Networking with Research and Education

I’ve written several articles about networking, i.e. the value of networking versus applying for jobs, the differences between vertical networking and horizontal networking… etc… Now I want to tell you how to be an expert networker.

Most physicians are accustomed to being the expert in the room. Categorically, most physicians are what are known as knowledge workers or “knowledge specialists:” individuals who use their “personal expertise and knowledge for problem solving. They lead by example. These include professionals and managers who lead professional, educational, and other specialty functions,” Birkman International. Sounds like a physician to me. 

Networking often places physicians in opposite roles. They are not networking experts and their personal expertise and knowledge can seem completely out of place. That’s why so many of my clients reflexively gasp when I tell them they won’t be successful in their career transitions if they plan to rely on recruiter contacts and job boards.

So how do you become an effective networker and maintain your comfort level as an expert? My advice for many clients is to rely on their research and educational abilities, areas in which you are expert, to facilitate networking. How? First, define your career transition objective. For example, if you want to start a consulting business advising ACO’s on physician adoption of this new organizational framework, begin by researching and educating yourself on the topic. Learn enough, but you don’t need an additional degree to become an ACO expert. In reality, the more you learn the more you’ll realize how little the other so called experts really know. Read the actual statutes creating ACO’s and perhaps attend a conference. That’s about all you’ll need to speak intelligently on the subject.

Then identify your fit in that overall business area. Perhaps your interest is in bringing diverse physician groups together; perhaps it is negotiating contracts, perhaps patient utilization management. Whatever your specific area(s) of interest and focus, define and enumerate them along the lines of steps or processes you see as necessary for successful implementation or development. Next, ask yourself, who would I want to work for? Specifically, what companies and in what industries do you see your fit?

Then, after you’ve defined critical development steps and the people you would want to work for, redraft you critical steps into a series of questions. For example, if you want to manage physician relationships, you may ask:

      • How will you identify key groups you want to join your ACO?
      • Who, in your organization, do you believe would best lead the efforts to bring those groups together?
      • What do you believe will be the physician groups’ key criteria for joining your or any ACO?
      • Etc… 

These are the questions you want to ask the person you want to work for. You should develop about ten. In indentifying that person, you need to be very specific… the head of a consulting group that advises on ACO’s, a hospital or health system CEO, for example.

Now you need to ask them your questions. How will you do that? You present yourself as the expert – which you will become shortly. You reach out to your contact with this message:

“Hello, this is Dr. Smith, and I’m writing a white paper on the development of ACO’s. From my research this is an area of interest in your organization and one in which you are quite expert. My objective is to speak with various leaders in the ACO movement to focus specifically on…. (your area of focus), in order to present a series of conclusions and recommendation to both shed further light on the topic and to recommend what may be considered best practices, developmentally. I have a specific list of questions I’d like to address with you, and I promise I won’t ask for more than 20 to 30 minutes of your time. Of course, I will be happy to present my findings, conclusions and recommendations, to all those kind enough to grant me an interview.”

Some clients look at me and shyly say, “I’d feel a bit dishonest calling someone to say that…” to which I say, but what if it’s the truth. If you collect a reasonable amount of information, and if you can draw some insightful conclusions and recommendations, you should endeavor to publish your work. If you are published, your position as an expert rises and you have established a group of contacts, the larger the better, to return to for presentation of your findings.

And a good presentation of conclusions and recommendations just might result in the request for advice on finding a consultant to help with their implementation. One just might be standing right in front of them.

Are you comfortable presenting yourself as a researcher/writer? If not, this isn’t for you, but for most physicians, this is a comfortable place to be and one that elevates your expert profile, helps you develop a high caliber list of contacts and furthers your professional knowledge in the area of your career transition.

If you’d like to discuss this topic further, contact Robert F. Priddy, President, third_Evolution, 720-339-3585 | rfp@thirdevo.com