Understanding Personal Branding
Why is a personal brand important?
Telling the world who you are in a simple and straightforward way can be more complicated than you might think. However, developing a clear way to present what makes you unique is vital, whether you’re pursuing professional opportunities, applying to med school, or simply meeting new people. It’s especially important for a field as competitive as medicine.
Conveying your strengths and interests will take practice and exploration, so don’t get too frustrated or discouraged if this exercise seems elusive to you at first, and you can’t seem to create a personal brand right off the bet.
What is a personal brand?
A brand is not just a jumble of random adjectives that you use to describe yourself — it should be built on the meaningful stories that you’ve communicated and that your audience (friends, family, teachers, the admissions officers) has processed. The process of identifying, crafting, and refining the narratives that will communicate your brand is an iterative process.
For a start, think about times when you have felt most authentic, alive, positive, and productive; when you have stood out from others; when your uniqueness made the difference between success and failure; and when you’ve fully embodied the brand you want to have.
Defining a Personal Brand in Medicine
Crafting Your Mission in Medicine
It’s not just about listing down academic achievements and awards, or completing volunteering just to tick off boxes— building a good personal brand requires insight and specificity. When branding yourself as a future doctor, you will want to go beyond the main truism of “helping people” and “an interest in science”.
Yes, you want to be a doctor, but so does everyone else applying. Your brand is your story about what makes you uniquely qualified as a medical student and future doctor. Your story, in turn, is based on your academics, extracurricular activities, and personal experiences. Can you find a coherent throughline across all your experiences? How do you communicate to the admissions committee that you have what it takes to thrive in the medical world?
Building Blocks of Your Personal Brand
Starting on your journey to medical school means immersing yourself in healthcare. If you're a student thinking about medicine, ask yourself why you want to be a doctor. It's not just about writing your personal statement or getting into medical school. It's about trying different healthcare experiences to figure out why you truly want to be a doctor.
It's more than just following what society or your family thinks about medicine being a great career. It's about truly expressing why you feel drawn to the complex world of healthcare. By being active and intentional about getting involved in different healthcare experiences and viewpoints, you should be able to clarify your reasons for choosing medicine, finding your passion beyond outside pressures or shallow reasons.
Once you’ve started to acquired a number of experiences in healthcare spaces— it’s time to start asking some deeper questions:
- What parts of medicine do you see yourself thriving in? Do you enjoy the more academic, research-driven portions? Or do you prefer the idea of interacting with patients?
- Would you rather practice in big medical centers with the latest, most up-to-date equipment and technology? Or would you rather spend some time in more rural, smaller settings—making an impact in underserved communities? What draws you to each of these settings?
- What experiences or skills will you need to acquire and improve on to show that you can take on this mission?
These questions can serve as seeds to create a meaningful mission statement.
Translating Mission into Brand
A brand, however, is much more than a mission statement. It’s all the work that goes into making that mission statement real and substantive.
This means doing further research and reading in your own time, participating in webinars to learn about new healthcare initiatives, spending your weekends volunteering, seeking out any clinical experiences you can. When medical school admissions committees see the alignment between mission and experience, they know the candidate is someone worth considering.
Ultimately, the difference is in the details and specificity. It is unlikely that you will have a vastly different profile from candidates—but the ability to reflect, to think deeply and show care and intentionality throughout your experiences—that is what is going to set you apart.
Demonstrating Your Qualities
Exercises and prompts to get you started
Your medicine portfolio also includes a short essay about why you want to be a doctor. The typical applicant will write something containing the following:
- When I was young, I was very troubled when my grandparents/parents fell ill
- I was so inspired by the professionals who tended to them and the care that they demonstrated
- I have always had a penchant for the sciences, I love learning about new things especially as it pertains to the body
While these are fine statements, they are generic and will not stick in the mind of the admissions committee at all.
Key Components of a Strong Medicine Portfolio
Technical Skills and Competencies
As a doctor, you not only need to have a strong grasp of scientific knowledge but you will need to maintain it throughout your career. You'll also require clinical and practical skills, including:
- Theoretical knowledge: Being well-versed in the sciences and understanding how the body works.
- Clinical competency: Gaining both micro and macro perspectives on symptoms and the ability to investigate and relate findings to illnesses.
- Practical skills: Developing manual dexterity to perform surgeries and procedures.
Strong foundation in academics
Medical schools consider applications holistically, but a rigorous curriculum and the demands of the medical profession place academic excellence as a top priority. You need to prove your ability to handle theoretical and classroom knowledge, which forms the foundation of medical school, with other skills building upon it. Intellectual curiosity also indicates a genuine interest in learning new knowledge, a trait vital for success in medicine.
Strong academic indicators include having at least three As in science subjects at GCE-A-Levels, scoring 44 on the IB, maintaining a high cumulative grade point average in high school, and achieving good scores on tests like the UCAT. Additionally, students engaged in research projects and extensive reading can demonstrate their intellectual curiosity.
Can you empathise with what others are going through? Does it pain you to witness the suffering of others? Do you wish you could alleviate pain and improve health?
Medicine is no walk in the park, and not just anyone undertakes the arduous journey of medical school, years of residency with 12-hour shifts, and more studies without genuine compassion and a strong commitment to serving the community.
To show compassion and community service, use the "show and tell" method. You can demonstrate your compassion through actions, like volunteering in your community, and talk about it in your personal statement. Volunteering can take many forms, such as:
- Helping the elderly or tutoring underprivileged children
- Offering skills that are in demand, like bookkeeping for non-profits
- Supporting events promoting health
Remember, talking about volunteering isn't just listing activities in your application. It's about sharing your feelings and thoughts from your volunteer experiences. These reflections show that you have genuine compassion.
Lastly, let's talk about problem-solving skills. Doctors face tricky situations daily. Some are life-and-death decisions, while others involve complex choices with many factors.
Some examples include:
- In emergencies, doctors must prioritize patients and coordinate care.
- Ethical dilemmas require doctors to balance principles for the best patient outcomes.
- In diagnosing conditions, doctors analyze test results and patient symptoms.
You don't need to diagnose or triage patients before medical school, but admissions committees want to see your ability to think critically and find solutions. Decision-making is a valuable skill, and if you've faced tough situations before, it shows you can handle them in a medical setting.
How can you demonstrate your problem-solving skills? Candidates often face situational judgment tests or interview questions. You can also talk about challenging situations in your personal statement.
Show Your Academic Excellence, Compassion, and Problem-Solving Skills
Becoming a doctor is a challenging journey, and admissions committees want candidates who can succeed. They look for academic excellence, compassion, and strong problem-solving skills. Combining these qualities gives you the best chance of becoming a doctor.
We hope this guide has given you valuable insights. Use them to strengthen your academic profile and personal development as you pursue your dream of getting into medical school.
Examples of Strong Personal Branding
Applicant Profiles and Narratives
This applicant, despite facing financial constraints, founded a community health initiative in their neighborhood. They noticed a lack of accessible healthcare and took the initiative to organise health education workshops and assist with free health check-ups for underserved individuals. Their leadership and commitment to community health demonstrated resilience, initiative, and a passion for making healthcare accessible to all.
Having experienced a family member's chronic illness, this applicant delved into research related to the condition. They actively collaborated with researchers, contributed to studies, and presented findings at conferences. Their dedication to understanding the condition, coupled with their scientific contributions, showcased their intellectual curiosity, research acumen, and empathy towards patients suffering from similar illnesses.
These examples illustrate how personal branding can stem from diverse backgrounds and experiences, each showcasing unique qualities, values, and strengths that resonate with a medical school's aspirations. Whether through community initiatives, research endeavors, or transformative personal experiences, crafting a compelling personal brand involves emphasising one's distinctive journey and the values that drive their pursuit of medicine.