I know many of you don’t like networking, but it’s an important skill and activity needed to expand your network and it does get easier over time. A broad network is very helpful when you are not only searching for a board seat, but also when you are looking for a job (internally or externally), or you are filling a role. If networking is not currently a part of your routine – start now! Waiting until you are searching for a board seat is too late.
Networking can take a variety of forms. Most people equate networking with forcing your way into a conversation at a conference and this definitely one approach. I approach networking a little differently. I see the process as “give and take”. For example, when someone reaches out to me I generally respond. I see these outreaches as a way to meet someone new and to learn something.
My networking approach includes:
• Returning phone calls from sales reps, recruiters or anyone else working in the healthcare industry. Sales reps are good to get acquainted with because they know many other people in the industry and they like building relationships. Recruiters will help you get a new role or a board seat, so return their phone calls!
• Being helpful by referring the caller to the right area in your organization, referring someone for a role or simply providing some useful information
• Public speaking (internally or externally) is useful because it allows you to meet new people and build your brand.
• Attending networking events are important. Choose one conference where many of your industry peers attend and get out there and meet people!
If I can help someone I do. It’s just in my nature to do that. I never expect anything in return and many times I don’t receive anything. There is no guarantee you’ll benefit from helping someone and if you do eventually benefit, it can be years down the road. Nonetheless, many people I have helped or have had long standing relationships with over the years have proved to be helpful when asked.
Remember, networking is a journey that takes place over your entire career (and life). While kindness and favors may not always be reciprocated, the ones that are, are worth the wait.