Personal statement: tips for writing about work experience
Writing about work experience forms a large part of your personal statement, it is what shows medical schools that you are keen on understanding and experiencing what a medical career is. Whether your work experience was in a hospital, care home or a charity, it's important to reflect on this in your personal statement. In this article, we will be speaking specifically about how you can do this, and what the work experience section of your personal statement should include. For a more general guide on personal statements, check out our course here.
How many experiences should I include?
We recommend including at least 2 experiences from either your voluntary work or work experience. Although it would be ideal if one of these was medically related (e.g., GP/hospital), this isn't strictly necessary – and the main thing is that you reflect on whatever you experienced, regardless of whether it is clinical or not. It can be tempting to just list out all the work experience you have had, but it's much better to select a few and to unpack that experience and reflect on it. Admission tutors appreciate that it is difficult to organise clinical work experience (especially during COVID), because of this, they are more focused on what you have learnt from your experience. For example, if you observed a cardiothoracic surgeon for a week and didn't learn anything, it's useless to include this in your personal statement – they would value a non-clinical experience more if you have learnt from it!
How do I write about my work experience?
When writing about your work experience, it is important that you reflect on the situation; avoid just listing out your experiences without writing reflection points. A good tool to use when reflecting is the STARR technique.
- S ituation – Describe the situation or problem you experienced. What happened? Where was it? What did you see?
- T ask – Describe a task you had to do in the situation, and why this was important. Was there anything particularly memorable about the situation?
- A ction – Any obstacles you overcame in the situation, and the actions you took/actions you saw someone take.
- R esult – The outcome of the situation
- R eflection – What you did this time, and what you would do to tackle the problem next time. What did you learn from the experience? What did it teach you about medicine?
For example: Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills?
- Situation : I was the captain of my school's basketball team.
- Task : This meant i had to lead the team so we can achieve our main objective, which was to win the end of year tournament against other schools.
- Action : I organised regular basketball practice sessions in preperation for matches, and I delegated tasks between team members based on their strengths and weaknesses. I ensured that the team stayed organised and that myself and the team would keep up with our specific roals.
- Results : This meant that at the end of the year we were prepared and confident for our basketball matches, and we ended up winning the cup for our school.
- Reflection : Being both a team leader and member meant that I learnt how to communicate with people from different strengths and abilities. Despite being so individually different, we all combined our strengths and were successful in the end. Although it did feel like a lot of pressure sometimes, working in a team and being organised helped alleviate this. In my work experience and voluntary work, I have seen the importance of leadership and teamwork in Medicine, as this allows patients to receive the best possible care. I look forward to further developing my skills in this area as a doctor.
What else can I include?
When writing about your work experience, as well as reflecting on what you have learnt and seen, it is a great chance to mention the downsides of working in the medical field. Work experience, particularly in clinical fields gives prospective medical students a good idea of what they can expect from medicine (it's why they want you to have this experience before applying!). Writing about this in your personal statement shows that you have also thought about the negatives that come with medicine, rather than the so-called glamorous side which is often portrayed in the media. However, it's extremely important that you word this in a positive tone.
" I saw that there were a lot more patients than doctors, and this made me realise how stressful medicine can be".
Although this shows that you have reflected on the realities of medicine, it makes it seem as though it is not a career that you would motivated to pursue. Instead, it would be better to focus on the positive aspects of this. For example:
" Seeing the high number of patients compared to doctors made me appreciate the importance of time management and efficiency in doctors".
This instead focuses on key words such as time management, and at the same time gets across that you have seen the realities of medicine and how it may not be as glamorous as it seems. This shows admission tutors that you are positive, but still realistic about a career in medicine.
How can I get help with my personal statement?
It's safe to say that writing a personal statement can be very overwhelming and difficult. We understand this and have experienced it too – for this reason, we have put together a course how to approach writing your personal statement. As well as this, we provide 1-on-1 tutoring with our Elite Programme where your personal statement will be reviewed by our tutors. If you would like to find out more about our Elite programme, you can apply here!
Written by Mahsa Kabuli