To get into PA school, you must network.
Forget being a wallflower, or braving it alone so you can prove to the world that you did it all by yourself. The world doesn’t care how you do it. Do you want to get in or not?
Loners and “heroes” rarely succeed. Now, more than ever, career success is influenced by the connections that you make with others. Why? Our world is busy, noisy, and social. With so many people and so much information out there, being good isn’t enough. Standing out isn’t enough (though it’s a huge help). Often it comes down to who you know. Is that a bad thing? You can argue yes or no, but at the end of the day, it’s a true thing, and that’s all that matters.
Think of being a PA much the same as being a manager. To join management in any company, you need to make friends. You will be making important decisions and directing the care of patients. It requires a great deal of trust from others. To win that trust, it helps to have a few “connections” to vouch for you.
Reasons to Network for PA School
Here are a few of the networking tasks that can make the difference in your quest to start a PA career.
- Finding a mentor
- Finding a PA or doctor to shadow.
- Getting a letter of reference from an instructor or employer.
- Finding a preceptorship.
- Getting your first PA job.
To accomplish these things, you need to network.
How Do You Network?
It’s a big question, but here are 10 tips that can take you a long way even if you’re shy and don’t like to “press the flesh.”
- Get comfortable introducing yourself. Practice reciting a 2-3 sentence summary of who you are.
- When you can casually say something like, “Hi, Dr. Ronert – my name is Kelly, and I’m an aspiring PA student. If you ever have time, I would love to hear about your work,” you’ll make all kinds of connections.
- Tell others how they can help you. People want to feel needed. For most people, there’s satisfaction in helping others who want to be like them. Don’t be afraid to say, “Getting into PA school is tough, and I could really use an ally. Do you think you could answer a few questions for me about your work sometime?”
- Ask people you know about who they know. Don’t feel weird about it. Just ask your friends/family/coworkers: “Do you know any doctors who specialize in…?” Or, “Do you know of any clinics that might be willing to take on a Pre-PA or PA student?”
- Ask, “Who should I make sure to meet?” If you’re at a party, a career fair, touring a hospital, or attending some kind of medical training, introduce yourself, and when you’re done talking with that person, ask them “Is there anyone here that you think I should be sure to meet?” Often they’ll take you to that person and introduce you themselves. When you’re done speaking with them, ask them the same question. Voila! The work is done for you.
- Use Email. Email is a great way to put yourself out there, even if you’re shy. It’s less intimidating for you and the person you’re trying to get to know. Just tell them who you are, and ask them to contact you if they think they might be able to help you. Often, if they can’t help you, they’ll give you the name/email of someone who can.
- Make friends with receptionists. Receptionists are valuable nodes of communication. If you win them over, they will often go to great lengths to help you out, and tell others about you.
- Have a calling card. You don’t need to be a PA, a PA student, or even employed to have a calling card (a calling card is just a business card). For just a few bucks, you can have cards made online and mailed to you with your name and contact information on them. Give them to anyone you run into who might be helpful, or who might know someone else who would be.
- Show gratitude. When someone does something helpful for you in your quest to become a PA, tell them that you’re grateful. Send them a thank you note. If they’ve done a lot for you a small gift, such as a Starbucks gift card is appropriate and appreciated.
- Keep in touch with your connections. I still send an occasional email update to my anatomy instructor. He wrote a letter of reference for me when I was a Pre-PA, and who knows – maybe one day I’ll need his help again!
Remember: to get into PA school, you’ll need the help of others…[subscribe2]