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?
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.
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.
Agree on the type of work that would advance your careers, set timelines of
deliverables, and meet those timelines with high quality work.
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.