By: Mustafa Almukhtar
A social network is akin to a railroad; the more tracks comprising it, the more areas are accessible through it. This analogy holds true when it comes to the realm of professional endeavors: connecting with more individuals opens new doors to explore distinctive avenues through which one can fulfill their aspirations. Being capable of establishing such a network takes a great deal of training, a training that is not necessarily enclosed in academic curricula. However, there are plentiful resources that can aid in becoming a competent communicator, a person who can a initiate social relationship that might serve mutual interests. Through these relationships, a social network of tightly woven connections can be built and held as a valuable asset. Here are a few tips on how you can become an efficient communicator; and remember, you can always tailor these tips to suit your own communication style!
1. Be more than ‘just a face in the crowd.’
Joining a student or a professional club gets your foot into the door to a pool of new opportunities. However, membership itself is not going to gift you any benefits unless you decide to fish for them. Start by approaching local leaders and offer to help wherever help is needed. You can assist in planning an event or distributing materials for instance. Being the member who serves as a conduit between leaders and other members is going to make you recognizable by everybody. Familiarity paves the road to march towards people and extend the first handshake. And before you notice, your social network will be laid out beautifully before your eyes.
2. Find a case that challenges your passion.
Do not restrict yourself to one area of interest. While pursuing a degree in medicine entails commitment to health-related causes, there are numerous other causes which you can still adopt. Claim a social, political or even economic cause which triggers your interest. When you feel confident with the level of knowledge you possess about the cause, start spreading this knowledge to the outside world. Having a topic about which you can speak endlessly is going to lend you the ticket with which you pass any gatekeeper. It is rather an excuse to start a conversation with new acquaintances who can later become friends or colleagues. While a side gain is to expand your social network, advocating for a cause, genuinely, is going to raise your level of confidence and strengthen your communication skills.
3. Ascend the stage.
Being put under the spotlight is quite intimidating. Nevertheless, it is an occasion where communication skills are pushed to the forefront. Search for a circumstance where you can address an audience in a public speech. In this vicinity, TedTalks are not the sole option. You can begin by explaining a concept to a group of students in your class and move up to giving a speech at one of your school’s commencement ceremonies. The essence is to have a story to tell. Each one of us has a unique story and there is always an audience who is eager to listen.
4. Be the person who rings the bell first.
Professional platforms, similar to LinkedIn, are a great place to practice proactivity. The fear of denial is one force that hinders the ability to start a communication effort. It becomes less evident when your personal figurine is hidden behind the computer screen. On LinkedIn, for example, you can find an endless list of persons who share the same work and academic experiences. Starting a dialogue with any person would not take more than a press on a button. If that person does not respond, then the damage is negligible and a new attempt with another person can be undertaken. The goal is to test your own techniques in reaching out to strangers; to see what works and what does not work. With repeated occurrences, you will develop skillset which you can utilize in real life to approach strangers with no reservations.
5. Assume the role of a salesman.
Persuasion requires the prudent use of communication tools. To be placed in a position that requires the advertisement and promotion of an idea, an agency or a product is one method to enhance networking skills. Find a campaign whose goal speaks to you and become a part of it. A fundraiser event is one instance where you can employ communication to bring back benefits. This type of activity challenges your settlement in your comfort zone by exposing you to a task outside that zone’s borders.
6. Emotions are strength pillars, lean on them!
While the apparent portion of any communication material is words, there is an underlying portion that is of an equivalent, albeit a higher importance and emotion. To be emotionally smart is a prerequisite to succeed in communicating adequately; it is the ability to identify the emotional component of any message directed towards you and control for the emotions in the messages you produce. The aim is to always be attentive to hidden intentions and act accordingly. Anger might not be explicitly stated in the words of the other. The tone of voice, word choice and speed of speech are elements that can help you figure out the status of the speaker and work on encouraging or soothing it. In this way, you will be able to steer the conversation towards the destination you select. Being able to detect and maneuver the emotional elements in a conversation helps you gain the trust of the other and make any communication effort run seamlessly.
Mustafa Almukhtar is a medical doctor and current MPH student at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Mustafa also serves as the 2018-2019 Trainee Development Coordinator for AMSA’s Professional Development Action Committee.