From Nov. 3–8, rheumatologists will gather by the thousands at the 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in San Diego. And in addition to the more than 450 educational sessions offered during those six days, attendees will have the opportunity to meet new colleagues and build relationships. Connecting with counterparts across the country and broadening your network beyond your current job can help advance a career path, says Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI (Business Network International), a 32-year-old, global business networking platform based in Charlotte, N.C.
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Mr. Misner once spent one week on Necker Island—a 74-acre island in the British Virgin Islands that is owned by billionaire Sir Richard Branson—all because he met a guy at a convention and is really, really good at networking. In fact, CNN calls Mr. Misner “the father of modern networking.”
“I stayed in touch with the person, and when there was an opportunity, I [was] invited to this incredible ethics program on Necker, where I had a chance to meet Sir Richard,” says Mr. Misner. “It all comes from building relationships with people.”
The trick to the mindset of building relationships with new people is to make sure one’s approach doesn’t feel artificial, he adds.
“A lot of people, when they go to some kind of networking environment, feel like they need to get a shower afterward and think, ‘Ick, I don’t like that,’” Mr. Misner says. “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.”
Instead, Mr. Misner suggests approaching networking as if it is “more about farming than about hunting.” Cultivate relationships with time and tenacity, and don’t just expect them to be instantaneous. After the approach is set, he has a process he calls VCP: visibility, credibility and profitability.
“Credibility is what takes time,” Mr. Misner says. “You really want to build credibility with somebody. It doesn’t happen overnight. People have to get to know, like and trust you. It is the most time-consuming portion of the VCP process. … Then, and only then, can you get to profitability, [when] people know who you are, they know what you do, they know you’re good at it, and they’re willing to refer a business to you. They’re willing to put you in touch with other people.”