How to build your Network.

Networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. I believe that for the young ophthalmologists the best way of creating a network is the participation at different kind of ophthalmology meetings, no matter if they are local or international. This opens new opportunities where it is possible to meet specialist and many other interesting people in different fields of ophthalmology.
Where do I start?
Be yourself. Networking events are meant for relationship building. Don’t try to be the person you think others want to meet. Be genuine and authentic.

Smile.
It's a simple but often overlooked rule of engagement. Remember to smile before you enter a room and clear your mind from negative thoughts before you engage your next conversation.

Be engaged. Keep eye contact with your conversation partner. Nod your head and tilt your body towards them when you are speaking. This small cues go a long way towards making them feel like you care. Building an awareness of your body language is the key.
What you should do for Networking?
Learn. When you are engaged with any research study or interested in some particular topic, try to learn as much as possible about the specific topic. Be informed and up to date.

Ask Questions. Address your questions to the people that are more informed in the matter than you. Asking questions never puts you down, on the opposite, it opens the doors for interesting discussions.

Share Knowledge. Networking is great for sharing ideas and knowledge. It will help you to expand knowhow and allow you to see things from another perspective. You will never develop if you just keep what you know for yourself. By sharing your knowledge you animate others to do the same and therefore expand your own horizon.

Collaborate. Since you are not the only one engaged with ophthalmology, there will always be someone better than you. Try not to block your development by compering yourself to others. Set your mindset in a way that enables you to contribute something positive and engage actively into collaborations.

Keep in touch. It's often said that networking is where a conversation begins, not ends. If you've had a great exchange at any meeting, ask your conversation partner to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you're interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact keeps you in his mind.
What are the benefits of Networking?
Opportunities. Just make sure you are jumping onboard with the right opportunities and don’t go jumping into every opportunity that comes your way.

Connections. “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know”. Networking provides you with a great source of connections, and really opens the door to talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to nor find.

Connect through connections. Remember you are not just gaining exposure to the people in the room, you are building connections with their network too. If someone they know has a need that matches your profile and if you have made a positive impression, you will likely get a referral.

Advice. Having like-minded colleagues to talk to also gives you the opportunity to get advice from them on all sorts of things related to your field of interest. It is also likely that within a group there will be those who have already been where you are today. This provides you with an opportunity to learn and avoid some of the common pitfalls they already experienced.

Positive Influence. The people that you hang around with and talk to, influence who you are and what you do, so it is important to be surrounding yourself with positive, uplifting people that help you to grow and thrive as a specialist.

Increased confidence. Networking is great for people that are not confident as it really pushes them to grow and learn how to make conversations and lasting connections with people they don’t know. Developing new relationships leads to higher self-esteem and confidence.

Step “forward”. By taking the steps to improving yourself and connecting to people you are moving your career forward. Your confidence draws people to you and opens up the opportunity to gain more information for yourself and share information with others.

Friendship. Making new friends and socializing is an important aspect of our human nature. Many friendships form as a result of networking because (mostly) you are all like-minded colleagues.

The biggest Networking mistakes

Waiting. Don't wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, "May I join you" and then everything will come by itself. Even if the conversation will not go, there is nothing to be embarrassed with or feeling bad. Believe me there are plenty of other interesting people around to talk to.

Afraid to ask. Whenever and whatever you ask only shows how strong you engaged to the topic, and your desire to learn.

Being selfish but selfless. It’s not only about you who tries to build the network but also others. If someone in your network matches the interests you encounter at an event, don’t hesitate to share those details. It will only strengthen your relationship.

Being a card spammer or “pushy”. Avoid being pushy, not giving people adequate personal space, leading with information about yourself when you are not asked, offering a business card without being asked for one. It is just a simple concept of social etiquette. Built enough rapport with someone to encourage them to ask for your card but don’t offer them one.

 

Tukezban Huseynova, MD
Chairman of YO Committee of Assistance for Development of
Modern Ophthalmology (ADMO) Union, Azerbaijan
SOE YO National Representative,
tukezban@gmail.com
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