At some point, you might have heard the saying, “It’s not who you know, but what you know.” This advice typically refers to networking with others in an effort to learn from professionals in your industry, exchange useful ideas, and perhaps find your dream job.
Meeting new people is not only advantageous from a career standpoint; these new relationships may evolve into valuable, lasting friendships that enrich your life professionally and personally. You might even lock eyes from across the room with a dashing young man (or woman) at a professional function and end up marrying them (well that happened to me, at least).
Despite the positive effects of networking, many people are apprehensive to do so. Admittedly, the word “networking” may be a turnoff; it sparks various negative connotations of forced, awkward interactions at scheduled happy hours or meet & greets. Instead of thinking about networking from this perspective, I suggest disposing of that notion altogether and focusing on making new lifelong relationships with people. Below are some tips to keep in mind to start forming meaningful and genuine connections with dentists, fellow students, and other professionals.
- Start with the right mindset
To successfully form professional relationships with people, you must be in the right mindset and have the right intentions. Be sincere with your interactions and get to know people, listening to their stories. I have witnessed too many people networking with the blatant intention of getting a “dream job” or some other self-serving purpose. This superficial mindset is obvious to most people and is a huge turnoff. Instead, get to know other people for the sake of getting to know them. This alone is worth the effort of networking. If other professional opportunities arise from knowing these new people, then that is just icing on the cake!
- Put yourself out there
In order to get to know people, especially in a significant way, you must break outside your comfort zone. This means occasionally foregoing your normal routine to go to events where you might connect with new people.
Situations that might be conducive to meeting new people include organized dentistry events (e.g. CDA, MDDS, dental fraternity study clubs/networking events, etc.) or even striking up a conversation with an interesting guest speaker for a class. Personally, I have made some great professional and personal connections at college alumni events, social gatherings, and even coffee shops.
Also, keep in mind that some of the best connections you may make are non-dentists!
- Keep in Touch
After meeting new people, always keep in touch. The method of keeping in touch depends on the person, their age, and their position. For some people, a LinkedIn request may be enough. However, to form a significant relationship with someone, as with any relationship, both parties must work to maintain the relationship. This includes periodic emails, phone calls, or even coffee dates. Just like anything in life, you will get more meaning out of any situation if you put a more sincere and genuine effort into it.
Again, this goes into changing your mindset about networking—you must truly appreciate the value of forming new, meaningful relationships for professional and personal reasons. Then, you must develop the discipline and willingness to incorporate meeting new people and keeping in consistent contact with them throughout your career.
- Pay it Forward
If you choose to embrace the concept of networking and putting yourself out there, never do it for selfish reasons. The whole point of making a new connection is to develop a reciprocal, fulfilling relationship with another human being. This is always true for any type of relationship. With that said, always do your best to also help others along their professional and personal journey, and your efforts will surely be reciprocated in some way.
As you go through life, virtually every encounter you have is “networking”; try to keep an open mind with every encounter—you never know how it can enhance your life and how you may enhance the lives of others.