I was talking to some younger colleagues recently and they were asking me for some advice on how to choose their future specialty. You can certainly find a huge number of detailed and comprehensive articles/posts, which serve as a great guide. However, I decided to make this short post and give some advice from my personal experience, to whoever is interested.
1. Take your time
It is not a competition. I repeat, it is not a competition! Some students come to Med school with their mind already set on a particular specialty. Some others wanted to pursue a certain path since they were 10. That’s great, really!
However, some others come to Med school just because they love Medicine and helping others, and that’s all they know. That’s absolutely fine, too! It’s very easy to feel guilty when you see others knowing exactly which specialty to follow, while you are still undecided. Are you not interested enough? Are you lost? Is there something wrong with you? No, absolutely not. The time will come when you’ll know which is the right path. Till then, enjoy your every moment in this amazing field and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
2. Be true and honest with yourself
“You should pursuit specialty A…”, “No, specialty B matches your personality better”, “Specialty C has these advantages”, “No no, specialty C is not good for you, it has these disadvantages”, “What if you choose specialty D? There are not many doctors with this specialty in this city/county”.
Of course you need to consider many things when you are choosing a specialty. And everyone, friends/family/the patient in the ward/the old lady who sells eggs in the farm market, will probably want to give you some advice, whether you ask for it or not. But in the end, you have to be honest with yourself and:
3. Think about how you want your every day to be
For example, you might like the idea of Acute Medicine and find fascinating the power to save someone whose life is in immediate danger. But it’s different if it happens 1, 2 or 10 times in your career, and it’s different if you choose this as a specialty and face this responsibility every day of your life. Can you handle it, with its ups and downs? If so, go for it!
Plus, it’s not only about what you can handle, but also what you enjoy! You might be a very hard-working student, who can handle pressure, long hours of studying, standing for 10 hours not stop, intense night shifts.. The fact that you can handle things, however, doesn’t mean that you enjoy them. Something might be difficult and drain your energy, leaving you empty. However, something can be equally difficult, but pleasantly challenging, fulfilling and exciting. Which specialty will make you feel the latter?
4. General interests
We have seen people who like sewing becoming surgeons. And we have seen totally opposite scenarios, too. It does not mean that the answer lies in your hobbies -they can be absolutely different. However, for some people, the answer is right there. Are you one of these people? Just give it some thought.
When you narrow down your preferences, start trying them out. Something might look good, but might not work for your personality/lifestyle. Shadowing and electives are absolutely great, at this point.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask
Find Doctors who are practicing the specialties that interest you and don’t be shy to ask them questions. In the worst case scenario, they will be too busy to give you answers. In the best case scenario, you might find a Mentor to guide you and support you throughout your Medical journey!
7. Start working on your CV
With electives, extracurricular activities, even hobbies. They will support your CV but also teach you what your likes and dislikes are. Experience different things and learn more about yourself from them!
8. Never too late for a change
We are constantly learning, adapting and changing from our experiences. Something that you believe to be crystal clear and set when you are 18, might change by the time you are 25. Do not be afraid of saying “no”, to something that used to be “yes, for sure”. You are not the same version of your past self. Be true to yourself and follow your intuition, even if it’s different than the road that you had initially chosen. The people who love you will understand, and the others will just not care.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to decide which specialty to follow? What do you think about the points I’ve mentioned? I’d love to read your comments!