‘Work experience’, from the Collins English Dictionary:
1. experience of working ⇒ You don't appear to have any work experience at all.
2. (mainly British) work experience is a short period spent in a workplace, usually by young people, to learn what it is like to do that kind of work ⇒ I'm going to do work experience in a factory.
Why should you even bother with ‘work experience’?
What exactly is the point of work experience? After all, you already know what you want to do, you are going to apply to medical school, so why bother with the extra hassle of work experience - isn’t it just a waste of time?
Good questions, but you need to carry out some work experience so that you can find out whether or not medicine really is for you or not and whether it is all you would hope. It is always best to test the water before jumping in, especially before investing an enormous amount of time and money in preparation for it.
This vocation is not just about science, or even medicine - it’s about people and the lives that are affected every single day. It is for this reason that medical schools look very closely at the work experience an applicant has undertaken, and what they have learned from it.
There are three roads that you can go down, in order to satisfy this particular requirement, and you should look at each before deciding which would be better for you and your personal circumstances.
● Work experience
● Work shadowing
● Voluntary work
Work experience does exactly what it says on the tin, and is useful for finding out what it is that a particular job involves. Work shadowing is what you probably expect it to be; you literally ‘shadow’ an individual while he, or she, goes about their daily duties.
Voluntary work is the same as a regular job, with duties and responsibilities and this can be part-time, holiday or ‘cover work’.
Work experience can be paid, but it may not be in an area that particularly interests you - this, however, should not stop you as long as it is relevant.
You can also use these opportunities to discover something about yourself, things like what you actually enjoy doing and what you are able to cope with in real world situations - discovering your innate abilities is a great way to push your own boundaries discover that you can do things that perhaps you never knew that you could.
You’re allowed to change your mind
Of course, as a result of your ‘work experience’ you may well decide that medicine isn’t for you. If you are determined to begin a career in the field, but with something not quite so demanding and intensive then there are certainly other avenues to explore:
● Speech therapy
● Special needs teaching, and more besides.
Get in early
There is something like 10 applicants for every opening, so getting in early is crucial - and doing it with the right qualification and, yes, work experience is going to make all the difference with your chances of success.