It’s been said that 80 percent of success is showing up, but that’s simply not true. Showing up is not enough. Showing up reliably and giving your best is not enough. You’ve got to be seen showing up. So, how do you raise your professional visibility? Here are five tips for the modern physician leader. If you are a traditionalist, please keep an open mind. The strategies below aren’t that different from old-fashioned resume “objective” statements and face-to-face networking.
1. Define your personal (professional) brand. Or you might call it your niche area of expertise. Possibly your value proposition. Your elevator pitch. Your passion. What’s important here is to identify the skills that are uniquely yours: things you love to do but others don’t, things that come easy to you but others find more challenging, and so on. Once you’ve defined these characteristics, you’ll find it much simpler to articulate what exactly you bring to the table. And once you have clarity on what you can bring to the table, focus on doing more of that. Become to “go-to” expert, the “it” person for a particular need or niche. Let people know what that niche is, and do it in a memorable way. This is much more efficient than hoping people will begin to associate your name with what you do, and connect their own dots about how your various activities reflect a constellation of special skills that are really a unique package. You are likely already being deliberate about what you choose to pursue and hone as your craft. Now, give it a name. A professional brand.
2. Use search engine optimization, or SEO. Certainly, this includes actual digital search engine optimization, but it also includes your CV, the titles of your presentations and papers, and how you talk about what you do. I’m suggesting you adapt the principles of SEO to your daily communications, to make yourself easy to identify and be found for what you do. The goal here is to choose a set of keywords and phrases that represent the brand you’ve defined in step one, and sprinkle them liberally throughout any and all descriptions of you and your work. Do this in your social media bios, and in any bios you send to anyone else (to introduce you as a speaker, for example). If you are active on social media, be sure to use your keywords in your posts. If you’re thinking this is disingenuous or contrived in some way, stop. This is authentic and natural because you should be choosing words that do indeed describe what you do. I’m simply suggesting that you be mindful to craft the right set of phrases that describe you, and include them deliberately when you describe yourself and your work.
A great example of this is Nisha Mehta, the queen of physician side gigs. She writes about various ways that physicians can earn revenue from passion projects, passive income streams, and so on. She has a website, a blog, and a Facebook group with over 20,000 members. I’m fairly certain that if Oprah wanted to do a segment on physician side gigs, she’d be calling Nisha. Why? Because Nisha’s the one who gets ranked at the top of search engines for this term. And Nisha comes readily to mind to just about anyone who know anything about physicians and side gigs. I’m also fairly sure that an overlap in keywords (probably about crisis/crew resource management) is how Captain Sully found and followed me on Twitter, which led to a piece in JAMA and some very rewarding (and career boosting) opportunities.
3. Start writing. One of the fastest ways to make new connections and gain recognition for expertise in a specific area is to write about it. You do not need to write a book or even publish manuscript in traditional medical journals (though of course you can, and this carries importance of its own). Without anyone else’s approval or permission, you can start today and write a few blog posts. You can post them on your own website (which you can create in less than twenty minutes). You can post them on Facebook or LinkedIn. You can share them as guest posts on someone else’s blog. You can do all of the above. In doing so, you’ll create many little footprints across the web that link your great content with your name. Because you will have also used good SEO and branding, colleagues and search engines will soon begin to suggest your work when other people are looking for an expert in your area. Further, you’ll have a body of work that represents your ideas, and probably other people’s reactions to your ideas. (Hey, isn’t that kind of like peer-review?)
4. Stop looking at your career trajectory in a linear way, and work to develop relationships with people up, down, and all around. Don’t limit your network to your department or your specialty or to doctors or to health care professionals. Don’t limit your networking efforts to those who are senior to you. Get to know people in other departments, and in other institutions. You’ll discover new synergies and opportunities for natural collaboration across disciplines. Most people will be delighted to connect with you, especially when you can crisply articulate the ways in which your work intersects with theirs. This kind of external networking is important for at least three reasons. First, you may find totally new applications for teaching, research, and beyond. Second, you’ll start to be recognized in domains outside of your own. This is a big boost for visibility and credibility. When you’re identified as an expert by thought leaders outside of your sphere, you’ve really leveled up. Third, you’ll be inspired by new perspectives which will make your work better and more impactful. Win-win-win.
5. On the subject of winning: Success is not a zero-sum game, so stop viewing colleagues as competition. They don’t have to lose for you to achieve, and when they’re celebrating a professional win, that’s not a loss for you! There’s no scarcity of opportunity. And we are all unique – so we really aren’t doing the same thing. Support each other, celebrate each other, fly each other’s flag. Service to others is often mutually beneficial. Here are two examples.
This year, I’ve noticed a big uptick in professional development conferences focused on career strategy, resilience, wellness, and the like, especially for women physicians. There’s GRIT, SheLeads, TransforMD, Brave Enough, FemInEM, GirlMedLive, offerings from Women in Surgery and the American Medical Women’s Association, and more. Are these groups fighting for attendees, clashing with each other? Nope. Cheering each other on: Just check out MedGirlMedia’s website for a great list. These women are smart enough to know that there is plenty of success and fulfillment to go around! Collectively, you’ll make a bigger difference – that’s the purpose of your work, right? If everyone involved enjoys a professional visibility boost as a result, that’s a (very likely) bonus.
You’ve probably heard of PMG – the Physician Moms Group, which is an organization and a Facebook group over 70,000 members strong. Hala Sabry started it. Guess what it isn’t about? That’s right – it’s not about her. When there’s going to be an interview or invitation related to PMG (and there are plenty!), she’s on the receiving end. She deserves tremendous credit for the community she started and nurtured. But the actual mission of the group is to help and support others. That’s the very reason it is so successful. Win-win.
So there you go: Five simple steps to fast-track and amplify your professional visibility. It’s more than just showing up.
Marjorie Stiegler is an anesthesiologist who blogs at her self-titled site, Marjorie Podraza Stiegler. She can be reached on Twitter @DrMStiegler.
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