All the best advice for job seekers emphasizes building a professional network. And that’s for a good reason. Professional connections can help you get referrals, land a job, advance your skills, and play a role in how your career grows.
Despite virtual restrictions, there are still many ways to connect with a professional network. LinkedIn and other platforms remain common locations of connection, and virtual events in the medical sales industry can also help.
But professional networking is not the same as gaining new online friends. Conversations should never centralize around gossip, pop culture, or politics. Instead, you gain insights to grow your understanding of the medical sales industry and favors when you need them.
These are the critical questions:
- How can you ensure you develop a robust and professional relationship with smart connections?
- And how can that help your job search and career in the medical sales industry?
And here are the first four steps you need to take to make it happen:
Stop scouring for a perfect match
When you are most excited about connecting with individuals who are the same gender, age, and race as you, work in a very similar position, and share similar hobbies and worldviews, you’re doing professional networking wrong.
Marissa King, the author of Social Chemistry: Decoding the Patterns of Human Connection, asserts that no professional network is about connecting with people just like you. She says the workplace traditionally fights loneliness, polarization, and echo chambers. And professionals need to embrace this understanding when they interact.
Connecting only with people who have a similar life experience as you isn’t going to help you grow to your full potential. They will likely affirm what you already believe about the medical sales industry and validate your approach to sales.
Of course, building a relationship with someone when they have a few things in common with you makes the process much easier. And that’s still a great place to start! But don’t ditch them when you realize there’s something small on which you don’t see eye-to-eye. Accepting those differences in your professional network will enable you to grow more connections and get more out of them.
Know what you want from your connections
It’s eye-opening to recognize all the people out there with whom it would be great to connect. But it is vital to define for yourself what you expect to come from those relationships.
In her research, Marissa King found that men tend to approach professional networking with a transactional perspective. “I do something for you. You do something for me.” However, she says that women focus more on investing emotion and time into the relationship.
Interestingly, networks shrunk by 17% during the pandemic. And it was men who faced most of those losses.
If all you’re looking for is a foot in the door at a company you’re interested in, keeping things surface-level will get the job done. Alternatively, exchanging tips and information with others in the medical sales industry is simple and mutually-beneficial. For example, maybe insight from your connection in medical device sales can inform your work in surgical sales.
But if you want to earn referrals or make the relationships last, your connections should know your authentic self. So don’t shy away from giving and receiving a more personable atmosphere in that professional network.
Is it worthwhile to stay active on LinkedIn when you’re not actively looking for a job? Find out here: 4 Reasons You Need to Be on LinkedIn When Happily Employed in Medical Sales
Keep in touch
Many people seem to be getting disenchanted with professional networking.
For instance, the Guild study revealed that 45% of respondents believed LinkedIn to be more about sales and marketing than professional networking. And 62% of UK LinkedIn users said less than 20% of their LinkedIn connections have actually provided value to their career.
In fact, over two-thirds (68%) thought their “little black book,” with up to just 15 contacts, was more valuable to their career than connections on LinkedIn.
That likely is because contacts that go into the book were individuals they had a positive and meaningful interaction with. Perhaps they met in person, connected, and exchanged information. On LinkedIn, it doesn’t take much. You find classmates or old co-workers and gradually build your network from there. But how many of those people do you know?
The women’s non-transactional approach creates a better foundation because they stay in touch and get to know each other.
Managing your professional network doesn’t need to take up hours every day. But checking in on your contacts every once in a while and treating them like a human being first and a professional second can go a long way.
It is entirely up to you how close you want to become with your professional network. And you are in complete control of what topics you discuss with them.
Every few months, ask yourself these questions to assess how comfortable you are with sharing personal information with your online professional contacts:
- Am I interested in spending time with any of these people in person?
- Is it OK for me to talk about my family, hobbies, or other personal interests?
- If a topic relevant to the medical sales industry is related to new legislation, is it appropriate to bring up politics?
- Do I feel supported by this network?
- Do these connections help me learn and grow?
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. You get to decide what is too far or would make you uncomfortable in the professional world. And it is all about how you define getting the most out of your connections in the medical sales industry.