“What are you going to do after you graduate?” As a senior in college in 2013, I heard this question often. I played it off cooly and said I was “considering my options,” but I honestly had no clue what I was going to do. I was applying to jobs left and right and attending career fairs, but nothing seemed to be working. Graduate school was the furthest thing from my mind. Now, as an incoming medical student in 2019, I can look back at my journey with pride because it made me a better person.
Having working experience before graduate school helped me mature and gain the skills I need for the next step in my life. Graduate school is a big commitment, and you want to do it for you - not for your parents or friends. Here are five reasons why working before graduate school paid off.
My first job after graduating from college was working as a Marketing Assistant at a publishing company. The job was not in healthcare, but it still reinforced the skills and character traits needed to be a great professional: responsible, hard-working, attention-to-detail, etc. Working at that job actually gave me the clarity I needed to pursue medicine. I wanted to work directly with people and guide them in their healing process. That clarity gave me the strength to leave publishing and prepare for medical school.
Working in the field you are interested in before going to graduate school can really help in understanding the type of graduate school experience you want to have. I have been fortunate enough to work with youth, and I know in medical school I want to continue working in underprivileged communities. I also learned that I want to work in a collaborative environment where people support each other.
Getting experience in your chosen field before committing to graduate school can introduce you to amazing mentors who will help you on your journey. I met great mentors while doing a summer internship with Health Career Connection. One wrote me a recommendation letter for medical school. I met great friends during my internships who have gone on to go to medical school and get great jobs in healthcare. As you go toward your authentic health career journey, know that you cannot do it on your own.
You Get Paid!
Graduate school is expensive! Having a job and saving money can help when applying to graduate school and when it comes time to pay tuition. Learning how to manage finances is also an important skill to have for graduate school.
Resilience and Character
Being in the workforce before graduate school taught me the importance of having integrity and being resilient in the face of issues. The biggest lesson I learned is to not just think about myself all the time. Working with underprivileged youth opened my eyes to the true issues that impact people’s lives. There were days when I was tired, and it was a struggle to get ready. But then I remembered the students, and I knew the work I do is bigger than myself.