How social media and networking is aiding my medical application and how it can help yours too
So until lockdown, I have mostly used the powers of google and email to find and secure opportunities to aid my medical application and build a healthy CV. To be honest with you, that has been brilliant and my CV and medical application were looking healthy with volunteering, work experience and other opportunities lined up. Then covid happened and I’m honestly so glad (from an opportunities perspective, not the intense suffering and loss felt by so many) that it did. Here’s why.
Has anyone ever told you it’s not what you know but who you know? Well I’ve been told that and as someone with zero medics in the family (or even friends), this seemed a tad unfair. I didn’t consider for a long time that I had any control (or at least very little) over who I knew so the whole process of gaining work experience and opportunities seemed very unfair. To be honest it is easier for some than others to gain work experience but we have more control than we think.
I first properly heard about the idea of networking last summer at a brilliant free event called ‘Empowered by Vee’ in Oxford which is going virtual this year. I had heard about Linkedin before but honestly thought it was just a platform to promote your business and I didn’t have a business so why on earth would I be interested? That day I set up a Linkedin page and hardly used it until lockdown. I have really reaped the benefits ever since I started connecting with people, sharing what I was doing and using the platform to find amazing opportunities which I don’t think I would have found without Linkedin. For example, the opportunity to write on this blog came about through Linkedin and it’s one of many awesome opportunities that I’ve had (and you can secure too!).
So you may be wondering how to start building your own network and finding these opportunities yourself. There are two main things that you need to do. The first is to start sending out connection requests- lots of them! Make these relevant to the career and industry you’re interested in. I searched for medical students, doctors, aspiring medics and people involved in health as an industry. Eventually, Linkedin will start recommending related people to you so it takes a lot less effort to connect with people. Connections don’t appear by magic so you have to seek them out yourself, especially in the beginning. The next step is to update your profile regularly by posting and adding your experiences to it. As well as this, check your feed regularly and engage with posts and opportunities. If you see someone doing something that you’d like to do, either look it up or ask them about it. Scrolling through Linkedin is one of the only times that I don’t feel guilty for scrolling through social media so it’s a win win!
One thing I’ve been really surprised about is how nice people are on Linkedin. (Some people are a bit too nice so watch out for that- I have been asked for my phone number a few times which I won’t give out online). I often get messages offering to answer any questions I might have or offering opportunities. Private messages is where I find a big chunk of opportunities and I would say to really engage with this. Through talking to really lovely professionals and students, I have been able to have some of my questions answered and also secure some brilliant experiences. The amazing thing about Linkedin is that the more you put in, the more you get out so we really do have control over who we know. It might seem a bit slow at the start but stick with it to really unlock the power of networking.
So what have been my takeaways from the past year? I would say my biggest tip is to put yourself out there. When I have left my comfort zone (both in real life and online), some amazing things have happened. For example, I had a great conversation with someone from a CCG on a GP placement and he offered me work experience. I asked for his email and took him on the opportunity despite how nerve wracking it felt at the time. As a result, I had an amazing work experience placement in February which has helped me a lot since. So leave your comfort zone because if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Finally, know that you can seek out opportunities no matter what background you come from. Having to seek out my own opportunities has made me more resilient and more self-motivated. Not every experience works out (look at covid for example) but I am then so much happier when things do.
You’ve got this!
Written by Aimear Wolstenholme (student who has engaged with Medsimple programmes)