When people look for a “way in” to a particular field – an internship or first job – they often search for positions that promise the greatest prestige or financial reward.
But there are other, more meaningful rewards to consider
For one, a job that allows you to learn can be worth doing, even if it doesn't pay well.
Other more prestigious, well-paid positions will be available to you later, and the practical knowledge you gain from those early, poorly paid jobs will ultimately pay off for decades to come.
Consider my first job in the medical field.
When I applied at the campus health clinic, the only position available was an hourly position in the basement. It was far removed from patients, and I was working for campus minimum wage (which at the time was a whopping $4.25 an hour) as a medical records clerk.
This "entry-level" position gave me a foot in the door, and after a couple of months of filing records in the evenings, I transitioned to a "float."
Soon I was "kicking it" with the doctors, PAs, and medical staff. Later, I met a college senior working in the laboratory as a student phlebotomist and technician. She became a close friend who would eventually pass her time-honored position on to me.
It was here, in the lab, that I worked alongside a medical doctor turned lab technician from India who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.
I became close acquaintances with a physician assistant who ran the campus orthopedic clinic and let me hang out from time to time.
Later, it was these phlebotomy credentials (not my four-year degree in biology, mind you) that I used to obtain employment after graduation. It was the supportive campus health center staff that would go on to write the letters of recommendation that were surely a part of my acceptance into PA school.
I never made enough money to buy more than my annual bus pass and pay part of my living expenses. But the knowledge, the resources, and the connections I gained were priceless.
Stop Acting Entitled - It's Time to Rethink The Meaning of Work!
Take a look at this timeless 2011 TED talk by Charlie Hoehn, author of The Recession-Proof Graduate - How to Land The Job You Want by Doing FREE WORK (FREE download)
Many masters made a similar choice in their early years
Consider boxer Freddie Roach: he chose to take an unpaid position at a boxing center, using his time to develop the skills necessary to his professional career. Ultimately, his decision paid off; Roach eventually earned far more money than if he’d taken a different, paid job early on.
For example, in his youth, Charles Darwin rejected both a place at medical school and a well-paid job in the church. Instead, he convinced his father to allow him to work as an unpaid naturalist on the HMS Beagle, where he could study exotic plants and animals. The observations he made during that voyage helped him to develop his famous theory of evolution.
Or consider Benjamin Franklin, who – rather than taking over his father’s lucrative candle-making business – chose to work at a printing business. This meant a far longer apprenticeship and financial uncertainty. Still, Franklin recognized he could use this position to learn how texts were composed – a skill that would later benefit him greatly.
Your Inner Calling
Have you ever had the feeling that a discipline or field was tailor-made just for you and that working in that field is your destiny?
Then you need to trust that feeling and do whatever it takes to make your destiny a reality.
Each of us is unique – an original, through and through. Due to the endless possible combinations of DNA in our bodies, we are a one-off phenomenon.
Like snowflakes, no two humans are exactly alike.
So why is it, then, that we don’t all act unique?
Due to incredible social pressure to blend in, we suppress our uniqueness in the vain hope that just doing what everyone else does will keep us out of trouble.
Rather than using your energy to blend in with the crowd, recognize instead that you’re unique and that you have a particular calling in life, which can be found quite simply by listening to – and following – your inner voice.
As I write this now, I sound bold and fearless, but when I first approached the campus health center in hopes of finding a job and some medical experience, I was terrified.
I lacked self-confidence. I doubted my inner calling.
But what I didn't doubt was my desire to help other people.
My "calling," or whatever you want to call it that led me to believe that a career in medicine was even a possibility.
A lot of people spend their time making excuses instead of making solutions!
Some excuses I hear all the time:
- There are no jobs out there to gain experience - Then do what I like to do - offer to work for free. Then see where you are in a month. If you play your cards right, this may be the best investment of time you have ever made.
- PAs don't want to let me shadow - Call one up and invite them out for coffee. Or, if that sounds scary, write a personal hand-written letter and drop it off at their office. Explain to them how much you want to help others, why you dream of being a PA, how you admire them, and their position and value their work. Hell (although this might come across as stocking, so be careful :-)) you could even schedule to make an appointment then work it into the conversation. Then ask them if you could buy them a cup of coffee and pick their brain - I have had a patient of mine do this. We are still friends to this day! For an excellent example of this process in action, watch how these students approached the task.
- I am not smart enough - This is fear taking over. If you struggle (I hate math, for example), then do whatever it takes to figure out how to get through it. In 2016 with the dawn of the Khan, Udemy, Coursera, EdX, etc., etc. There should be no more excuses!
- I have a family - Granted, I didn't have kids when I attended PA school, although I have two now and a wife that works. Having a family doesn't mean life should stop. It just means you need to get serious about time management, assess your priorities, turn off the TV, and make the time. Not sold? Take a look at how this PA school Dad, and this PA school Mom made it happen.
- I am too old - I attended PA school with a 56-year-old post-doctorate student with a previous degree in psychology. I work with a 62-year-old NP who decided he needed a new challenge. I work with a 75-year-old PA who loves her job. Life is about learning; it is never too late.
I can't, I don't, but I, I'm not . . .
These are self-limiting words that will hold you back.
Next time you see yourself making excuses stop! Just stop, and reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking of all the ways you can't do something, start thinking about the ways you can instead.
Change your worldview, and the view of the world will change with you!
I am not even sure where this blog post started, but I like how it turned out...
Take-Home Points and Action Steps
- Your primary goal as a new physician assistant or as someone hoping to become one shouldn't be immediate success or money, but to learn as much as possible.
- Follow the advice of Charlie Hoehn - Rethink your definition of work, stop acting entitled, choose an area you'd like to work in and get some skills, then contact "targets and prove your worth!
- Listen to your inner calling.
- Be Unique... i.e., Be yourself.
- And finally, stop making excuses! As my dad always says, "excuses are like armpits, and they all stink." Change from a limited to a limitless mindset.
That is a lot to absorb in a blog post, but hey, life is short - So get GOING!
Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog post. I wish you the best on your journey, and I hope you have a beautiful day!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
View all posts in this series
- Use this Interview Hack to Get The Physician Assistant Job of Your Dreams!
- The Physician Assistant Job or PA School Interview – Email Etiquette
- The Physician Assistant Interview: Thank You and Follow-up (With Sample)
- Your Main Goal on Your Path to PA Shouldn’t be Immediate Success or Money, But to Learn as Much as Possible
- Use VisualCV to Create a Stunning Physician Assistant Resume
- The 10 Best Websites for Physician Assistant Job Search in 2023
- The 10 Best Cities for PAs to Move to in 2023
- 10 Reasons Why Physician Assistant/Associate (PA) is the #2 Healthcare Job in 2023
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant Cover Letter
- The 4 Most Common Reasons PAs Quit Their Jobs