Monday, January 16, 2017

Thank You Notes

Clients ask me what's the best way to send post-interview thank you notes - email versus snail mail. I advise the latter, sending hand-written notes. Email can be viewed as less labor-intensive or thoughtful.

You can still get the notes in quickly: Put them in the mail the morning after you've completed your interview. Some applicants even bring blank thank you notes to the interview day, complete the cards after their interviews, and leave them with the program coordinator.

Your thank you notes should be written on plain cards and sent to every faculty member you conversed with one-on-one. If the residency coordinator helped you with a difficult scheduling issue, for example, writing to him/her would be wise too. Within reason and if written cordially, a thank you note cannot hurt you (unless you have been expressly asked not to communicate after the interview day).

Consider them low-hanging fruit.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Check Yourself Before you Wreck Yourself: Your Residency Application

As we approach the time to submit your rank order list, it's imperative that you understand how to organize your list.

Don't try to outsmart the algorithm by putting programs with more residency slots higher on your list or by prioritizing those that have given you good feedback over those that haven't. None of those factors is relevant in creating your rank order list, and you will harm your chances if you pursue those strategies!

Your first choice should be first. Second should be second, etc. Here's an explanation of the algorithm if you're interested.

Take a look at this under-one-minute Guru on the Go video for further clarification.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Your Residency Application: What to Do if You Receive No or Few Interview Invitations?

1. Don't panic.

2. Try contacting - in a professional manner - all institutions to which you have sent your ERAS. You can send an email and call. When you call, be calm, respectful, and enthusiastic. Do not demand to speak to the program director. Let the person who answers the phone know that you are very interested in the program and would appreciate the opportunity to interview. Offer to be on an interview wait list if necessary.

3. Prepare for the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). Note that SOAP is not a separate program from the residency Match. So a) your main residency Match user status must be active and b) your credentials must be verified by the Rank Order List Deadline in order to participate in SOAP. Here is more information on SOAP. 

4. Make a plan for what you will do if the Match and SOAP don't work out for you. What will you do next year? How will you improve your written materials, interview skills, and overall candidacy? If heaven forbid, you do not have success in either the Match or SOAP, please consider getting help from me or someone else who is experienced. The sooner the better to improve a candidacy and prepare for a re-application.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Understanding How the Match Works is Critical for Succeeding in the Process

Improving written materials and interview skills is important, but all of that work can go to waste if applicants do not understand basic strategies for the Match. In November of last year the NRMP published an article called, "Understanding the Interview and Ranking Behaviors of Unmatched International Medical Students and Graduates in the 2013 Main Residency Match" in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. The data is especially important for IMGs who represented the majority of unmatched candidates.

Sadly, the authors found that some applicants made strategic errors including the below:

- Not attending all interviews, thus failing to capitalize on every opportunity to market themselves.

- Declining to rank all programs at which they interviewed or not ranking all programs they would be willing to attend.

- Misunderstanding the Match and ranking programs at which applicants did not interview.

- Failing to rank programs based on true preferences or ranking programs based on the perceived likelihood of matching.

It kills me to read about these mistakes :(. Here is a simple explanation of the Match algorithm. If you do not understand how the Match works, it is absolutely critical that you learn about it to avoid destructive errors.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Great Opportunity: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science News Writer Internship

Looking for something different to do this spring and summer? The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is offering a paid six-month internship (April through September) with Science Magazine in Washington, D.C.

As some of you know, I was an AAAS Mass Media Fellow in 1995. The program was truly fantastic and life-altering.

In terms of qualifications for the Science News Writer Internship, applicants need to have completed their undergraduate education or be in their senior year of college. They should have interest (and preferably experience) in writing about science for lay people. According to the AAAS, preference will be given to candidates who have published science journalism articles, worked at other science news publications, and/or completed a journalism or science writing program.

The AAAS suggests you visit their job information website to get more information. Applications are due by January 2nd, so get moving!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Your Residency Application: What Do Program Directors Really Want?

If you were a program director (PD), you'd be trying to avoid two big headaches as you assessed a residency candidate:

1) Will this person be competent and collegial? A PD does not want to get complaints from patients, faculty, or other services about his/her residents.

2) Will this person leave the program prematurely? A PD does not want to scurry around to fill an open call schedule/ residency slot.

As you approach your interviews, consider how you can demonstrate your competence and collegiality, as well as your commitment to the field and the residency program. For the former, ensure you showcase academic successes, extra curricular activities that demonstrate teamwork, and - if asked - hobbies and reading materials that demonstrate your personality. For the latter, highlight research projects in the specialty, sub-internships, and knowledge about the program and city.

Making sure the PD knows you are not going to cause him/her headaches is half the battle.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Residency and Medical School Application: Moving Past Impostor Syndrome

First described by psychologists Drs. Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who cannot easily internalize their successes. They often externally attribute their accomplishments to luck and worry that others will eventually realize they are frauds.

Recognize this phenomenon of self-doubt?

You are not alone. Although many people suffer in silence (as they do not want to be revealed for what they perceive to be major deficiencies), the syndrome is quite common, especially in medical school. According to one 2016 study, almost a quarter of male medical students and nearly half of female students surveyed suffered with impostor syndrome. The phenomenon can be associated with depression, burn out, and anxiety.

The American Psychological Association offers a few tips for overcoming impostor syndrome including speaking to mentors, recognizing what you excel at, and talking to a professional if necessary. Here is a piece in Grad Psych for more information.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Balance

This time of year, when the residency and medical school interview processes are in full swing, many of us feel overwhelmed. Here's a brief but thoughtful piece regarding balance. As you consider your future career, it's worth thinking about issues the author covers like clarifying what makes you happy and defining balance. In this day and age, one can choose a traditionally tough specialty but work in a practice setting that allows for some autonomy and flexibility. But you need to know what you want to guide yourself in the right direction.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Your Medical School or Residency Application: What is a Letter of Interest/Intent?

A letter of interest or intent (LOI) is a supplemental note applicants write to medical schools, residencies, and other medical programs to let faculty know of their enthusiasm for an institution and the distinctiveness of their candidacies. LOIs can be written early in an effort to obtain an interview, after the interview to show enthusiasm and to remind the faculty of the candidate's worthiness, or after a wait list notification (for medical and dental students who don't participate in the Match).

The letter should be written in a timely fashion. In other words, there's no reason for a residency applicant to write a letter of intent in late February. The letter should avoid restating the strengths of the institution. Instead the applicant should express his/her interest and then move onto his/her strengths. An LOI should be a page or less.

Please note that some schools and residency programs do not allow post-interview contact, in which case an LOI is not recommended.

For help writing a professional, expert LOI, hire me here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Your Residency or Medical School Application: More on the Squeaky Wheel

Please see my previous blog entry about contacting institutions regarding your status. When you call you can gently say, "I'm attempting to make some travel arrangements and was wondering if you could give me an update on my status." As long as you are polite, you won't hurt your candidacy. (Of course, if an institution specifically requests on their website or brochures that you not call, I would advise against it.)