By Aly Madhavji, CPA, CA, CMA, CIM

Aly received his BComm with Distinction from the University of Toronto in 2012 and he is currently pursuing his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from INSEAD. He is an international award-winning author, motivational speaker, and community builder. He will be discussing how to build your soft skills.

Learning how to network effectively is one of the most important skills you can build during and following your undergraduate studies to prepare you for a successful career. Networking can help you gather insight into medical school admissions, life during medical school, specializations, residency, the profession, the lifestyle, and many other important matters. Having a flexible and thoughtful approach to networking can help you maximize your results.

Here’s Aly’s 5-Step Networking Formula, which is adapted and enhanced from the Networking section of his international award-winning book ‘Your Guide to Succeed in University’:

1. Network up & down
It’s all about creating strong connections and relationships with individuals at all levels and stages of their career. Many people try to target experienced doctors, but it is wise to meet experienced professionals as well as individuals at a similar progress level or even less experienced than you. The reason for this is because any one of your connections could help you form new relationships, find a strategic mentor, or with advice related to medical school or beyond.

2. Help others including your “competition”
This likely seems counterintuitive to help people you perceive as your competition, which may be fellow undergraduate classmates or other medical school applicants. However, this separates you from everyone else. For example, if you help to introduce connections, build relationships, and have good intentions you will stand out from the crowd, and whether that’s to an individual, a doctor, a potential mentor, or a member of an admissions team, there will be a lasting positive impression.

3. Make friends not “networks”
It is quite common that individuals use networking as an avenue to take rather than to build a smooth two-way relationship. However, if you begin with the intent of building a friendship, the relationship will naturally be a bilateral relationship, a give and take, which will result in more opportunities down the road and better prospects for your medical school admission.

4. Be yourself but don’t be nervous
Some prospective medical school students are nervous while talking to current medical school students, members of the faculty or admissions teams, medical doctors, or other highly accomplished individuals. However, it’s important to be yourself, find common topics of interest and to consider every moment as a learning opportunity. It is a continuous development process, so make sure you reflect at the end of each day on how you will improve the next day.

5. Solidify the connection
It is always important to ask for a business card and to connect with your new contacts via LinkedIn, even follow them via Twitter. If it is a more formal connection, you can send them an email and connect via LinkedIn. If it’s less formal, you can add them with a short LinkedIn message or even follow and tweet at them! It’s critical to solidify your new relationship by mentioning a couple of details discussed during your conversation. You can also suggest scheduling a time to meet, perhaps over a coffee, to continue developing your newly formed connection. Remember that sending a Facebook request may not be appropriate; depending on your conversation, you can be the judge!

For more advanced networkers, LinkedIn can be used to expand your network through effective targeting. For example, using targeted searches to identify admissions staff, students, and faculty members at particular institutions and then sending a personalized introductory message seeking guidance over a coffee or phone call is a worthwhile strategy. Do not expect a very high response rate, but the connections you do make can be very valuable. When utilizing this approach, try to develop a template for your targeted messages and then tailor it for each contact, this will significantly improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

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