Networks and mentors help build a successful career

In healthcare, networking is less about exchanging business cards than building authentic relationships. At the recent Women in Health Leadership Symposium in Sydney a panel discussed how networks and mentors could help build a successful career.

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At the recent Women in Health Leadership Symposium in Sydney a panel of the sector’s high achievers discussed how networks and mentors helped to shape their careers.

Some people dislike the term ‘networking’ because it suggests rushing to collect as many business cards as possible but, in healthcare, networking is less likely to be purely transactional.

“I’ve found that it’s far more likely to involve building relationships based on honesty, authenticity and trust,” said Cheryl Macnaught, General Manager, Client Relations Unit, HESTA, the national industry super fund for health and community services.

Networking can support both personal and business development by introducing opportunities and different points of view. It can also play a crucial role in building a successful career.

“Many people progress by being recommended for a more senior position,” said Alison Choy Flannigan, Partner, Health, Aged Care and Life Sciences at Holman Webb Lawyers. “It follows that the more people you know, the more likely it is that your name will be put forward.”

Keeping in contact

These days, many successful networkers maintain their connections online using LinkedIn™, the world’s largest professional network with 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe.

“LinkedIn connections can create a pathway to people you would like to meet,” said Macnaught. “LinkedIn profiles can also provide useful background information when, for example, you’re about to meet a client or a prospective employer for the first time.”

Every time Choy Flannigan receives a business card she invites the contact to connect with her via LinkedIn.

“Networking is essential for private practice business development so I have to be very disciplined about it,” she said. “LinkedIn helps me to stay connected, particularly as people move.”

Networking also helps her to add value to the service she provides to her clients.

“I’m often asked to recommend people with other skills within the industry or to potential business partners and am able to recommend someone I know from my network, so networking works both ways,” she said.

Finding the right mentor

The right mentor can help to extend business networks while providing support and guidance in a career – but it’s important to choose carefully.

“There’s no point in a having a mediocre mentor,” said Choy Flannigan. “Your mentor should be someone you admire not only for their business skills but also their behaviour and values. Your mentor should also express genuine interest in your future.”

Melissa Angelucci, Executive Officer to the Chief Executive Officer and the Board Secretary in the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, said her relationship with her mentor grew organically out of a professional friendship.

“Sometimes a relationship will develop naturally but you may need to approach someone you haven’t met,” said Choy Flannigan. “You should bear in mind that they’re likely to be very busy and will look for evidence that their time invested with you will be well spent. You should also be prepared to express succinctly what you hope to gain from the relationship and to demonstrate that you have potential and are committed to working hard to build your career.”

A two-way relationship

Some mentors find that drawing up an agreement with their mentees helps them to stay on track and monitor progress while others prefer a less formal approach. Whatever the arrangement, mentors can derive as much benefit from the relationship as their mentees.

“I enjoy watching younger people change, develop and succeed in their careers,” said Macnaught. “I also feel invigorated by their energy, vitality and fresh ideas.”

The Women in Health Leadership one-day Symposium was presented by the Australasian College of Health Service Management. NAB was a major sponsor.

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