Pursuing a career in medicine is an incredible, life-changing endeavor. But you should be aware of what you’re getting into before you get started on this path.
While any job in healthcare is gratifying, it will also be demanding and full of responsibility. Whether your goal is to be a healthcare administrator, a physician, or something in between, if you want a successful career, you must prepare for it long before you apply for a position.
Regardless of your career goals in medicine, here are three essential steps to follow to optimize your chances of success.
1. Focus on Your Education
Some people swear you need to get into “the right” schools to have a shot at a career in healthcare. Yes, an Ivy League school might introduce you to a different network of people and look great on your CV, but if you’re not learning what you need to know and getting good grades there, it will show up quickly in your work.
Aim for the top schools that you can afford and access, and then do your best to excel there. Study, ask questions when you don’t understand something, and put your focus into getting a high-quality education in every class you’re taking.
If you need to bring in an income at the same time, this can distract from your studies. However, it’s a crucial part of life for many medical students. Worries about having enough money to cover basic necessities like rent and food can keep even the most diligent of students from focusing on their schoolwork.
You’ll find it’s a little easier to hold a job and study before your residency, but it’s not impossible to moonlight during this phase of your education. This article by Physicians Thrive has some top tips on working side jobs while you’re a resident.
2. Be Sure You’re in the Right Field
You may have decided at a young age what kind of doctor you want to be, and you put on blinders to any other possible option. That could be your dream field, and you’re truly passionate about it, in which case, you’re on the right track.
Yet, if you’ve only considered a handful of career paths in medicine and ignored the rest, you might be missing out on your true calling.
While you’re in your general education, take a good chunk of time to explore the various possible fields and how you feel about them. Think about your goals for your future and how the field you’re considering matches those goals.
For instance, if you want a job where you can be home with your family and have regular hours, an ICU physician is probably not the best fit. But if you love high-pressure, spur-of-the-moment decisions in a challenging environment, that would be your ideal role.
3. Network and Expand Your Skills
With your preferred career path in mind, it’s time to start networking and digging deeply into the skills that will get you there.
Look at it this way: If the ideal job opening was to fall in your lap today and you applied, would you be likely to get the job? If the answer is no, what do you need to do to stand out from the other candidates?
Most importantly, you’ll need your medical degree. But beyond that, there are a range of other factors that employers look for in their preferred candidate, and you can begin collecting those hard and soft skills while you’re working towards your degree.
Start by networking at events where you know you’re likely to meet professionals in the medical field. As you become recognized, you’ll make connections who may be able to help you find and land jobs in the future.
In between those networking events, look for ways outside of your courses to expand your skills and become more marketable. Look at what classes you’re scheduled to take between now and graduation, and then analyze the skills you’ll need to have for your dream career. Where are the gaps? How can you fill them?
You may want to take some accounting and business classes if you plan on running your own medical office, and those courses aren’t on your schedule. Or, if you know that having interpersonal (EQ) skills is crucial to being a reputable doctor, and those aren’t your “thing,” start working on learning how to interact with others.
The more well-rounded you are with skills outside of the traditional medical degree path, the easier you can stand out from the crowd of other candidates.
Having a successful career in medicine requires building a solid foundation long before you treat your first patient. Follow these three steps while you’re working on your degree, and you’ll have an optimal start as you segue into the healthcare world.