Just as an addendum to my previous post about fellowship applications, my suggestion would be to have everything ready to send by July 1st or earlier, if possible. I’ve found that some programs started accepting applications on July 1st. And this includes asking for letters of recommendation as early as possible so that they are ready by then as well or you may find yourself, like I have, in the bottleneck with programs emailing weekly that all they need are your letters because they have started reviewing and/or interviewing already and won’t look at your materials until its complete with letters of rec. I submitted most of my applications (minus letters of rec which still have to come) by September 9 and one of the programs had already filled for both hematopathology and molecular pathology. I would guess with an internal candidate or an early interview candidate because their website didn’t list yet that the position was filled. Some of the programs for molecular genetic pathology, in particular, have early deadlines of September 1st, so make sure you know the deadlines and have your materials ready to go way in advance.
Now on to this week’s topic: networking. Throughout our journey to and during medical school, it was often hard work and studying that got us to where we needed to be. Yes, there were the “legacy” students who got into colleges and medical school based on who their parents or families were but those are not the students that I speak of. I speak of those like myself who form the majority and who didn’t have those types of connections. But in the workplace, if we take the group of “legacies” out, we still have to deal with the power of connections but at a more palpable and potent level than previously encountered. On multiple workplace surveys, the #1 manner through which people (and pathology trainees) obtained jobs is through “word of mouth” and referrals. Having someone make a call on your behalf can be a powerful factor in helping you to obtain that fellowship or job.
With respect to fellowships or jobs, the market is tighter. There are far fewer positions available. So how do you set yourself apart from the crowd of others with similar or even, slightly better, credentials than yourself? Connections can greatly help so start early. Local and national conferences are great places to meet other residents but more importantly, other pathologists in your intended field. Make yourself business cards and give them out like there’s no tomorrow. If you impress someone, they most likely will keep your business card and remember to get in contact with you when a position opens up that you’re a great fit for. At annual meetings, there often are networking receptions for residents to meet practicing pathologists. Also at these venues, job seekers get the word out that they are available and have access to job boards. This also holds true for attending your state society or other local subspecialty meetings.
Another way to meet and make connections is through getting involved with organized medicine and advocacy organizations. ASCP, CAP, USCAP, and subspecialty organizations (like AMP for molecular pathology) often have junior positions on their committees and councils for a resident. Find one in an area of pathology that you have an interest in and apply. Many also have travel awards to their annual meetings or grants for research also set aside for residents. I’ve found that many of the people who volunteer in national leadership positions in these organizations frequently overlap so once you start meeting people, you will see them at other meetings, and it makes it easier to meet more people. So if you are able to obtain a junior member/resident position, work hard. People recognize and value hard work and enthusiasm and it’s a way to make a great impression doing work that you are passionate about. And if you apply and are not chosen, then don’t give up. These positions have many more people applying for them than positions that are available. But persistence is a virtue and when TPTB (“the powers that be”) see your name on a subsequent application, they might be impressed that you applied again.
Some of these positions are advertised and others are through referrals. As a resident, I never found it that easy to find when many of these positions have an opening so I’ll try my best to advertise through this blog when those times arise. But you can get involved early and at a more junior level first by being a representative for your program to ASCP (contact firstname.lastname@example.org) or a delegate to the CAP Residents Forum (contact Jan Glas at email@example.com). I know that at some programs, this is through election, but even if you are not elected, you can still attend the CAP Residents Forum (you just won’t be your program’s voting delegate) and still ask to get the ASCP e-newsletter (where they advertise when new resident volunteer positions are open).
If you can decide early what you want to do when you are a pathologist (subspecialty-wise, etc), then the easier it will be for you to get involved with your specific pathology community in leadership/volunteer positions early. You can even participate in other activities such as blogging, creating podcasts, and writing for these organizations. You’ll be surprised that you meet people through these venues as well. You can write about a pathology topic of interest for CAP NewsPath which is then converted into a podcast. I blog for ASCP’s Lab Medicine Lablogatory as you all know, but we are always looking for resident bloggers. If you can’t commit to writing weekly, then contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll happily have you do a guest blog here one week! For those of you attending the upcoming ASCP Annual Meeting in Tampa, I’ll be looking for bloggers to write on their experiences at the meeting so just shoot me an email or find me at the meeting (I’ll be one of the poster judges). Check out the websites of organizations you are interested in to see how you can get involved – it does take some effort on your part but you won’t be disappointed! For positions that work through referrals (where I didn’t have one), I was still able to apply because I identified the person in charge (internet searches are your friend), contacted them, and asked. So, it never hurts to be proactive.
And in my attempt to keep you all informed of opportunities, for those of you who want to do an external/away elective or international/global elective and need financial support, the application period is now open for round 2 of ASCP’s subspecialty grants. You can find more info at the ASCP website but you need to apply by Jan 16th!
-Betty Chung, DO, MPH, MA is a third year resident physician at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ.