Looking for a job with our PharmD in this saturated market is a grueling nightmare.
Since the dawn of time, I would hear, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”
I knew that networking was important, but how do I do it?
How I Thought Networking Happened
Picture me as a pharmacy student who makes no money and has accumulated over a hundred thousand dollars in student loans.
For some reason, I feel pressured to shell out $600 to attend a pharmacy convention where I will have the opportunity to meet recruiters, Pharmacy Directors, and lots of other highly esteemed professionals.
Just like everyone else, I was on the prowl for business connections and a job after graduation.
I knew I needed to build my network for that to happen.
I’ve witnessed people that have huge contact lists and are really good at networking.
They always seem to know just the right people, and they can call in favors at any time.
In addition, I had always heard of people who get jobs just because they knew someone.
Forget the resume. Forget interviewing.
As long as you’re connected, you’re in.
So, I convinced my introverted self that I needed to get out there and swim with the sharks.
After all, I needed a job after graduation, and these people weren’t going to add themselves to my professional Rolodex.
I Knew The Why, But Not The How
Pharmacy school faculty told me that networking was an important skill every pharmacy professional needed to master.
Preceptors told me that I absolutely needed to network in order to get a job.
What they didn’t tell me was how to network.
Pharmacy school sold me on buying this expensive registration, airfare, and hotel, but I had no idea what I was doing at this convention.
So, I followed my classmates, all flocking to one place like herds of sheep.
I went in thinking that I was there to meet as many people as possible, collecting as many business cards as I could get.
The more people you know, the bigger your network, right?
Upon arriving to the convention, the roar of the crowd overwhelmed me.
Suits, ties, and name badges everywhere.
I couldn’t even tell pharmacists and students apart.
Sure, I knew how to be polite and friendly, but I also felt awkward standing in the middle of all these people.
I was a nobody, armed with a hidden agenda, and I immediately regretted being there.
But I couldn’t let my money go to waste.
I was determined to make the most out of this experience.
Without any instructions, I jumped right in and started talking to people.
Embarrassment and Failure
Determined to increase my contact list, I visited each booth with the goal of collecting business cards from each person.
My strategy included introductions, handshakes, lots of smiling, and asking relentless questions.
For the most part, this helped keep the conversations going.
When you’re the one asking questions, they do most of the talking.
But soon enough, I ran out of questions to ask and things to say.
I started talking about weather, sports, food, anything top of mind to avoid what I feared most:
I lacked improvisational skills, and I had run out of rhymes to spit.
I felt so uncomfortable, and I wanted to fill that void with any kind of noise.
But I had nothing left in me.
I wasn’t prepared with any kind of conversational strategy, nor was I ready to start a long-term relationship with this person in front of me.
So I closed the engagement, shook hands, and left, tail between my legs.
Trial By Fire
I took a few minutes, brushed off the failure, and moved on to the next booth.
After some more forced conversations, I started to feel pressure from all the other pharmacy students trying to squeeze into the small spaces.
This was a nightmare.
Networking already proved to be challenging enough, and now I had to compete with other people?
At this point, I felt like a hungry dog waiting for scraps.
This went on for hours.
Me trying desperately to insert myself into conversations and make my quiet voice heard.
I tried to leave good impressions with firm handshakes, and repeated my name constantly so they would remember it over the thousands of other candidates there.
At the end of the first day, I managed to collect a few dozen business cards.
I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I collected more than I thought I would.
But I still felt like massive failure.
As I looked down at all the cards I collected, I thought to myself,
“How am I going to ask these people for a job?”
“When do I contact them again? What would we even talk about?”
What They Don’t Teach You In Pharmacy School
I learned through years of trial and error that simply knowing people was not enough.
Networking is all about building genuine relationships.
And relationships are built on trust and mutually adding value to one another.
They also take a ton of work, and they need time to develop organically.
You can’t expect to meet someone once and call them the next time for favors or a job.
On the other hand, networking isn’t all about business, either.
Underneath the suits, licenses, and fancy titles, professionals are people first.
And value is perceived differently by different people.
While some consider business connections and expertise as value, others prize the human side of connection more.
Sharing a common interest like favorite restaurant or travel destination can be a much more rewarding connection.
Others just want back and forth banter for the sake of exchanging verbal pleasantries.
Sometimes, entire professional relationships can be built upon a foundation of mutual interests outside of work.
The Magic Of Networking
Over the years, I learned that my influence and rapport slowly increased with certain people.
These people all had one thing in common: I had helped them in some way more than once.
This realization made me feel good because these friends and colleagues would do amazing things with my help and support.
So, I made it my personal mission to seek opportunities to be useful and to help others unconditionally.
I learned that for some professionals, one act of genuine kindness proved enough to stir reciprocity.
For others, simply checking in around the holidays about family was the basis of friendship.
The point is that once I had a real relationship, the magic of networking revealed itself to me.
After helping and giving to others so much, it just felt right when I wanted to ask for help.
I used to always feel guilty thinking of asking for favors of any kind, but not anymore.
I never really have to ask because my contacts are constantly seeking to add value to me.
Whenever someone needs something, I am eager to find resources and save the day.
And in the same manner, my network takes care of me.
Nowadays, I rarely ask or receive help from anyone for anything.
But I know with the trust that I’ve built with my network over the years that my influence reaches far and wide.
That’s because I am in the business of helping others simply to help others, and this service brings me true joy.
Effective Networking Tips for The Corporate PharmD
- Add value first – no one will help you if all you do is ask and take
- Seek to help – effective networking is all about doing good for others
- Connect others – even if you don’t have expertise or a huge network, you can always bring other people together
- Be true to yourself – do not pretend to be someone you’re not for the sake of networking
- Be intentional – build trust for the purpose of enhancing the relationship
- Take notes – relationships can’t be personalized without the details for every single encounter
- Be personal – sharing articles and recommendations, or even just remembering small details about them shows that you care
- Accept silence – you don’t have to be the loudest voice, and some silence is okay
- Network with everyone – each person you develop a real relationship with opens their network to you
- Add value 80% of the time – preserving and nurturing a garden takes constant watering and genuine care
- Ask less than 20% of the time – the lower this percentage, the higher likelihood of a positive outcome
- Use a 4-1 ratio – you must earn the favors by first helping at least 4 times as much