking makes them feel uncomfortable and even disingenuous. However, networking is a key part of professional development that can help you grow. In addition, even though we often think of it as self-serving, It is important to remember that networking helps others, too.
Networking is essential for the following reasons:
- Provides new ideas and learning opportunities.
- Learn how another health system is solving a problem that you are facing
- Discuss treatment options for managing a difficult patient case
- Exposes you to people outside your current circle of work colleagues and personal friends
- Meet people who work in different organizations and geographic locations
- Increases the size of your personal network of friends
- Presents new opportunities
- Research collaborations
- Committees for professional organizations
- Gives you great contacts for your next job
- Allows you to perform some self-assessment and benchmarking
- Compare your practice to what others are doing
- Lends expertise that is not typically available
- Gain access to experts in a field
- Improves your communication skills
- Practice makes perfect
- The more you network, the easier it becomes
- Identifies new mentors
- Mentors outside your discipline and organization
- Provides the opportunity to help others
- Your knowledge and experience is valuable, too
Networking does not have to be hard. In fact, you have been building networks your whole life. You likely built a network in your neighborhood or grade school growing up. You developed your network of friends through a mix of shared location, activities, and goals. Building a professional network can be similar. I have found that the best relationships are built on common goals and an association that provides some benefit to both individuals.
If you are a new pharmacist or technician, you may wonder what you can bring to the table. You bring energy, sweat equity, new ideas, a better understanding of generational differences, and many other things to the relationship. Do not underestimate what you can bring to the table. Ibarra and colleagues recommend thinking of networking in terms of three categories.1
- Operational networking is concerned with building relationships within the workplace. These networks help you get things done within your job. As pharmacists and technicians, we need to make sure that we build relationships with many disciplines within the health system. Expanding your network beyond the pharmacy department is key to success within the organization. If you do not know many nurses or nurse supervisors, make it a point to get to know them. Make sure you have a relationship with the Facilities Department. A good personal relationship will never hurt you when you need assistance. These principles are not only for managers and directors. This approach will serve you well no matter your position.
- Personal networking is finding people with similar interests and goals outside of your organization. Ibarra and colleagues call these individuals “kindred spirits.”1 Personal networking can provide benefits beyond operational networks, such as referrals, external information, support, coaching, and mentoring.
- Strategic networking is the most difficult type of networking. It is figuring out your future priorities and making connections that will benefit you in the future. Many times, we try to network when we already have a need. Strategic networking is making connections that you can utilize later.
If you want to learn more about the three networking types, I highly recommend reading Ibarra and Hunter’s paper referenced below.
So how do you start networking? Look for opportunities within your workplace. Are there projects that you could volunteer to work on with a new group of coworkers? Listen for opportunities to help others complete their goals or solve problems. If a physician colleague or supervisor cannot complete research or a project due to time constraints, can you step up to help them?
ICHP also offers many opportunities to build your network outside your workplace:
- Networking Events
- There is always an opportunity to meet someone new. Team up with a friend at the event. Meeting new people with a friend always makes it a little easier.
- Mentoring Program
- The ICHP mentoring program matches mentors and mentees from different organizations. It is a great way to build your network outside of your workplace.
- Division/Network Participation
- If you want to try out a division or Network, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get you an invite. You will have the opportunity to meet new people and work toward some common goals.
- Drug Discourses Programs
- These programs allow participants to discuss various topics with experts from the ICHP membership and beyond.
Networking is an essential part of professional development. It might help you solve a problem at work that you have been struggling with or it might help you land your next job. You will make new friends in the process.
Ibarra H. and Hunter M.L. (2007). How leaders create and use networks. Harv Bus Rev. 1-9. Available at: https://hbr.org/2007/01/how-leaders-create-and-use-networks Accessed June 25 2021.