by: Susan Pories, MD, FACS
“Rosie” is a secretary who worked for a surgeon on my floor in the Doctor’s Office Building for many years. Seeing Rosie in the hallway or elevator was always a little sunshine in the day. She always had a smile for everyone and made a little conversation while we rode up or down or walked down the hall together. She was a pro at the requisite Boston topics of conversation including the Red Sox, Patriots, the weather, and the traffic to and from the Cape. I can’t remember her complaining about anything except perhaps the snow.
She made it her business to know every secretary and doctor in every office in our hallway and called them all by name. She delivered lunch to “her Doctor” whenever he was in the operating room and used the opportunity to make friendships with anyone in the OR lounge and cafeteria while she was at it. She wasn’t wasting time and she didn’t linger but she always made an encounter count. Her phone manner was as sunny as her in person demeanor and she was a big part of my decision to send both my husband and son to this surgeon when they needed his help. After they were seen in the office, she always asked after both of them and commented on how handsome they were. And they were both smitten with her after their visits there.
One day Rosie disappeared from my hallway and the hospital. It turned out that her employer needed her to take on the electronic record and she just couldn’t face it. She was in her 70’s after all, but she was single and still needed to work. I was worried about her and how she was doing. But I soon learned that as soon as she left her job, she almost immediately had another offer and was working for another surgical group, with a big enough staff that she could avoid the computer requirements. This of course, was no accident. She clearly knew the value of connecting and making friends wherever she went. And when there was an opening and they heard she was available, she was at the top of their list.
At one time Rosie worked for one of the Kennedys and she seemed to know everyone in Massachusetts. She is a great example of a consummate networker. Follow her example and you will also be successful: Smile, make eye contact, be present and focused in the moment with energy and enthusiasm, show a true interest in the other person, and have some ice-breaker topics or questions ready. Put your phone away and don’t look around for someone more interesting. If you are going to a meeting or a networking event, bring your business cards. Learn the person’s name and use in conversation. Be sure to follow up if appropriate with the article or contact you promised.
The medical landscape these days is challenging to say the least and with mergers and other high level business decisions made by administrators, even surgeons can find themselves without a job and out in the cold. I have had many surgeons contact me looking for help finding a new position in these circumstances. Some openly shared with me that they wished they had built networks with other women surgeons before they were in trouble and had more friends to support them when they needed help. So it’s very important to build networks of all kinds in life, in the hospital, in your neighborhood and local community, and with colleagues and leaders around the country.
The Association of Women Surgeons offers many opportunities for networking and building relationships. I have benefitted in countless ways from my participation in AWS and I hope you too will. You can read more about networking in Navigating Your Surgical Career: The AWS Guide to Success, available on Amazon. And I hope to see you in Chicago at our meeting and our annual networking breakfast.