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Thoughts and ideas from The Physician Executive
Networking Niceties For Physician Leaders; Even Introverts Can Succeed
May 17, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by The Physician Executive
 physician leader networking for introverts

When asked about my circuitous physician career and how I have made it happen, I can probably best describe my “strategy” as “opportunistic.”

What I really mean is that I have always come up short on having a 10-year career plan (it must be the Aquarian in me who rebels against too much structure), and instead have followed my nose and instincts for opportunities that have presented themselves over the years. And no, those opportunities are not just the result of sheer good fortune, although I do feel fortunate.

They have arisen as an outgrowth of my ongoing efforts to build and maintain a network of friends and acquaintances. It helps that I was raised to be sociable and friendly, despite a tendency to shyness inherited from my reclusive engineer dad — it was a cultural expectation to show interest and hospitality (it turns out I am an Ambivert).

I recognize how hard networking can be if (a) you are super-busy and (b) extremely shy or introverted. But I’m here to argue that your career success as an emerging physician leader is tightly linked to your ability to build up your “know, like and trust” factor.

An article on the Harvard Business Review blog, “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking” reminded me of tips I use to help physicians create a lasting, valuable networking power base.

The article author describes her feelings this way:

“While I wanted to attend the party, as an introvert I usually avoided these types of events because they made me uncomfortable. Knowing there would be a lot of senior executives at this party made me even more fearful.”

Her success secrets (the emphasis is mine)?

  • I learned to appreciate my introversion rather than repudiate it.
  • I stopped being afraid to be the one to reach out.
  • I learned to prioritize time to re-energize.

This last suggestion is powerful, as one of the glaring differences between an introvert and an extrovert is largely a function of one’s energy level. Extroverts are energized by social interactions while introverts feel drained and need to find ways to restore their energy.

How introverted physician leaders do this:

Commonly-given advice is to look around and see who you know and reach out to connect with these people. A more powerful way to think about building a power base is to begin with your vision of where you want to be in your career as a physician leader in three to five years. You then work backwards from that future image.

To be more explicit, you can:

1. Take a moment to imagine your most desirable career in three to five years.

2. Ask yourself: Who will be those people you now know, and who know you after you’ve achieved your vision? Don’t be shy here! Think about those physician leaders you’d love to be connected to.

3. Work backwards to create the path to knowing these people. What leadership roles did you volunteer or apply for? Who helped you with key introductions? How did you grow your new physician leader skills and abilities?

4. Now reflect on this: What actions do you need to take and how can you show up differently to get the attention of the people you need to attract, and realize your vision?

5. Identify two or three important steps you can take immediately to begin building your ideal power base that points in the direction of your desired future?

How hard is this for introverted physician leaders do this:

This “from-the-future” power base building can be anxiety-provoking, especially for an introvert. It may require that you reinvent yourself in order to show up differently.

Think of it this way. If you desire connections with A-one professionals, you have to show up as one yourself. What I’m suggesting, through the steps above, is that you push yourself to see how you show up now as a physician leader, and what you need to change to wow the professional network you require that will help you aspire to and achieve your future career vision.

Your success as an emerging physician leader may be closely tied to your ability to build strong relationships with others – isn’t it worth mastering these skills?