Developing skills and getting career ready during Covid-19

Katie Dallison is the medical careers consultant at Imperial. She’s got over 10 years’ experience working with medical students and doctors. She currently works in the Imperial Careers Service and supports doctors in training for Health Education England.  

We’ve all been affected somehow by the pandemic lockdown. I’ve heard from students who have lost summer research and job experiences, many of you have missed out on placements and everyone’s had to adapt to a new way of learning. So I’ll start by pointing out that you’ve already gained at least one really valuable skill – potentially the most the valuable skill for working in the NHS – adaptability. Ask most doctors and they will confirm to you that the only consistent element to working in the NHS is change so adaptability is key. But what else can you be looking to develop while you’re at medical school? And how can you go about doing this? Here are my top 3 tips:  

  • Learn how to network. As you progress through the medical training pathway, you don’t really need to know the ‘right’ people as UK recruitment is based on how competent you are as a clinician, unlike in many other countries. However, it’s incredibly helpful to have a network of people to help you learn about different specialities, understand changes in the NHS system and offer good advice. It’s also vital to have a network is you’re interested in doing other things aside from clinical work like Medtech, teaching or research. One of the best networking tools is LinkedIn – you can search for and connect with alumni (currently there are over 3500 MBBS Imperial alumni profiles), join groups that interest you and follow organisations to stay up to date (WHO post regularly). If you’d like to learn more about LinkedIn, the Careers Service is running Career Essentials: LinkedIn sessions over summer – check out the timetable via your Jobslive account (log in with your Imperial details and search events)  
  • Look for what else you can learn from every situation. For example, if you’re on placement in paediatrics and interested in haematology, ask your team if they know anyone in haematology, go introduce yourself and ask if you can help with a quality improvement project (QIP). Not only will you gain an understanding of the process of doing a QIP which you’ll need to do in you F1 year, you’ll also meet interesting people who maybe helpful in your future (don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn). They could also suggest other ways you can build specific skills for their speciality or might even offer you some work shadowing. 
  • Look beyond Imperial and the medical world. There are so many great online courses, not specifically for medics out there. Data analysis, programming, leadership and project management to name a few. The careers service has collated many of them on their Covid-19 response webpage. Explore online internships in areas like consultancy where you can develop skills in a different environment that are all very applicable for medicine. In terms of looking beyond Imperial many of the Royal Colleges and medically related associations offer webinars and online training for free – for example the Royal Society of Medicine is running a Covid-19 series that covers a range of interesting topics. Ask other people in your network for suggestions of where else to look. 

Every medical student I meet is different and is after different ideas. If you’d like to learn more about medical and alternate career, check out the Careers Medlearn website or email me directly for a careers consultation. 

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