(This article is part of the ongoing column 12 Steps to Success)

“Economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of men (sic) who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid, in a spirit of perfect harmony. This form of alliance has been the basis of nearly every great fortune.”—Napoleon Hill, Think & Grow Rich

Career development within veterinary medicine has not focused on professional networking until recently, although the career advantages of networking with colleagues and potential mentors are enormous. Networking can help veterinary professionals1:
– Meet people who can teach advanced skills or provide specialized knowledge
– Build a support system of colleagues who can inspire, encourage, or offer advice
– Build referral sources that can help locate jobs or information
– Find answers to complex problems by combining many insightful points of view
– Build your reputation as others recognize your passion, talent, and ability

Identifying the professional colleagues you wish to include is the first step toward building a valuable network. Consider these qualities when reaching out2:
Honesty & Candor: Valuable professional contacts do not need to be close friends; however, they should be willing to offer candid feedback and to challenge your assumptions and opinions.
Diversity: Include people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests.
Confidentiality: Choose people who are willing to keep your conversations confidential. Networking with colleagues outside your veterinary practice will minimize the chances of your discussions becoming common knowledge.
Clout: Include at least a few people who have more influence than you do.

Next, follow these 5 steps to build a relationship:
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