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Network and Chill

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

By Mohammad Abu Mallouh, PharmD, MHSA

In the Middle East, where I grew up, our version of networking is called “wasta.” Over there, this term gets thrown around all the time. Essentially, it means “nepotism,” and the best opportunities go to those with family members in high places or those who have the right connections.

The right connections can open doors that may have otherwise been closed.

Networking doesn’t quite reach those levels, but the concept is similar: It’s not what you know, but who you know.

Let’s start with the basics: what is networking? Essentially, it is about getting your name and face out there for others to see. Researchers on an empirical study of five focus groups found that participants already knew that networking was important to career success but that they would have benefited from training.(1) The goal is to establish long-term relationships that can be mutually beneficial. Networking can develop and improve your current skill set while also helping you stay informed about directions the field may be moving in. It also facilitates meeting of prospective partners or mentors that can help foster your career growth.(2)

“Pharmacy is a small world.” Throughout our schooling and careers, this phrase was repeated ad nauseum until it was drilled into our heads. I always knew networking was important, but I was skeptical of the size of the world of pharmacy. I mean, how small could a world with so many schools and graduates really be? Very small, as I would come to find out.

The seven degrees to Kevin Bacon doesn’t hold a candle to the connections we’ve all come across, or will come across, in our field. When interviewing for PGY-2 programs, I had recruiters specifically name preceptors listed on my CV as people they knew. This leads me to my first tip:

1. List all preceptors on your CV; you never know which name may catch an employer’s eye.

So why do some of us have so much trouble networking? Probably because networking can be time-consuming, and it can feel awkward. This brings me to the next tip, which comes from my PGY-1 Residency Director:

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Nobody enjoys being uncomfortable, but it’s important to come to terms with that fact and use it as an opportunity for growth. One way to ease the discomfort is to practice. Write down your elevator pitch and record yourself rehearsing it. Personally, I get dressed in my professional clothes when I practice. It sounds (and feels) silly, but it puts you in the right mindset so that when you are able to give your pitch, the muscle memory can take over. You can also look for mannerisms that don’t translate well across the screen. The goal is to reframe our mindset so that we embrace the challenge rather than fear it.(3)

I want to give you one more tip:

3. It’s important to start off with your best foot forward, but make sure you also LEAVE with your best foot.

This one comes from my 8th grade biology teacher, and I’ve never forgotten it. With high school looming, we heard from so many mentors to make a good first impression. Mr. Nielson, however, taught us the importance of ensuring we made a good final impression since that’s more likely to be what you are remembered for. This stuck with me and falls into multiple aspects of networking. You’re going to meet many people throughout your career and are likely to change positions and organizations as well. You want to make sure that people you meet remember you, so get your face out there and make an impression. Just make sure that the impression you leave is a positive one.

I leave you with one final quote that a past professor once shared with me. It sums up the true importance of putting yourself out there to build relationships and expand your worth:

The opposite of “Networking” is “Not Working.”

1. De Klerk S. The importance of networking as a management skill. South African Journal of Business Management. March 31, 2010; 41: 37-49.
2. Cole BM. 10 reasons why networking is essential for your career. Forbes. December 10, 2021.
3. Rosen B (2019) How to get comfortable being uncomfortable?. Psychology Today. April 9, 2019.
Mohammad Abu Mallouh, PharmD, MHSA
PGY-2 Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Resident
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