One thing that I believe is most important in accomplishing any goal is networking and building relationships with those around you. Everyone has something special to offer, and you never know what new things you can learn from the people around you. Don’t be afraid to contact someone in the field that you are interested in and ask for advice. This is how I was blessed to receive many shadowing and volunteer opportunities in addition to the wonderful mentors that came along with them. It also helps to join various organizations.
One organization that I recommend for all minority pre-medical and medical students is the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). I first became involved with this organization when I was a college freshman, and it has opened so many doors for me. Every year they have an annual medical education conference, and this is where thousands of minority students gather to become empowered and educated in medicine. The first time I attended one of the conferences I was blown away at the thousands of minority medical professionals and students that I came across. It was the first time in my life that I ever saw a large group of people who looked like me and had similar goals in life. It was also the first time that I was ever exposed to osteopathic medicine. All of the conferences I attended were eye-opening experiences, and I had the opportunity to network with many people who I would have otherwise probably never met. I will not have the opportunity to attend this year’s conference that will be held this April in Washington, D.C., but if you have the chance to do so I highly recommend it. Not only do they have information for both pre-medical and medical students, but they have information on post-bacc and graduate programs as well. If you would like more information on the organization, feel free to check them out at www.snma.org. Once I start classes I also plan on joining both the student and national osteopathic medical associations (SOMA and NOMA), and I believe all of these organizations will serve as great resources in my journey to becoming a physician.
On top of organization involvement, carrying around a business card can help you with networking. It does not matter if you are a student. Just make sure that you have your contact information and your field of study. You never know when you might run into someone who can really help you get to the next level, and it is so easy to hand them a card rather than look for a pen and paper. It is also more professional in my opinion. Social media can serve as an excellent platform for networking as well. Whether you have a Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, or other account, it is important to keep all your information current and professional. I have oftentimes not been able to find an e-mail address for someone, but have had access to their Facebook page. It never really hurts to contact someone that may be able to help you or offer advice. The worst that person could do is ignore you or say no. Networking will take you so much further with your goals than doing it alone will. Just remember that no one gets to the top by themselves. There will always be someone out there with more experience or a different outlook that can benefit you in your success. Networking allows you to come in contact with the right people and it will help make the journey into achieving your goals a lot easier.