“People are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems.”
This excerpt from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is not a condemnation of people as self-absorbed jerks.
He’s merely pointing out a very important fact about networking - the secret skill that separates average pre-meds from standout ones.
As Carnegie explains, “People blunder through life trying to wigwag others into becoming interested in them. Of course, it doesn't work. People are not interested in you. They are interested in themselves - morning, noon, and after dinner.”
Unless you’re already the benefactor of nepotism, you’ll need to make people care about you by showing your value to them.
What this means for a pre-med’s networking:
If it feels like a gamble, that’s because it is - you’ll probably have to invest time with no guaranteed payoff. But if you buy into this approach, the odds are in your favor.
One former student of ours was turned down from a scribing position as an 18-year-old. She was told she lacked the maturity necessary to work in the ED. She returned the next day and told the director she’d work for free, and that he could “fire” her in a month if she didn’t live up to his expectations. Within six months, she was training other scribes.
One student of ours was working at a free clinic/needle exchange, and he realized the staff was in desperate need of an ultrasound machine. He had worked in the business sector before, and he spent weeks making cold calls to friends of friends, finally finding an outfit that could donate a working machine. The following year, he was co-coordinating the clinic and expanding its mobility in the community.
This is where you can get creative. A past student was part of an academic fraternity, and he was getting lost in the shuffle of members. As leadership nominations approached, he showed up to a board meeting unannounced and brought lunch from the frat’s favorite sandwich spot. He left a note for the president under the box of sandwiches, asking if he could chat with him soon about the frat’s future. Pretty soon he was getting endorsement from the higher-ups with the most clout.
No, I don’t mean on your phone. These days we have the temptation to do everything remotely - text, email, online applications, uploading cover letters en-masse to countless portals. But there’s nothing more effective than in-person, face-to-face communication. One past student had been out of college for a while was struggling to get a letter of rec from her old professors, who were unlikely to recall her from vast lecture halls. Rather than sending out emails and hoping for the best, she found and attended a presentation that one of her old professors was hosting. Afterwards she chatted with her and built rapport; offering to help advertise and set up the next presentation. She secured a letter about a month later.
It might not be fun, but it usually proves your commitment. One past student earned the respect and praise of clinical staff by volunteering to spearhead the clinic’s conversion from a paper to electronic system. As a result of his grunting and grinding, their paper consumption decreased by 90% and the staff were relieved of tasks like printing forms, scanning documents, and shredding paper. The doctors also saved money on supplies, and more importantly, had extra time with patients. This helped him secure a paying job with the clinic during his gap year and helped him garner a fantastic letter of recommendation.
Networking is NOT easy. It’s daunting to one’s social nerves, and it can make you feel like a “kiss-up” or “try-hard” if not done properly.
It entails a risk of lost time and potentially means facing rejection, but it’s essential to accumulating a stand-out set of letters, activities, and exposure.
Think of networking as the pre-planning phase for any facet of your pre-med plan - it’s often your step zero, which can hopefully build to step one, step two, and so forth.
If pre-planning for your actual plan sounds a bit complicated, never fear!
We’ve updated our free one-page Planner to give you full set of resources and we’ll be giving out to anyone who signs up for our Savvy Premed Newsletter in next week’s blog post.