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How To Be [Truly] Competitive In Medicine

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The medical journey is long and competitive. 

And when you combine a long hard road with some of the most ambitious kinds of people – you’re guaranteed to end up with stress and anxiety. 

But as of this writing (10+ years into my medical journey) I realized that you can be competitive without excess stress. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s newsletter!

I’m going to share how to be competitive on the medical journey by: 

  • Creating the perfect resume that sells itself
  • How to impress decision-makers without sucking up 
  • A simple tactic that will separate you from the pack 

Let’s get into it!

1. The Perfect Story-Based Resume

I was guilty of doing all of the extracurriculars in college I thought medical schools wanted to see. 

Did I care for all of them? Nope. 

Did I do them anyway – yep. (I thought I needed them to get into med school)

Only problem? My application started to look like every other medical school applicant out there. It became hard to separate myself from my peers. 

So I made some quick changes!

Instead of asking – “what else can I add to my list of experiences?”…

… I began to ask what experiences resonated with me, why, and what similar opportunities I could seek out for my own self-interest. 

For example in medical school, I learned through my experiences that I didn’t care about joining student government, doing endless amounts of community service hours, or doing loads of research. 

I learned that enjoyed teaching and mentorship. 

And with more opportunities to do these two things – I doubled down hard. 

This is the reason why I began to share tips on TheMDJourney & YouTube and enjoyed doing things such as being an Anatomy TA or peer mentor. 

Why did this matter though? 

Now my resume began to paint the picture of someone who was interested in teaching and mentorship and wanted to make that a part of their future medical career. 

I didn’t have to BS that answer during my interviews – my experiences spoke [in depth] about them. 

So if you currently have a “diverse” by thin application – begin to take inventory of which experiences really got your juices going. Which did you feel that you would do again even if you couldn’t add it to your CV? 

Double down on those experiences and continue to craft your future journey and story based on the experiences that continue to resonate. 

(If you want to know the best ways to maximize each phase – then this is for you). 

2. Impress Decision Makers With Ease

Let’s make it clear – no one likes a suck-up. 

But in medicine, it almost feels like you have to do some of this to impress the right people 

In reality, you don’t. Quick story time to share why I learned this wasn’t necessary. 

Later in medical school I was considering internal medicine as a possible career path. Everyone told me it would fit my personality and interests. 

So I was excited to spend my 8-week clinical rotation and see if I enjoyed it. 

The first 4 weeks – amazing. I loved it. 

The final 4 weeks – at a different hospital – were dreadful. 

Why? Because I was too focused on impressing my attending who was a key decision-maker for the residency programs. 

I thought if I made a good impression then I would set myself up for success. 

But for any med student – there’s not always a clear line between impressing and sucking up. 

Fast forward and I unfortunately kept learning that my attending wasn’t that interested in med students, our grades, our stories, or trying to build a connection with us. 

So I was trying to impress my “boss” each day vs. just coming in to learn more about internal medicine and my patients. 

That 4-week experience almost led me to not pursue internal medicine. I’m thankful I didn’t let it hold too much weight. 

But it also showed me how you can impress with a lot more ease. 

Here’s how. 

1. Focus on just showing up and working hard. 

Once I just focused on asking where I could get better, how I could better care for my patients, and how I could help the team – I began to get dramatic feedback. 

In fact, I had several instances where attendings would offer [unprovoked] to write me letters of recommendation if I needed one. 

This is what you want. 

2. Make your interests clear to decision-makers

There’s still something to be said for making it clear of your interests with those who have a say. 

When I was considering internal medicine and planning for residency – I made it very clear with my mentors and attendings that I built a good rapport with of my interests. 

In turn, they took what opportunities they could to let that be known to decision-makers. This ultimately got me into my #1 residency program for IM. 

I did the same for my cardiology fellowship. I made it clear to mentors where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do as a future cardiologist. 

Same result. I got into my #1 choice for cardiology fellowship because the decision makers went to bat for me. 

(This only works if you focus on step #1). 

3. Always Make Progress

It’s easy to impress when someone can see growth and a shift from your starting point. 

If you do this proactively by self-reading, asking good questions, and learning from scenarios that you may not be responsible for (other patients, cases you weren’t involved in, etc.) – you will grow just based on the reps you receive. 

It’s easy to impress when you look like a “fast learner”. In reality, not enough students try to go the extra mile to improve thus everyone just looks like a “slow learner”. 

3. Reflect To Impress 

This is one of the best return on investments you can have. 

If you want to look like you’re “well put together” – it’s not as hard as it sounds. 

After any meaningful experience do the following: 

  1. Collect that experience in a central hub. This can be a word doc, Notion, phone app. You pick. Just jot all of your experiences in one place. 
  2. Reflect as soon as you can on your takeaways, lessons, likes, and dislikes after each experience. 

The second step allows you to store your real-time perception on that experience. It helps you understand what you enjoyed/disliked. And thus you make it easier for yourself to go back to our first point of doubling down on experiences that resonate with you. 

It also becomes easy to copy and paste your takeaways into your applications and share them on your interviews. 

But because you took the time to give a few minutes of though to your experiences – you will look more polished and reflective…

… and thus more competitive. 

Now these are some of the simple yet effective tactics that helped me be competitive at every phase of the journey. 

I hope they can help you do the same!

Here are few action items to make the most of this post:

  • Begin to take inventory of your current obligations – which ones do you actually like and would want to double down on?
  • Ask if you’re going into experiences to impress or to grow, learn, and impress by proxy
  • Create a central hub of your experiences and take 1-2 minutes to reflect on them as soon as they happen. 

Hope these help you on your medical journey & remember I have tons more for you here. 

Until next time my friend…

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

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