Stepping out of your comfort zone is a struggle, regardless of how social you perceive yourself to be. As a pre-med student, networking seems daunting- there are so many unanswered questions. Where do you start? How do you make connections? Thankfully, all of these questions have simple answers!
What is networking?
Networking is the act of creating professional and social relationships. There are a plethora of benefits that accompany these relationships:
Exploring career options: Although choosing a specialty may seem like a distant decision, talking to various medical professionals can open up a vast sea of possibilities and opportunities.
Access to Resources: Establish a “library” of resources that you can tap into when needed!
Growth of Knowledge: By talking to medical professionals, residents, and other pre-med students, you can expand your knowledge on the healthcare field. You can learn about different experiences, widen your perspective, and understand the world of medicine better.
Long-lasting Relationships: Creating and strengthening your friendships and relationships is the most important part of networking! Expanding your social circle and connecting with people who relate to you will benefit you.
Now that we’ve established the why, we can dive into the how. Networking can seem extremely hard at first glance, but it’s pretty simple!
What’s the first step?
The first step is stepping out of your comfort zone and starting to talk to people. This can be done in a variety of ways.
Social Media: Instagram and LinkedIn are the fastest growing platforms for networking. Instagram holds an expansive community of pre-med organizations. By following these organizations, you can stay informed on networking events, and connect with other students and professionals in the same pathway. LinkedIn is also very useful for networking. You can search for your university, or programs of your interest, and connect with associated people to form newfound friendships and develop ideas.
Networking Events: Normally, these events would come in the form of conferences or fairs. Popular conferences include the MAPPS Annual Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Conference, which highlights various medical careers. These conferences usually involve traveling to a certain city to meet, discuss ideas, and explore possibilities with fellow pre-health students. However, due to the pandemic, many conferences have been canceled while some have moved to a virtual setting. Fairs, such as the one held by Association of American Medical Colleges, are currently virtual as well.
Clubs and Organizations: There are plenty of pre-med clubs and organizations in universities, on social media, and in other areas. Participation will enable you to make connections based on similar interests. You may find people who share the same drive for a certain specialty as you. In that case, you’d want to make those connections for the future. If you haven’t thought about a specialty right now, that’s perfectly fine. Pre-med organizations have a diverse set of people with different interests. By networking, you can explore career possibilities. These organizations often hold shadowing events where you can hear medical professionals talk about their education, occupation, and day-to-day life. You can reach out to those professionals and develop connections. This will prove helpful in the future, if you ever need guidance and advice during your pre-med journey. The Pre-Med Scene holds many shadowing events- subscribe to our newsletter to hear about them!
Where do I go from here?
The most important step of networking is following up. It is essential to develop connections and long-lasting relationships. If you contact someone on social media, for example, and they respond, hold a conversation. This is how you will be able to create and maintain meaningful connections. Once you reach out to people, either through cold DMing or through shadowing/networking events, you will get the hang of it! As long as you follow up, you will fully enjoy the benefits of networking!
It may seem scary at first, especially if you tend to shy away from social pursuits. That’s okay! Here are some networking tips:
Being afraid of judgement is valid. However, keep in mind that you most likely do not personally know the person you are reaching out to! If you try to hold a conversation and they do not respond well, it’s okay. Pick yourself up and connect with someone else.
Set attainable goals! Some try to make a new connection every day, but if that’s too much, start with two or three connections a week.
Find common ground. If you are reaching out to a medical professional, ask questions about their profession. They will likely love helping you out, so don’t overthink! If you are talking to another student, you can discuss courses or the specific field you’re interested in. The goal is to make friends too- you can always talk about different interests! You may find yourself with a new study buddy or shoulder to lean on.
Loop a friend in. If you are reaching out to someone that knows someone you personally know, you can always loop them in to make yourself feel comfortable.
Have fun! Don’t forget, the point isn’t to exhaust your social reserves. This is to make connections that may benefit you in the future and to widen your social circle.
It’s okay to feel nervous starting out. Just remember, others are looking to make connections as well! Don’t be afraid to reach out and make friends. Good Luck!
Thank you for reading,