by Lorien E. Menhennett
Good things do not come to those who wait.
I don’t believe so, anyway. You must plumb the deepest depths, travel every street and avenue. I learned that as a journalist – the stories certainly didn’t come to me; I had to hunt them down like a bloodhound. And I developed a good sense of smell.
It’s coming in handy now. Because unfortunately, as they say, it’s often not what you know, it’s who(m) you know. That’s how you get opportunities – from good stories to good shadowing or volunteer opportunities. And I don’t know many people in medicine. So I’m trying to find some. I’m trying to create educational opportunities for myself. I want to learn. I just need a venue. First, I need someone to believe in me – to trust that I am honest, serious, motivated, trustworthy, reliable. You don’t get that if you cold-call a doctor’s office and ask whether you can shadow one of the physicians. Why would they agree? They wouldn’t know me from, well, Eve.
So where can I connect? The other day it dawned on me: my alma mater. UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for those who don’t know) has an extended network of people from all walks of life (including doctors) who live in the Chicago area. How to contact them … wait, I’m a member of Always Illinois, UIUC’s equivalent of LinkedIn. So I went online and searched for health care practitioners who were willing to offer career advice or opportunities (that’s one of the search filters you can apply), nixed the veterinarians, and was left with three or four MDs in the Chicago region. And we’re talking high profile, well-respected, experienced physicians who have been doing their thing for a good while. I messaged them all, briefly explaining my situation/background and asking whether they had any advice or help to offer a fellow UIUC alum on volunteering or career shadowing in medicine. The way I figure, I have nothing to lose. Even if they all completely ignore my message, I have neither gained nor lost anything. And they all willingly put down on their profiles that they were willing to share career advice, so I’m just taking them up on their offer.
I heard back from one of the alums within an hour. By the next day (today), after looking at my CV, he had offered to meet with me. He gave me his assistant’s e-mail address and told me to set something up.