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.”
At the Annual Meeting
Opportunities to engage with the diverse membership of the ACR and ARHP abound at the Annual Meeting. Kick off your conference experience during the opening reception on Nov. 4, which will include music and food, as well as conversation. New attendees are also encouraged to attend the First-Timers Orientation on Nov. 5, which offers advice on how to get the most out of your conference experience.
For those interested in the latest research and new perspectives, sign up for a Poster Tour, which allows a group of attendees to meet abstract authors and discuss research. Study groups will also be held during the meeting and are designed to bring together attendees with common interests in a single disease or a specialized field of study. Also consider attending the ARHP Topic Round Tables: Networking Forum on Nov. 6, which includes lunch and an open discussion of research, practice and clinical topics.
On Nov. 6, the ACR will be hosting its annual Career Fair. This event is the chance for employers to recruit qualified rheumatology candidates and job seekers to find new opportunities.
Networking must be more than a few minutes at the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, a local mixer or a medical school reunion. It’s the follow-up that makes all the difference. Mr. Misner calls that process 24/7/30.
Within 24 hours, send the person a note—or email, maybe. Or even engage in the seemingly lost art of sending a hand-written card. (If your handwriting is sloppy, Mr. Misner recommends services that will send out legible notes on your behalf).
Within a week, connect on social media. Connect on whatever platform that person has on their business card or email signature. Connect where that person likes to connect to show the person you’re willing to make the effort.
Within a month, reach out to the person and set a time to talk, either face to face or via a telecommunication service, such as Skype.
“It’s these touch points that you make with people that build the relationship,” Mr. Misner says. “Without building a real relationship, there is almost no value in networking efforts, because you basically are just waiting to stumble on opportunities as opposed to building relationships and opportunities. It has to be more than just bumping into somebody at a meeting … otherwise you’re really wasting your time.”
Mr. Misner also notes that the point of networking at some point is collaboration. That could be working on a research paper or a pilot project together. Or it could be returning a phone call to talk about something important to you.
“It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s how well you know each other that really counts,” he adds. “And meeting people at events … is only the start of the process. It’s not the end of the process by any means, if you want to do this well.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.