This post is the fourth in our series on applying to med school in the most efficient and timely manner. You’ve got six months to make this happen. Make sure you do it right by following the tips in Med School Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply.
One of the best ways to clarify your career goals in medicine is to learn about it from successful people in your fields of interest. Seek advice from some of these people and perhaps one or more will become mentors to you. A mentor can provide guidance in identifying career goals as well as gaining exposure to the different roles and options available. A little more distantly, reading the stories and biographies or autobiographies of inspirational doctors or pioneers in your areas of interest can provide you with valuable career maps. Most effectively, internships, shadowing, or assisting doctors in the field will help you narrow your interests.
To get started:
1. Review CV’s of successful people. You can obtain the CV’s of doctors by looking for them online—some school and hospital websites provide them along with a bio for their staff—and by requesting them from the doctors you work with or with whom you have established a professional relationship.
2. Seek out a mentor. If you have shadowed or assisted a doctor with whom you had a connection, you can ask that person if they would be willing to spend time with you over coffee and tea. The mentor-mentee relationship is sacred—one that is based on mutual respect. You can ask to meet with your mentor once or twice a week or month, depending on their availability. It’s best to have a regular appointment or meeting to foster the relationship, at least in the beginning.
3. Read stories, biographies and autobiographies. There are so many wonderful books that can help you map out potential career paths. It would be useful to read the stories of doctors in as many different fields as possible—until you are able to determine which direction you think you would like to follow. As you become more certain about what you want to do, you can focus your research. Many doctors follow academic paths and teach for medical schools, others work in a hospital setting or a private practice in either a general capacity or as a specialist and some work in basic science or clinical research. There are some doctors who do it all. Others may take a less traditional pathway—like becoming a journalist who reports on the latest medical news and research and explains it to a general audience. There are many, many possibilities—you could end up creating your own job in the future.
Here are a few podcast interviews with medical students and new doctors that you can start with:
4. Intern for, shadow and assist doctors in the field. In pursuing any career path, interning, shadowing or assisting will immediately help you decide whether you are on the right track or not. Gaining direct exposure provides valuable insight that will educate you and inform your decision. It’s one thing to read about a job, but another altogether to actually gain hands on experience. When in doubt, try it out.
Using the methods described above, you can most effectively determine what your career goals should be. Knowing what they are can help you narrow your focus in selecting schools and gain the credentials to support your application. For more guidance, you are always welcome to contact me or one of my colleagues.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!