Resident career counseling can be an essential tool for any up-and-coming physician, resident doctor, or medical school student. Your medical residency is the time to find out how to balance life and family demands with your work as a physician. Being a resident also requires a significant amount of planning, organization and goal-setting as you prepare for your future in medicine. In this blog, we’ll explore why it’s so crucial to plan your residency and post-residency ahead of time, how resident career counseling can help, and what services are offered.
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Difficulties of juggling commitments during and after residency
Your medical residency years, and the years following, can be full of great excitement and plenty of the hard work you’ve by now become accustomed to. These years also require a large amount of planning, organization and goal-setting. During your residency years, it’s important to think about what your life and work will look like afterwards and into the future.
By the time a physician is in their residency training, they may have a more complex professional life, treating patients or preparing for their board certification exams, such as USMLE step 3. Of course, their personal lives might also be busier with family obligations, social gatherings, house hunting, travel, and more big life milestones. The intersection and growth of the personal and professional spheres in a resident’s life are why it is so important to plan ahead and set goals, so you have a big-picture view of your future.
Long-term planning is essential for any resident’s future. Soon enough, they will enter an entirely new stage of their professional life. And the amount of personal and professional obligations they will need to juggle will rarely grow smaller. So it’s important to ask yourself what your long-term personal and professional goals are and how you want to achieve them.
Right now, it’s time to think about what work you want to pursue in medicine, where you want to live or raise your family, where you might want to travel or what opportunities there are for you abroad, and what kind of lifestyle you want to have.
How to plan your future successfully
Medical school and residency are long enough, and you’ll want to know what your future after residency looks like without taking a gap year to do some soul-searching. Whether you’re a first-year resident or still in med school wondering how to choose your medical school electives, start your searching and planning now. Start asking yourself questions and keep yourself open to opportunities in the field of medicine. And in life, too!
If you’re already in the midst of your residency, you’ve likely already answered some of these questions and made plans. Or maybe you’re still unsure what your future career looks like. Wherever you’re at, there are some key factors to consider as you plan your career post-residency.
Interested in seeing an overview of some of these key points covered below? Take a look at this infographic:
Start thinking about specializations early
It’s recommended to start thinking about your specializations early on in your medical career. If you’re preparing for your clinical rotations, these are an excellent opportunity to explore medical disciplines and start thinking about specializations. You might already know you have an interest in surgery and want to pursue it as a specialization, or maybe you’re keeping your options open. Whatever the case, start your search early and search broadly to narrow down which medical disciplines you enjoy and which you don’t.
If you’re debating between two or more specializations, make a pros and cons list to evaluate how you feel about each. Research the opportunities in your area in the chosen disciplines, or look in other cities or abroad if you hope to make a big move once your residency is done. Consider how the pace and amount of work in your specialization will impact your lifestyle, your free time, and your schedule in the long run. Are you currently in a place in your life where you could move to another city to apply for a residency program? Considerations like these will help you sketch a big-picture idea of how your work and home life will combine.
A big item to consider is student debt. Certain specialties are more lucrative than others, and will allow you to pay off your student debt and start earning a high salary that much quicker. Considering how much medical school costs and the average medical school tuition in the US and Canada, student debt is a huge factor in career and life planning. Be sure to add a budget and financial planning when weighing which specialty you want to pursue.
Write down your goals
Once you’ve done sufficient soul-searching, take out a notebook and write down your long-term professional goals. What specialty do you want to pursue? What hospital do you want to work at? Do you want to practice medicine in another country? What do you want to do after your residency—a medical fellowship or start a private practice? Maybe you’ve now decided to complete your MD without a residency and not delve into a specialty at all. It’s important to know what goals you have for your future as a practicing physician, so you know what steps are needed to achieve them.
Writing down your goals gives you a concrete manifestation of what you want to aim for, and studies show you are more likely to take active steps towards them if you write them down and review them often. Jotting them down also allows you the chance to adapt or change them as your life changes, too.
The same goes for your personal goals. Write down what you want to accomplish or list the commitments you need to take into account. Do you want to have children? Get married? Have you bought a house? Did you want to travel or live abroad? What kind of lifestyle do you want? It’s important to consider how your personal goals will intersect with your professional ones, since your work may take you to places you didn’t expect, or you will find yourself looking for professional opportunities in a new place after a big move. Although you won’t be able to predict every life event in your future, you should consider your personal responsibilities and plans when planning your professional future. Your career goals don’t need to be inflexible or set in stone, but it’s important to set some anyways, so you have a clear trajectory to aim for.
As we mention above, take any opportunity during your time in med school, clinical rotations, and residency to explore various disciplines and specialties in the field of medicine. Sometimes the only way to know if you enjoy something or not is to try it, and medicine is no different. Having a variety of experiences in medicine will help you confidently choose a medical specialty you want to pursue as a resident and beyond, and bolster your future career planning.
The type of specialty you land on might also inform what residency programs you apply for and what professional opportunities you consider taking. Keeping an open mind will also help you do away with any uncertainty when it comes to setting your goals. It helps you achieve clarity and focus on what specialties you want to pursue and which ones do not fit with your interests and personality.
Research residency and fellowship programs
If you’re not yet a resident, or you’re still preparing your residency application for ERAS or CaRMS, do some research on the programs available to you. Determine which ones match your interests, skills, and career goals. Start creating a list and rank your residency choices to start winnowing down the options if you have too many.
Researching programs ahead of time will also give you an idea of the most competitive and least competitive residency programs, which ones might interest you and if they can help further your long-term career goals. These programs may have further resources to help you in your journey, including resident career counseling. This can be an invaluable resource to you as a medical student in starting this process of career planning and setting goals for your future.
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What is resident career counseling?
Resident career counseling is a resource for residents in training to provide them with information, counsel and advice in making their own individual career choices. It’s meant to assist residents with their career planning post-residency. Resident career counseling can also help you prepare their residency CV, provide guidance on their residency personal statement and how to tackle the residency interview, among other things.
Resident career counseling is offered by medical schools and will often be made available to students as they prepare for their residency training in med school. There are also several medical organizations and institutions which offer resident career counseling resources and information for residents. Private companies, such as BeMo, also offer personalized, one-on-one help and advice for residents, which can be an advantage over the general counseling services offered by med schools with hundreds of other students. First and foremost, resident career counseling aims to help you plan for your future, but they offer a variety of services and advice on residency and career prospects afterwards.
How resident career counseling can help
If you’re ready to apply for residency programs, it’s important to do your research. You might want to know how competitive the programs you’re eyeing really are, or how long is the residency program you want. Talking to a resident career counselor can also help you definitely decide whether you want to apply for that internal medicine residency or if you’re inclined towards a family medicine residency. Resident career counseling services can provide feedback based on your interests or your residency rank list on what programs might suit you and your career aspirations.
After your residency training, there will be some career options available to you, which all require some advance planning, too. If you choose to further specialize your medical knowledge, or apply for a fellowship, you’ll want to consider these options ahead of time to prepare your medical CV, applications, and your next move if it requires changing cities or even countries. Resident career counseling can provide further information on next steps and requirements or guide you on crafting a great CV. If you’re looking to become a practicing physician, you’ll need to create your medical resume and start looking at job opportunities available to you, in which case you may want a second set of eyes. Resident career counseling services can provide guidance, advice and help you hone your writing or interviewing skills, too, as you prepare for professional job interviews to make a good impression.
Your medical residency will be some of the most significant years in your journey as a physician, and it is a huge step forward in your professional life. It’s also a key part in deciding how the remainder of your career as a doctor will look. Resident career counseling can help you to prepare for your residency and life as a physician, both personally and professionally. Counseling can also be an excellent resource in developing the hard and soft skills of your profession and push you towards the medical specialty you want to pursue.
1. What is resident career counseling?
Resident career counseling is a resource for medical students and resident doctors to help them with their residency and job applications and future career planning.
2. What services do resident career counselors provide?
Resident career counselors provide a variety of services, from helping students apply for residency programs to feedback on their CVs and cover letters, to career advice and recommendations for achieving that work-life balance.
3. Do I need to be a resident to look into career counseling?
No; in fact, the earlier you start thinking about your future path as a physician, the better, since you’ll have more time to set goals, plan and adapt your plans as you move through medical school.
4. Do I need resident career planning?
It’s not a requirement of your medical studies, but it’s definitely worth considering for any part of your journey as a med student and physician. If you feel you need some advice or guidance on choosing a specialty, applying to your residency, or exploring your career options, it’s recommended to look into career counseling.
5. Does career planning for medical residents help?
Resident career planning can be very beneficial to medical students and residents to not only set their future professional goals and develop a plan to achieve them, but help them develop the skills they need to maintain a good work-life balance.
6. Is it hard to balance work and life during medical residency?
Your medical residency will undoubtedly require a good work-life balance, especially as your personal and professional responsibilities and commitments continue to grow and change.
7. How long is my medical residency?
The length of your medical residency will depend on the specialty you’ve chosen in the medical field.
8. Where do I find resident career counseling?
Resident career counseling is offered by most medical school programs, but students can also find resources through medical organizations and colleges, as well as private companies like BeMo.
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