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Fitting blue-collar work into my application

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical Allopathic [ MD ]' started by About28, 05.19.14.

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  1. About28

    About28

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    I recently found out that blue collar work is looked on favorably by ADCOMs and I have a ton of it. When I applied last cycle I just kinda brushed over it because I thought "why would med schools care about blue collar work? It has nothing to do with medicine".

    Now I want to focus on it more because of the amount of experience and sheer hours I have in it, along with the fact that it is looked upon favorably. I have a couple angles of how to work it in but they're pretty undeveloped and I could use some help:
    1) For my PS: To be successful in trades work you need to be a really hard worker and have a great work ethic (still don't know how to wiggle this in completely).
    2) For my PS: Skill with working with my hands
    3) For secondaries or PS: It adds to the amount of diversity I bring to a school. The trades simply have a different culture from academia, and I honestly get a lot of respect from all the trades guys until I tell them I study Biochemistry, then things change. Being able to have friendly and professional relationships with blue collar workers (like myself at the moment) while not being seen as a blue collar worker is really difficult and it's a skill I think is important that not a lot of people have.

    I would appreciate any help I can get with either further developing these ideas or coming up with new ones.
     
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  3. TheWeeIceMan

    TheWeeIceMan And like that... *poof*... he's gone. 7+ Year Member

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    Well, I think having job experience period is what is looked upon favorably by adcoms. I don't think that blue collar, white collar, or no collar changes things much. You can certainly highlight your work experience, but I wouldn't have it take up too much of your application.
     
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  4. About28

    About28

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    Fair enough, but I don't have all that much in the diversity category, does my reasoning for that make sense, in your opinion?
     
  5. TheWeeIceMan

    TheWeeIceMan And like that... *poof*... he's gone. 7+ Year Member

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    It's been a couple of years since I've applied, but my opinion would be to save the trade work for secondary essays (like a diversity essay) and not focus on it in your PS. You can make this work to your advantage, but you don't want to use it too much or in the wrong places. I can't really comment on exactly what would be the best way to spin your trade work, but I think you can get some good secondary essays out of it.

    Maybe one of our adcoms can weigh in, but that would be my advice.
     
  6. okokok

    okokok 2+ Year Member

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    I think #3 is valid, but I wouldn't really write about it in your personal statement (or if you do, only mention it in a passing sentence) unless it truly is related to "why I want to be a doctor." If you do go the route of #3, I'd use your work experience to support the main point of why you want to work with rural populations (for example. I don't know if you do or not).

    I think you might be overestimating the amount of weight that admissions committees will give your work experience (though what do I know about what they think or do--though there are hundreds of people serving on admissions committees in this country and they each weigh things differently) but I do think it's very worth writing about on your work and activities section on AMCAS. I say this because I think that's the section interviewers most pulled from when I was interviewing, and they seemed almost relieved that I had things listed there that were different from the usual things every applicant has. They seemed to enjoy talking about my unique things (your blue collar work experience in your case), which made them like me, which made them recommend me highly to the admissions committee.

    So in summation: I think your work experience will do you more favors in the interview stage rather than the initial pre-interview stage, and I wouldn't put it in your personal statement unless 1) it had an effect on your desire to be a dr or 2) you can tie it to wanting to work with rural and/or uneducated populations (if you do).
     
  7. kyamh

    kyamh 2+ Year Member

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    I wrote about my work experience (copy center technician, think kinkos) as one of my "most-meaningful" experiences to get extra room to talk about it. I worked more hours there than I did anything else - including coursework/studying - for four years. My work experience plays a big role in how I approach situations and I wanted to express that importance in my main application.
     
  8. URHere

    URHere 7+ Year Member

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    I agree with others - secondary essays are the place to point out all of the work experiences that make you unique. Trying to fit them into the PS and tie them meaningfully into your desire to pursue medicine will probably require quite a bit of stretching and BSing on your part, which isn't really the best approach. Unless you want to practice medicine because of these experiences, leave them out of the PS.

    I agree that mentioning them somewhere is a good idea, though. I had many blue-collar jobs (what I like to call the farm work, cocktail waitressing, and stage management triple threat). Those things came up in just about every one of my interviews.
     
  9. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    Be sure to describe your jobs and hours in the experience section.
    If true, describe in the PS how you have developed empathy for the working class having walked a mile in their shoes. Tell a story about learning from them, getting to know their customs and their issues. That is valuable information when you have people like these folks as patients. It is astounding how many med students have never interacted socially with anyone over the age of 25 who did not have at least a college diploma.

    Working with your hands and not being afraid of hard work is good, too.
     
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  10. gonnif

    gonnif Only 1426 Days Until Next Presidential Election Lifetime Donor 7+ Year Member

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  11. Zach Morris

    Zach Morris

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    Yea this information can be fit into the PS, but I wouldn't really emphasize it as much as you are thinking. Maybe it instilled in you a work ethic that you wouldn't have had otherwise. Also, that it has made you down-to-earth and will allow you to connect with a diverse population of patients. But I agree that this is more for the supplemental question of what you bring to a school that is unique. It's not everyday that an adcom meets a candidate who can ace the MCAT and make a perfect mitre cut with a circular saw. So it is also an interesting point for discussion in an interview. I had a wealth of construction experience going into my application cycle. I used it in my PS to some degree and also in my supplemental essays. PM me if you have any qs about how I fit it into my PS.
     
  12. type12

    type12 2+ Year Member

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    Making less than the AdCom/Interviewer = very good ("overcoming adversity! Good job!").
    Making more than the AdCom/Interviewer = not so much ("even though you were supporting a 10 people after a family suicide, you're still after the money and don't care about people").

    Blue collar work usually falls under the first group, so you're safe.
     
    Last edited: 05.20.14
  13. DokterMom

    DokterMom 2+ Year Member

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    OP, I think your 3 analysis points are right on target. If your family background is blue-collar, then you're embodying the bootstraps story, which is appealing. If you just happened to work in/enjoy the trades and have learned the culture, then it's useful in a diversity/relating to others way.

    Guess the real question is if this genuinely is the basis for your PS, or just a story line you can use. Why do you really want to be a doctor?
     
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  14. About28

    About28

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    Well I've walked more than a mile in their shoes, its my life! I do find it difficult to describe all the skills that working in various trades have given me. Aside from the ability to tell if a plumber is trying to take advantage of ignorance, its helped me with work ethic, conflict resolution, time management and ego. There's nothing more humbling than working the lunch shift as a janitor in a middle school; those kids don't care one bit that I have an A- average in Biochemistry at a very respectable institution. But one of the most important things this work has shown me is that I want to get out of manual labor ASAP!

    I'm going to agree that maybe I was a little overzealous with including this in my app. I other unique things I've donr that are worth mentioning too!

    Would you mind elaborating on this "bootstraps" story? This sounds a lot like my life. Pops and my brother are both carpenters, Mom works for the government and my uncles work for the rail road, so I'd say we're all pretty blue collar. Aside from my mom, I'm pretty much the only one to aim for a college degree
     
  15. DokterMom

    DokterMom 2+ Year Member

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    This is pretty much the definition of a 'bootstraps' story -- Pulling yourself up [the socioeconomic ladder] by the bootstraps. It's a variation of the 'rags to riches' story, where the protagonist starts out in a hard-working working class family and through native intelligence, hard work and ambition, makes a success of his life. Some versions have hard-luck origin stories (Dad drank and beat up on Mom and me); others are poor but proud, 'salt of the earth' versions (We knew the value of hard work and valued education as a way up). But whatever you own story, you've probably seen it in the movies or could write it up as a Lifetime movie script. Your choice how to spin it...

    Another question is if you want to go back to the neighborhood as a doctor after you graduate?
     
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  16. About28

    About28

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    I would say that I'm way closer to my parents knowing the value of hard work and being super supportive, but I know exactly what you're talking about. My PS already accidentally embodies this a little, so that's good news. I see a two issues with this, sounding cliche or sounding like I'm trying to claim I'm disadvantaged. I don't think I'm disadvantaged at all, my parents worked hard so I could have the opportunities that I have. Thank you though, this was really helpful!

    P.S.- Threads like these are why I love SDN. Genuinely nice people trying to help each other in a meaningful way and bringing really interesting perspectives together.

    Edit: My dream is to come back to my neighborhood as a doctor! My town is pretty small but unfortunately it's a pretty average suburb, plenty of doctors around
     
    Last edited: 05.20.14
  17. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    OK, you aren't a cardiologist's son who worked a summer on a construction crew -- you are born and bred blue collar. That is such a rare thing in med admissions. We aren't as concerned about the skills like knowing how to layout a staircase (there's plenty of math there) or mop a floor as having an understanding of the human condition. Think of it as cultural...
     
  18. About28

    About28

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    Sorry to bug you but I tweaked a part of my PS a little and this is what I came out with:

    "Indirectly through my father, I saw the effect of culture on a person’s health; because of the extent to which the trades helped my father achieve success in life, he taught my brother and me his and other trades. This training helped me acquire a job as a trade’s assistant, where I learned various skills that will assist me for the rest of my life. One thing I learned of is the perceived cultural gap between highly educated professionals and blue-collar workers. This gap causes many tradesmen to avoid visiting the doctor at all; it is difficult for them to build a comfortable relationship with this highly educated, white coat toting professional. I have personally seen this perceived gap ruin two families and seven lives. No doubt, a routine examination would have caught prostate cancer early in its development, not after it was far too late. A comfortable relationship, like the one I saw between my grandmother and patients visiting the office she worked at could have saved these fathers and husbands."

    Ignoring any awkward phrasing (that'll get smoothed out) what do you think of this? I've seen stuff like this happen way too often and it looks to be preventable. Seemed worth it to mention, but then again it could be too corny or sad. Thoughts?
     
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  19. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    That's pretty good. It doesn't blame the victims or the physicians. You could tighten it up a bit: "A routine exam may have caught their cancers at a curable stage, not after it was too late." There is always a bit of doubt so "without a doubt" should go.
     
  20. Wasted Energy

    Wasted Energy

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    Man, this really needed to be said. It amazes me how often people will see blue collar work experience on a resume or application and then say things like "it's great that you walked a mile in their shoes." And this is by no means a knock to LizzyM, as I'm sure she's right about how rare "born and bred blue collar" applicants are. It just kind of catches me off guard when someone assumes that I'm "sampling" the working class when they see trade experience.
     
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  21. About28

    About28

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    I assume that you've had blue collar experience too? If so, have you noticed what I was talking about in my PS excerpt from my last post? Because I see it a lot and it's a shame
     
  22. faw20

    faw20 2+ Year Member

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    My suggestions are bolded above. I'm not on a med school admissions committee, but I have read plenty of personal statements with residency applications (no... This type of essay does not go away once your admitted).
     
  23. Wasted Energy

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    I do see people actively avoiding the doctor, but it's hard so say if it's because of intimidation due to the education/class disparity or simply because of financial reasons.
     
  24. DokterMom

    DokterMom 2+ Year Member

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    I like it. But if Dad is/was a carpenter, why not simply use the C word? Or plumber, electrician, mechanic, tile-setter, painter? You distance yourself unnecessarily when you use the generic (and PC) "trades", undermining your essential message, which is, essentially, an honest pride in a job well-done. If part of your message is the harm caused by these perceived class distinctions, you'll need to be sure your writing doesn't perpetuate them. (A bit of a tightrope, I'll admit.)
     
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  25. URHere

    URHere 7+ Year Member

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    I agree with this. You may just be using "trade" to gain some sense of anonymity here, but simple and direct is the way to go with your actual PS. When I applied, I listed my father's job as "Home improvement contractor" and most of my interviewers were a bit confused until I rephrased it as "Window installation guy". Just something to think about.
     
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