Networking as a Medical Educator
by Swapnil Pawar and Mike Gisondi
What is Networking?
Networking is the sharing of ideas through a conversation between individuals who have something in common. It’s that simple. The word, ‘networking’, carries a negative connotation, an activity carried out by the ruthless to get ahead. Not true of networking in medical education.
The wonderful example of the power of networking in medical education is ALiEM: Academic Life In Emergency Medicine. ALiEM is a globally distributed digital community of practice hosted as a blog and podcast out of the United States.
The organization has grown and enriched over the past 5 years as educators join the volunteer staff and give of their talents. ALiEM faculty share common interests and they are passionate about medical education, innovation, technology, and disruption.
Why bother networking as an educator?
You can be a passive consumer of medical education, knowledge, and perhaps even skills and attitudes through social media. You can be a learner who seeks out these various sources of professional development and curate material on your own. In a consumer-only model, you really contribute nothing to the conversation.
Perhaps networking through social media and medical education becomes an even more useful tool when you contribute as much as you take away — if not more.
Medical education is a discipline, far bigger than one can master on his/her own. We know a lot from team science and the business world that we work better in teams, we get better results, and we advance our careers better if we demonstrate good team behaviour and we collaborate well with others.
Networking truly is just entering a conversation, explaining who you are, describing your skills and interests, and then seeing if the person you are interacting with shares something in common. The initial conversation turns into one of powerful networking when you identify what you want to achieve, potentially together, and that perhaps you can help one another reach a goal, in some small way.
What are the attributes of successful networking?
- Technology: A network is not defined by its size or geography anymore. It certainly has grown from the days of the office holiday party, thanks to digital media making it far simpler to connect with like-minded individuals anywhere on the planet.
- Positive human interactions: You have to just enter into a conversation, or develop a relationship, with a certain set of personal commitments to making networking a positive human interaction. You have to recognise what you offer to a group is far more valuable than what you should be taking away from a group. And over time, you’ll likely benefit from every minute spent helping someone else.
- Commitment: Agree on the type of work that would advance your careers, set timelines of deliverables, and meet those timelines with high quality work.
- Diversity: The best networks are truly diverse networks. We know that diversity in the workplace, especially diversity in educational workplaces, results in better outcomes for teams. Diversity can be defined in many ways, but ultimately it results in diverse thought and problem solving that can be drawn from a variety of backgrounds. Team diversity can be truly innovative. You don’t have as many blind spots when your team is diverse. Be deliberate in your choice of networks that are diverse, to be deliberate in bringing in people who have different points of view than you, that have different personal backgrounds and experiences than you do — that will strengthen your team and the social networks that form.
- Sustainability:Sustainability is the number one marker of success, perhaps more than dollars earned. or high impact of papers written. Relationships matter, and by definition they must be sustainable. Regularity and quality of interactions is key to make a network endure.
So, what are you waiting for? Seek out opportunities to connect with your peers, learn a little something, give of your talents, and redefine the experience of networking as a medical educator.
Listen to the Podcast with Mike Gisondi
- Harvard Business review – Networking https://hbr.org/topic/networking
- Supe AN: Networking in medical education: creating and connecting. Indian J Med Sci. 2008 Mar;62(3):118-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18376086
- Isba et al. Social Network analysis in medical education. Medical education 2017 Vol 51, issue 1, 81-88. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/medu.13152#accessDenialLayout