Building, Maintaining, and Using Your Network

February 18, 2015

Petros Minasi, Jr.

At the end of this month, AMSA will once again host its annual national convention, this year in Washington, D.C.. The convention presents a great opportunity for pre-medical and medical students, deans and program directors, and health care leaders to come together and share ideas, thoughts, and discuss the future of medicine.

Attending conferences with your peers and future peers is one of the best things you can do to build you current and future network. Your network is an invaluable resource that is often overlooked by pre-meds. But perhaps overlooked is the wrong way to put it – the reality is we know we should have networks, but we don’t always know how to properly build them and use them. Fundamentally, your network, like your friends, should have variety, because there are going to be different instances in your life where you will need the help and advice of people with different skill sets. Much how medical schools want academic and intellectual diversity in their incoming classes, you should want the same in your network.

Now building your network is sometimes a little hard, especially if you are “networking” just for the sake of networking. Oddly, some of the best connections you will make are ones that you didn’t necessarily seek out. So as you attend the national AMSA conference, or any conference for that matter, keep your eyes and ears open, and just throw yourself into conversations and interactions that challenge your own norms. There was a great article recently published in the Harvard Business Review that addresses just this point, and in fact suggests that the best way to network is to stop networking! While the article is geared towards the business world, its core message is relevant to all.

Another great way to force yourself to create new connections, be it at a conference or other gathering, is to actually not associate with the people you already know. What would be the point of going to a meeting of future leaders and just hanging out with the people you already know – you wouldn’t be building your network. Now of course, acknowledge and be nice to your friends when you get there, but then spread out, and get them involved in the networking as well. At the end of the day, reconvene with your usual group, and maybe bring along a new person you have met and encourage your group members to do the same.

Using your network is all about knowing who is in your network, and more importantly giving to them as much as you receive. In other words, stay connected with the people in your network, most importantly in the times you do not need them, so that when their advice, guidance, and influence are needed, they won’t turn around and say “I only hear from you when you need something.” Similarly, keep the connections of your network strong by reaching out to people you know when you see opportunities that might be good for them, for example, if you see a research posting that you know your friend would be interested in, reach out!

The key in building and maintaining networks is to have a continuous conversation. Networks are hugely important in the world of medicine, not just in referrals, but knowing who can help solve your problems and needs. While it’s important to know a lot, it is sometimes more important to know a lot people who know a lot. Even if every connection you have only has two more connections, the expanse of your network will be huge. So get out there and build your network, for the present and for your future!