Archive | August, 2010

Planting seeds: get what you want by asking more

Being in medical school has opened up many doors and presented a vast number of opportunities. As a medical student, it is very easy to say get an opportunity to shadow any type of physician in an affiliated teaching hospital – something much harder to do as an undergrad or high school student. The same goes for research opportunities. It is much easier to approach medical researchers for opportunities to work with them if you are already a medical student. I think it’s because as a medical student, it is more likely that you will remain in this field, and thus your contributions become valuable both in the short term as well as potentially leading to long term contributions (e.g. a medical student doing cardiology research is more likely to end up being a cardiology researcher than an undergrad or high school student, since they have already made it through into medical school).

That being said, securing these types of opportunities and getting people to say “yes” are still challenging, no matter who you are. When emailing potential researchers to work for, it’s not uncommon to be rejected – let alone ignored completely (yes, this does happen to everyone!). I myself have had emails ignored, and trust me, it can be frustrating.

The wrong way to look at it is to let the frustration get to you mentally and emotionally and discourage you from asking again. However, the way you should react is simply to ask more. Get rejected? Ask someone else. Keep asking over and over until you get what you want, and be willing to search for new opportunities and new people to work with if you have to.

I call this the planting seeds method. You shouldn’t expect to get a yes on the first, second, or even third attempt. You should be willing to plant a lot of seeds if you have to. Realize that in the end, all you might need is one or two yes’s. Sometimes that will take a hundred seeds, but if you’re ‘willing to put in the work, it isn’t that hard.

So you got a rejection. How long does it take to just copy and paste your email to someone else? Realistically, not very long. If you send enough emails, ask enough people, you’re bound to find people who will say yes.

And this goes beyond asking for research opportunities. Looking for a job? Be willing to plant many seeds and send out many resumes and job applications.

Moreover, realize that your probability of success goes up when you plant more seeds not just because you are planting more seeds, but because every new seed you plant is likely a better seed than the previous – that is, you are likely to learn from your previous method and become better at asking/applying or whatever it is you’re planting.

So please don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. If you’re thinking of giving up, don’t – just plant more seeds.