CS Radio Episode 4: Volunteering

episode 4

In this week’s episode, you can learn all about our upcoming Clinical Volunteering Mixer from Carol Hagan, Associate Director of the Pre-Graduate & Professional School advising team.  Meanwhile, Michael and Mylène talk about how to best feature volunteer experience on your resume and why volunteering is just as valuable as work experience.  As usual, you also get a look at the week ahead and highlights of upcoming Career Services programs.


A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development

By Hannah Peterson (C ’12)

“Wow, that’s so amazing. I wish I could do something like that!”

“I’m so jealous of you. You’re actually going to be helping people, while I’m sitting stuck at my desk all day”.

“That’s such a great decision, I wish I had decided to travel while I was young.”

These were the responses I heard over and over again by my friends, classmates and family when telling them my decision to move to Nicaragua to work for a community development non-profit after graduation.  There were feelings of jealousy, regret and paralysis, and I couldn’t understand it, because there was absolutely nothing stopping them from making my same decision.

As I was starting my final year at Penn I was stuck in the age-old dilemma of coming to terms with my future. I put on that pants suit I had spent treacherous hours searching for in the mall the summer before.  I bought myself one of those fancy leather Penn folders and I pasted a smile on my face.  I walked around the OCR career fairs pretending like I was enjoying what I was seeing.  I went through all the motions as I thought I needed to, yet I kept having the feeling that I was choosing the best of the worst option.  Their pen design is better, so I must fit in there.  That recruiter gave me a ping pong ball with the company’s logo on it, they must have a fun work environment.  When trying to write my cover letters it was painful to find reasons I wanted to work at each firm.  In fact, what I found myself searching for on each of their websites was their charity work they in order to convey any genuine interest in my statement.

Continue reading “A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development”

What should freshmen be doing with their summer?

Most Penn freshmen have just settled in on campus before their in-boxes get flooded with emails about different opportunities. So, I am not surprised that freshmen are often concerned about what they should be doing over the summer.

For some students, the summer is a great time to kick back and hang out with their friends and family. Others might wish to use their three months to try out a career idea, to gain new skills and experiences, or make money. Penn freshmen have spent their summers writing plays, competing in sports, babysitting their siblings, doing community service, traveling abroad, taking classes, and working full- or part-time jobs.

The options are unlimited and there is no right or wrong answer. My bias is that students should do something, ideally something that they don’t get to do during the other nine months of the year. I also think that they should be careful not to spend so much of their time during the Spring semester searching for that perfect internship.

So, for instance, I spent the summer after my freshmen year in Hong Kong working at a university because I wanted to travel and speak Chinese. The job itself was boring, but everyday I got to interact with Chinese people and eat good cafeteria food. The summer after my sophomore year, I got an internship in advertising. I share this because what students do each summer don’t have to be a spectacular career move.  Just be productive and deliberate with your time.

So, what should freshmen be doing over the summer? To answer this question, weigh your priorities and also consider whether these priorities are best met during the summer after freshmen year. So, what is most important to you?

– To save money
– “Build resume” or meet people in a particular industry
– Try out a potential career or major
– Help people/community
– Learn something
– Check out a new city/country
– Spend quality time with family and friends
– Catch up on sleep
– _______________

If you want to see examples of other things Penn students have done in their summers, check out the Summer Survey Reports posted on the Career Services website.

Professionalism and the Pre-health Student: Beyond “Please” and “Thank you.”

by Carol Hagen

We talk a lot about “professionalism” at Career Services and, on the whole, people seem to listen.  The email I receive is invariably gracious and thoughtful and I routinely conduct mock interviews with well tailored and poised applicants.  But what about outside the boundaries of “sincerely” and a clean white shirt?  The qualities of professionalism beyond the reach of Emily Post are also important, particularly for pre-health students.

"I'm a professional." http://my.aegean.gr/gallery

While working or volunteering in a clinical environment or research setting, it is vital that you conduct yourself in a professional manner.  Lapses in professionalism make a strong impression on faculty and staff, not only in terms of your personal relationship with supervisors and colleagues, but in maintaining clinical and research opportunities for other pre-health students. How eager is Professor X going to be to offer a lab position to an undergraduate after two people have quit when mid-terms came up?  Does the hospital need to give access to volunteers who bring their friends along with them to a shift or disregard other rules, all of them important?

Know that health professions schools take professionalism amongst their students very seriously.  Students are routinely written up by faculty when areas of concern emerge and studies have shown that medical students who demonstrate unprofessional behavior are more likely to receive disciplinary action from state medical boards down the road.  Unite for Sight has a super (and free) online guide to volunteer ethics and professionalism — read it!  Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • Consider in advance whether the opportunity is a good fit.  It’s unfortunate when volunteers do not fulfill their commitment to serve because they find their time unsatisfying.
  • Show up on time, be polite, and ask questions when uncertain.  Follow all rules and procedures.
  • Be humble and open to all opportunities to learn.
  • Respect boundaries and your work environment.  Patients are not friends.  Flip-flops, for example, (and I do love them) are not appropriate or safe in the hospital or lab.
  • If you make a mistake, tell somebody.  It won’t be easy, but communicating errors is seen as a sign of maturity and professionalism.

Access to a professional research or clinical environment is a privilege.  Maintaining a positive attitude and open communication with your supervisors will help you make the most of your opportunity and ensure that others will do so in the future.

411: Rural Medicine

You probably know that rural medicine isn’t all tomahawk lacerations and rabies cases unless you’ve viewed too many episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (DQMW to fans), but you may wonder why you should think about it.  After all, many of you came to Penn to be in a big city and plan to stay in one.  But consider the following points:

  • You may have the option to do a clinical rotation in a rural area during medical or dental school.
  • You may speak too generally about the “projected physician shortage” and “underserved areas” in a medical school interview, revealing your lack of knowledge about current issues in the field.
  • You might apply to one or more rural medicine programs thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t mind living in the country (and the mean GPA looks promising)” — a less than compelling reason to apply.
  • Rural practice might be for you.  Dr. Quinn went to medical school in Philadelphia, but the frontier offered better opportunities.  Okay, she isn’t real (just real cool with her old-timey stethoscope); however, some people change their career plans after trying a rural rotation or residency.  And some of you may be interested in rural medicine programs, but should learn more about them before putting them on your application.

The AAMC’s January 2010 edition of Choices: The Careers in Medicine newsletter has a detailed profile of the field, from day-to-day life on the job to opportunities to train in a rural area in medical school.  Another excellent resource is the National Rural Health Association.

The Frontier Nursing Service’s Courier Program offers a clinical volunteering opportunity to spend six to twelve weeks in an eastern Kentucky community.  You can also find the program on Facebook and read blog entries written by a volunteer from Dartmouth.  Some Penn students have made their own arrangements to volunteer at rural hospitals and clinics close to home or near a relative.

Currently, the U.S. federal government’s National Health Service Corps offers up to $145k in medical school loan repayment in exchange for five years of service providing health care in an underserved area (not exclusively rural) and 50k for two years of service.  On Facebook?  You bet!

Sadly, the Bring-Back-Dr.-Quinn-Medicine-Woman movement on Facebook has burned itself out — choked on its own fervor — and will leave Facebook on October 1, but don’t let that stop you from checking out some of the links above!