Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series on networking. Part two will run in next month’s issue of ENTtoday.
Explore this issue:January 2018
Ivan Misner once spent a week on Necker Island, the tony 74-acre isle in the British Virgin Islands that is entirely owned by billionaire Richard Branson, because he met a guy at a convention, and he’s really, really good at networking.
“I stayed in touch with the person, and when there was an opportunity, I got invited to this incredible ethics program on Necker, where I had a chance to meet Sir Richard,” said Misner, founder and chairman of BNI (Business Network International), a three-decade-old global business networking platform based in Charlotte, N.C., that has led CNN to call him “the father of modern networking.”
“It all comes from building relationships with people,” he added.
The power of networking shouldn’t be lost on otolaryngologists, particularly early-career physicians, fellows, and residents. From attending the annual meetings of the Triological Society and the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery to taking part in local mixers and plumbing social media for contacts, building relationships can be a career boon. Sometimes the purpose is to broaden your network in the hopes of advancing on an employment path. At other times it’s to introduce yourself to practice leaders in research or clinical niches. Or you may be looking for exposure to thought leaders, top researchers, and national power brokers who could provide access, insight, or both in the future.
“It’s that connection with other people,” said Robert Miller, MD, MBA, executive director-emeritus of the American Board of Otolaryngology and immediate past editor of ENTtoday. “The goal is you want to be able to connect with others who may be of value to you in your career and who will value you in their careers and business, etc. It’s really a two-way street. If you say, ‘I’ve got to develop this network,’ it almost sounds like this is all for my benefit and not theirs, when, in reality, everyone in the network benefits from it.”
Sounds great. But how do you actually build a network?
Stretch Your Comfort Zone
First, make sure your approach doesn’t feel “artificial,” Misner said. “A lot of people, when they go to some kind of networking environment, they feel like they need a shower afterward and think, ‘Ick, I don’t like that,’” he added. “The best way to become an effective networker is to go to networking events with the idea of being willing to help people, and really believe in that and practice that. I’ve been doing this a long time, and where I see it done wrong is when people use face-to-face networking as a cold-calling opportunity.”