Career Planning Strategies
Career planning is an on-going process of understanding yourself, conducting research into various specialties, and creating shadowing opportunities to experience firsthand the different clinical opportunities available to you. There are a variety of resources to assist you in your career development. The School of Medicine’s Mentoring Program provides students with a faculty mentor, a student mentor and group of peers in the first two years of medical school. Through this program, you will have opportunities to learn about various specialties. This can also be accomplished by consulting with Faculty Advisors and by participating in Specialty Interest Groups, Medical Specialty Lunches, and Faculty Advising Dinners. Meeting regularly with your class counselor is a good way to ensure that you are making use of all the available resources at the school to assist in your career development.
Specialty specific advice and advising guidelines are very helpful for fourth year students who are shifting into the residency matching area on their path to becoming a physician.
Mentoring and Observerships: A mentor is defined as a teacher who enhances a student’s skills and intellectual and professional development. A student’s mentor may use his/her influence to facilitate the student’s entry and advancement into the professional world. A mentor may act as a host and guide, welcoming the mentee into a new occupational and social world and acquainting the student with its values, customs, and resources. The mentor may be an exemplar that the students can admire and seek to emulate. He/she may provide counsel and moral support in times of stress. The most critical function of the mentor is to support and facilitate the realization of the DREAM. Please refer to Dr. MacLean’s presentation on the Mentoring Program. Use your mentors and faculty advisors to set up observerships and learn more about different specialties. Spend a 1/2 day with someone and see if it is an area of medicine you would like. Think about the personality characteristics of the physicians within this specialty. Consider what a long term career in this specialty might be like.
The WSU-SOM Mentoring Program is designed to provide medical students with a multi-layered system of support that provides academic, career and personal guidance and advocates for the professional development of each individual. The large number of students in each class decreases the ability of faculty and staff to get to know students personally and increases the risk of students going through their medical school education in anonymity. The Mentoring Program is central to the core values of WSU-SOM and is designed to decrease the risk of student isolation and anonymity. It prepares our mentees to become lifelong learners, productive students, and successful residents. Mentoring also engages faculty and promotes teaching, research and service. A school that promotes a culture of mentoring strengthens its ability to build a sense of community and potentially recruits its mentees as physicians into the region. Embedded in the mentoring program is a career advising curriculum which introduces students to Careers in Medicine and other useful resources for career development. Mentors are assigned by the Office of Student Affairs annually for all Year 1 and Year 2 students. During the third year, students meet with faculty advisors to obtain 1:1 mentoring in specific specialties.
Observerships/Shadowing: Spending time on the job with physicians in various specialties is very valuable in the first two years of medical school. Observing gives you opportunities to see and experience the day to day practice in various specialties. There are several ways to create these opportunities. Many Clinical Medicine small group instructors and mentors invite students to shadow with them. Participating in Specialty Interest Groups and the Medical Specialty Luncheons can also lead to shadowing and research opportunities. The Alumni Association sponsors Career Exploration events and can also link students with physicians both locally and throughout the country who are willing to provide information and hands-on specialty experience.
Be sure to be an active participant in all of the WSU-SOM career planning events, since they provide you with the knowledge and experience necessary to make a well-informed specialty choice.
Meeting with Your Counselor
The School of Medicine Counselors are a group of trained mental health professionals who assist medical students with many different aspects of life as a medical student. This includes supporting medical students with personal, academic, and career issues, as well as educational planning and decision-making.
The Careers in Medicine Program (CiM) is designed to empower students to make informed decisions about their lives and careers. Take time to complete the inventories and research specialty information on the Careers in Medicine website and discuss the results with your counselor, your mentor, and your faculty advisors. You are strongly encouraged to meet with your assigned class counselor regularly. Students may stop by or call the Student Affairs Office at (313) 577-1463 to make an appointment. It is never too early to begin career exploration and your class counselors can direct you to faculty advisors, helpful websites, and career planning events at the School of Medicine to guide you in your career exploration.
Student Affairs Personal Class Counselors:
A Faculty Advisor builds long term relationships with students and is an essential part of medical school. A Faculty Advisor role models, mentors, and advocates for students as they experience the challenges and triumphs of their medical education. Faculty Advisors are resources for professional role modeling and career advising to students. Faculty can give students valuable input into helping them prepare for their professional role as a physician. It is important that the student understand the demands on the life of a physician while they are planning their life’s work.
Faculty can also provide students a glimpse into their profession. They can offer inspiration and clarification about the choice of a professional life in a discipline. Faculty advisors can assist students in meeting other faculty members and connect them with other resources. Faculty advisors can assist students in the process of self-assessment and clarification of personal goals which are essential to good career planning. Clinical faculty can play a vital role in the specifics of specialty selection, residency application, and may be a source of letters of recommendation and referrals. In addition, you must have your Year 4 schedule signed by a faculty advisor. Use this opportunity to ask questions about their specialty and develop a meaningful relationship.
Our Mentoring Program provides Year 1 & 2 students with a faculty mentor, a student mentor, and a peer group. These groups have a large group meeting in the fall and spring of each year and 2 -3 small groups meetings during the academic year.
Self assessment is critical to making the best career decision. People are happy and satisfied when they are allowed to use their fundamental, natural abilities. Look at yourself honestly including gadging your own competitiveness. Continue to ask yourself what you need to know to make your decision. Weigh each critical and specialty factor. Make use of the many self assessment resources on the Careers in Medicine website. Be open and flexible and challenge your preconceived ideas both about yourself and the specialty you’re considering. Participating in Specialty Interest Groups can allow you to learn about different specialties. You need to gather as much information as you can. Do not be afraid to ask advisors, mentors, faculty and even residents what they think. Use your family and friends and the people who know you best to help clarify your goals.
Some specialties recommend research experience while others do not. Talk to your faculty advisor about whether the specialty you are seeking requires research experience. All programs would look at research favorably but it may not enhance your residency application if you plan to join a community residency program in primary care. If you are interested in pursing research, consider participating in a Research Externship between your MS1 and 2 year. A list of those faculty interested in research mentoring can be found on the Student Affairs website.
The core rotations offer hands on clinical experience in the major specialties. Consider using your MS3 elective for exploration of a non-core specialty. During these hands on experiences you may discover a specialty is not what you previously thought or another is more appealing. Be open to every option. Don’t abandon a specialty based on one negative experience. Analyze each experience, whether good or bad, realistically.
You must consider your own competitiveness as well as the competitiveness of the specialty you are seeking. Highly competitive programs require strong clerkship grades and USMLE scores. DO NOT put off completing your USMLE 2 CS and CK requirements. WSU-SOM requires that CS is taken by November 1 and CK by December 31 on Year 4. You must assess yourself realistically and ask for honest feedback about your credentials from a faculty advisor. It might be painful to hear now but it is better than ending up unmatched on Match Day! For a comprehensive review of many specialties which explores every required component for a successful match is on the NRMP website and is called the Results & Data 2014 Main Residency Match report. Also review the 2014 Program Director Survey.
Information and advice from our faculty in various specialties can be found at the following link:
Alternatives to Clinical Practice
Alternative Careers in Medicine
If you decide not to complete residency after medical school, there are a small but growing number of medical school graduates who are choosing alternatives to traditional clinical practice. These career options involve a number of areas including:
- Public Service and Policy-Making: Federal, State, and Local Government
- Lobbying and Government Relations
- Organized Medicine: Non-profits and Associations
Business and Industry
- Physician Executive Careers: Hospitals and Healthcare Management Companies
- Print Journalism and Writing
- Broadcast Journalism
- Aerospace Medicine
- International Medicine
For more information about all of these options, please refer to the Careers in Medicine website for comprehensive descriptions and requirements.
If you decide to leave medical school, consider other Medical Careers:
- Clinical Laboratory Science/ Medical Technology
- Cardiac Perfusionist
- Pathologist Assistant
- Radiology Technician
- Ultrasound Technician
- Teaching (post secondary)
- Graduate Teaching/Research Assistant
- Respiratory Therapist
- Masters in Public Health/Epidemiology, Epidemiologist
- Medical Transcriptionist
- Emergency Medical Technician Training
- Pharmaceutical Sales
- Medical Sales
- Masters in Criminal Justice
- Pharmacy Technician
- Surgical Technician
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Peace Corps
Other things to do: Obtain Financial Counseling