How to network

Networking is something that can create extremely successful people.


The best way to learn about a field of business, as well as if you would enjoy it and would be a good fit, is to talk to professionals in that space and learn from them. Networking can be an intimidating exercise but it is really invaluable and not as difficult as it seems. Talking to people is something you do every day in medicine and networking can be thought of as talking to an attending about their specialty or learning from a resident about why they are going into a fellowship.

Goals of Networking

The goals of a networking conversation depend on what stage of the career exploration process you are in. These can include

  • Exploring careers, industries, and companies
  • Gaining specific insights and advice from someone more experienced
  • Establishing long-term contacts

How to Successfully Network

1. Find Contacts to Engage

These fall into two categories; people you know and people you don't know.

  • People you know could be friends, family, neighbors, or old college classmates
  • People you don't know could be anyone you identify with through things such as alumni networks, social networking websites, through other organizations, or though someone you do know
2. Initiate Contact

Reach out to people you want to contact. The most common way is through email. If you do not have their email address, there are resources online to help you accurately guess the format that their company uses, and from there it only requires their first and/or last name.

The content of an initial contact email should be concise and clear. It should include the following things:

  • Introduction of yourself
  • Who referred you or how you found this person
  • If applicable, it is great to connect with them through something in common
  • Why you are interested in talking to this person or what you hope to learn from this person
  • Your specific ask. This should be clear and concise, as they need to know what you are asking for to agree to it. The request should be something such as 15 - 30 minutes to talk on the phone or meet near their office.
3. Prepare for the Conversation

This is one of the most important parts, and can separate a successful networking conversation from an awkward or embarrassing one.

  • Make sure to research the industry or company so that you can hold an intelligent conversation, and the person is not spending their time explaining things that you could have easily found online. You don't need to be an expert in the industry or company, but if you don't understand something simple like their job title or what their company does then it will make you unprepared.
  • Figure out what you want to learn from the person
  • Build a list of questions that you want to ask that will allow you to learn everything that will be useful
  • Make sure to be able to concisely tell your story. You are the one reaching out to them, so while they likely will want to know more about you. Your story should be mainly to give them the context of your situation
4. Engage with the Person

Put your best foot forward during the meeting or call! Dress appropriately or make sure you are in a good calling environment - you want to establish a good first impression. Make sure to be engaging with the person and express genuine interest in what they say.

5. Follow Up After the Meeting

After a successful meeting or call, it is best to write a thank you email to reinforce a positive experience. Highlighting specific examples of what you learned or valuable aspects of the conversation is a great way to show that you valued the meeting.