Shadowing, Internships, Work Experience – Oh My!

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Some of you may be arriving at Illinois this August set on your career plans. Some of you may be arriving with no idea on what to do, and that’s OK too! No matter if you fall into the first or second group or anywhere in between, my advice to you is to actually try to do what you want to do for your job while in college!

Get a taste of what you want to do through internships, shadowing, or working

There are tons of resources to help you find an internship or job. First off, talk to a counselor at the Career Center. Also, most pre-professional groups on campus have connections to professionals in their field who are happy to take students under their wing. Sometimes you even need to be a little bolder – dressing up nicely and stopping in for a quick chat with professionals in your area can give you a leg up even if they have never had anyone shadow them before. And don’t forget your connections from high school! I got a summer internship with a pediatrician I used to babysit for through a quick phone call.

Work with the population you are planning on working with

This idea is simple, yet often overlooked – discover how you like being around the particular group of people you are planning to work with. I came into college wanting to work for a non-profit, but after a few experiences, I realized medicine would be a better fit for me. My past biology professor and current adviser Brad Mehrtens planned on being a doctor while he was an undergrad. After volunteering in the hospital, he realized he didn’t enjoy being around sick people. The easiest way to get experience working with the populations you plan to is to volunteer at the 100-plus agencies around Champaign-Urbana.

It’s nerve wracking, but ya gotta do it

Employers and admissions board members expect this level of experience from you. Think about it – a medical school admissions board wouldn’t want to admit you if you had no experience in the health care field. You might decide, like my adviser Brad, that you don’t like it!

If you love your experiences, you will have a new found motivation

Let me tell you, it was A LOT easier to study biochemistry after coming back from being a medical translator in Mexico. In Mexico, I was completely immersed in the process of diagnosis and treatment and loved it! It made the challenge of school worth it because I actually experienced what I was working towards.

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