Hello and welcome! This is Part 3 of my six-part, “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog.
If you are new here, be sure to check out Part 0: My Background to learn more about my motivations for publishing this series, and information that would give a LOT more context to the information that I will be discussing!
Previous Part: INSERT LINK
And if you missed it: Part 0 – Part 1
My “Unconventional” Internships
I feel that out of all of the things I did in undergrad, the one thing that made me the most “insecure” was my unconventional internships–unconventional as in, while other pre-med students opted for full-time volunteering over the summer, MCAT studying, or biomedical research opportunities, I had spent all three of my summers before senior year in the realm of public health, two of which (summers before junior and senior year) with a consulting firm.
Though I certainly felt like it was a disadvantage to do two summers with a consulting firm, I feel like there were a few pros in doing so. In addition, for a while, I genuinely thought I would be spending my gap years in life science/healthcare/public health consulting, so it was a valuable career-exploration period for me. Furthermore, it gave me real-life work experience in the corporate/professional setting–something I don’t see a lot of pre-med students going out to do because most people opt for, like I said, research or volunteering over the summers.
I think I initially came to the field of consulting because I wanted to be able to apply statistics into some form of health-related field. The job itself (both summers) actually turned out to be not-at-all statistics related, which was disappointing, but I did a lot of thinking and learning on my feet. If you could think about learning in your undergrad to be learning with depth, consulting was definitely about learning breadth. It’s not my favorite, but useful and valuable in its own way.
Through consulting, I also had a lot of professional experiences (whether that be conflict resolution, professionalism, meeting etiquette, or just the ins-and-outs of working in a firm: believe it or not, there’s some nuances there) that I doubt I would be exposed to if I had chosen a summer internship in research or volunteering.
Going into my gap-year job search, I panicked a little bit because my experiences were so “unconventional”; the “cornerstone” activities on my resume was business research (you can read more about that in my previous blog post) and two summers of consulting. Sure, there does exist doctors who worked in finance or consulting before, but I almost felt like those individuals decided to go for a career change after they’ve established an initial career in finance or consulting. I, on the other hand, wanted my initial career to be in medicine.
I had an interview with a doctor regarding a gap-year research position, and he noted that on my CV, I spent a chunk of time with these experiences. Instinctively, I mentioned that “I know it’s not conventional…” and he cut me off–“not at all,” he said. He told me there were plenty of doctors like that, and not to worry.
In any case, my experience with consulting gave me a compelling reason and good work experience in my gap year job search. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% related to what I want to do, but pursuing this in the past hasn’t held me back in any way. Sure, having never worked in a wet-lab meant that I got rejected from all the wet-lab jobs, but that was never my intention (bench work) anyway.
I’m thankful to have been exposed to a field that seemed entirely unrelated to medicine. If I were to do this differently, I think I would have chosen to do something different my last summer (i.e., only did consulting for one summer and done research the last one). However, it was an experience for growth and I don’t think I would have realized such a push towards medicine without it. This brings me to my next point:
I mentioned in my last post (where I specifically talked more about volunteering during the school year) that I became interested in volunteering with older individuals the summer before my senior year.
I was looking for volunteering opportunities near me online and realized that there were a lot of hospice agencies looking for volunteers (later, my volunteer coordinator explained to me that they have to actively seek out volunteers–it’s funding related, if I recall correctly). I contacted a couple, and one of them got back to me before too long.
From there, there was an informal interview/orientation, and I was matched with an older individual part of the hospice agency. My job was simple–it was just to be a friend to them, and visit every so often.
I don’t think I realized how this would shape my views on wanting to become a physician. I knew early on in my life that I wanted to be a physician, but while working full-time in the summer with the consulting firm and volunteering with hospice in the weekends, the difference in my heart was so clear and obvious to me: I loved waking up on the weekends to visit the older individual I was paired up with, and I didn’t feel the same way going to my nine-to-five job. It just brought a sense of happiness in my heart, knowing that I was able to help someone in some small way. This was something I never felt in the summers during my full-time job, and this was the push I really needed to start (more aggressively) pursuing my dream of becoming a physician.
This post was a little bit more anecdotal than I intended, though I feel like what I had to say throughout all of this is to not be afraid to be “different”–even if it’s something as strange or “unrelated” as consulting. It has taught me a lot, but moreover it gave me a sense of direction, something I really needed.
Yes, there are things I would change about my summer internship decisions, but I don’t regret how I’ve spent my summers. At the end of the day, it didn’t hold me back in any big way when it came to searching for gap year positions, and I feel like it brought me invaluable insight with regards to the professional working environment.
I’ll see you guys back here next week with some resources of planning out our health career!