As a medical student or junior doctor, how can you boost your chance of career success? You know all about the competition for training places these days. 200 applicants for 4 jobs in some areas. That seems daunting but someone has to get those jobs and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be one of those 4 in the specialty you choose. The key to career success is knowing where you’re heading, understanding what’s required and taking action now.
It’s too late when you get to the middle of PGY2 and start applying for jobs to think to yourself “How do I make myself stand out?” But if you start now, you will be applying for your first training job knowing you’ve already ticked all the boxes.
Here are 5 key steps you can take right now to give your likelihood of medical career success a boost:
1. Choose your specialty area
The most important thing you can do is decide on the specialty path that’s right for you or at least the general direction. There’s good research that shows that those who decide early about their career direction are most likely to succeed. If you already have some ideas you can start to firm those up by trying to get experience in those areas. This process is as much about eliminating as it is about choosing. Talk to the people who are working in the areas you’re interested in. What’s the best thing about the specialty? What does a typical day or week look like? Ask them if they have any advice for someone considering the specialty.
2. Get involved in teaching
Experience or interest in teaching is a requirement for most senior resident and trainee positions so look for opportunities to get involved. It doesn’t need to be as formal as delivering lectures. As a senior student, you might be able to tutor more junior students. Junior doctors can get involved in ward-based teaching of students or as a PBL tutor.
3. Do some research
Involvement in research is another common requirement for specialty training programs. If you’ve chosen your career direction, ask around to find out who’s doing research in that area. A keen medical student or junior doctor who’ll help with literature reviews, data collection or writing up the paper is always welcome, and you might be surprised at how many opportunities there are when you start to look. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, an understanding of the scientific method required in research is very valuable. Choose an area that interests you and try to get involved.
4. Look for other opportunities
Perhaps you can do an elective in your chosen area. Or maybe there are courses you can do as a student or junior doctor that will both add to your knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to your specialty of choice. Consider getting involved in university or hospital committees which may give you experience in important areas such as teamwork and leadership. If you participate in activities outside of medicine, such as sport or community involvement, keep these up. Not only are these important for your own work-life balance, they also demonstrate someone with broad interests and life experience beyond medicine.
5. Start Now
Don’t leave it until you’re applying for jobs. If you want to stand out from the crowd by the time you’re a PGY2, you have to start now. Anyone who’s seen a lot of CVs can pick the people who’ve had a long-term commitment from those who have tried to tick all the boxes at the last minute.
If you’d like some help with finding your direction or you’d like to put together a clear strategy to achieve your goals, get in touch. I have the knowledge and experience to help you think through all the options and work out how to get there.