Written by Ruari McGowan
The first thing you’re going to want to do is prioritise. What is it that you would like to see during your work experience? This doesn’t mean you should pick one thing and focus on that alone, it means you should think of a variety of specialities or settings of Medicine, and consider what you would be most interested in.
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of different things count as work experience – and some are easier to get than others. For example, volunteering in a care home or hospice counts as valuable experience and can be easier to get a hold of than two weeks in neurosurgery.
If you do want to try something more specific, this is where the cover letter comes in handy. This should never be longer than a single A4 page.
Start with a brief introduction about yourself and try to avoid clichés about how you have ‘always dreamed of being a Doctor’ – everyone appreciates originality.
You don’t have to divulge your life story, but it’s good to include just a little bit about where you are in life – for example, applying to Medicine, interested in Medicine as a career, etc.
Next, a little bit of research can be useful. It’s good to personalise your letter a little to each Doctor you are going to contact. It can set you apart from the crowd if you research them and see if they have been involved in any research which you could express interest in, or if they have a subspecialty that they focus on.
You will be noticed if you put the effort in and more likely offered work experience if they think you will be genuinely interested in what it is they can show you. There is nothing worse than a student who is disinterested and doesn’t get anything out of the experience.
Use this research to write a section about why you are interested in what this Doctor in particular does and if you can’t find out specifics, write a little about why you think what they do as a GP or vascular surgeon or oncologist would be interesting to you.
Don’t ask for work experience straight away – do it after you have written the above and make sure you’re extremely polite, explaining what you might like to get out of the experience.
Never say you’re doing it because it’s a requirement for your application – express that you actively want to.
When starting and finishing your letter keep it formal: they don’t know you, so don’t use their first name as this can seem overly familiar. When signing off make sure to include contact details underneath to make it easy for them to get in touch.
To summarise, your cover letter should:
Work experience isn’t the easiest to get and you may well receive quite a few rejections – but a good cover letter is key to standing out and increasing your chances of being offered a placement!
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