Recently, a past colleague reached out to me for the sole purpose of networking. We’ve run into each other occasionally over the last few years, but haven’t worked for the same employer for a long time. He heard about my new position in management and wanted to get together to chat about my journey into leadership.
It was the first time someone contacted me for this purpose. It was an odd feeling to have a peer look at my career choices and desire to know how I got there. We met for a beer and he was dressed in a suit. After we shared some friendly banter, it was all business. He had an agenda and also a vision of where he wanted to be in his own career. One aspect that I found very interesting was his resume. It wasn’t so much a list of his work experience as it was an aggressive 5 year career plan. It went into detail about which companies he would like to work for and what talent he would bring to those companies. He asked about what I perceived were the biggest struggles for a PA in leadership and what I felt were my greatest accomplishments. I had kind of a mind blowing moment after this one hour informational interview. My PA education never touched the idea of career advancement or how to network. This guys was organized, driven and had a plan. After the meeting, I came away with the feeling that he was going places and would be a part of advancing the PA profession.
Since this meeting, I’ve researched a little about how to successfully network and what purpose it serves. The informational interview is one component of networking that I find to be especially helpful for PAs because there aren’t that many opportunities for bigger events to network, like the AAPA conference. Here are a few tips to help make the informational interview worth your time.
- You can network and connect with others even when you are perfectly satisfied with your current job! You have to think about how to be well aligned for future opportunities.
- Set up an informational interview with leaders in the industry and come prepared with thoughtful questions about their careers and how they got there.
- Dress as though you take the other person seriously. Even if you know this colleague outside of work, dressing professionally will send a clear signal that you aren’t wasting their time.
- Be confident, just like a regular job interview. Ask clear questions questions, look the person in the eye, and smile.
- Take notes! You will be surprised about what career gems you may learn during your time together.
- Bring your resume and career goals. Talk to them about where you see yourself in five years and see if they have any insight as to how to get there.
- Listen first, talk about yourself second. This is the time to learn from another professional. If you spend too much time talking about yourself, you will miss a valuable opportunity.
- Leave them with a business card or contact info, and make sure you get theirs as well.
- Follow up! Don’t forget to send a personalized email or send a paper (gasp!) thank you card.
This is just the beginning. PAs are viewed as, and view themselves as clinical work horses. We are interested in taking care of patients, but I think that we are limiting ourselves to other possibilities. RNs and MDs lead the way when it comes to career advancement. Networking, at a minimum, lets us get a taste for our own possibilities in clinical settings and beyond.