Do you have a hard time asking for help? Talking to people? There are a lot of veterinary professionals out there who have a hard time with both of these. Veterinarians are notoriously self-reliant and independent. Imagine the early days with the lone vet out there on house calls- you didn’t have a cell phone to call for a consult, you had to Figure It Out. It’s built into the very bones of our profession. I think this must be why I see so many applications and interviews where the individual clearly didn’t ask for help, and it reflects in their work. Faculty are easy resources- they are being paid to teach you, after all. You must ask for help. We’ll see why and how in this post.
Why you need help
1) This is a high-stakes event. If you are applying to vet school, internships, or residencies, there are MANY others also applying for these positions. At one institution where I worked, we would routinely have 200 applicants for six intern positions, and I heard from a friend this year they had 190 applicants for a one surgery residency position. You need the best possible application and interview in order to stand out from the crowd and secure a position.
2) You are not an expert at career progression through veterinary academia. Heck, you’re barely a novice. It would be like someone with no training getting into a boxing ring- you’re going to get hurt. You haven’t been through this process, so you don’t have the experience. You haven’t mentored others, so you don’t have the perspective. Mentors and even peers can provide this experience and perspective.
3) I have evidence you need help. I read materials all the time and think, “Did they even show this to their mother?!?” Simple typos, bizarre sentences, odd flows of logic- all of these would be identified and helped by an outside observer. Many applicants could dramatically improve their application and interview skills by working with mentors.
How to ask for help
First of all, don’t just limit your editors to faculty with whom you have had a long-standing relationship. If they have supervised you on a clinical rotation, or even in a didactic course, you can ask for their help. It’s possible you won’t get a response or will get a “no”, but remember: most faculty are there because of the students. They WANT to help you, you just have to ask!
1) Ask in person. This is usually whenever you see or interact with the faculty member. You can also swing by their office. It’s not hard, just say, “Hey Dr. X, I’m applying for ThisKindOfPosition, would you be able and willing to give me some help with my application?” That’s it! So simple! As always, if you get a “yes”, follow up with email.
2) Ask by email. This requires less timing to figure out- you can send it at any time. It is slightly less personal, though. Particularly if you don’t have a strong relationship with your mentor, email may be a little too impersonal. They may not remember working with you and you may get somewhat tepid assistance if they don’t know you well. If you choose to email, take a similar tack to in-person: a short email along the lines of, “Hello Dr. X, I am applying for ThisKindOfPosition this <timeframe> and was wondering if you would be able and willing to provide advice on the process and look over my materials. Any help you can give would be appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Thank you so much!”
Now you know why and how. Go out there and get help! What obstacles do you experience in seeking out help with your career?