What Specifically Can I Do To Become Professionalized?
The preceding ideas provide a useful starting point, but we need to take things a step further to help you plan out some specific actions you can take through which you can continue your own professional development.
Job Shadowing, Clinical Observation, and Interning
A critical first step in your professional development is to arrange, as soon as possible, job shadowing, clinical observation, or internship experiences with people who already work as professionals in your area(s) of interest. Doing so early in your exploration can help you decide for certain whether a given career is the best choice or whether you need to continue exploring different areas. For instance, if you are considering both nursing and respiratory therapy as possible careers, then arrange to shadow both nurses and respiratory therapists in a variety of settings - hospitals, clinics, retirements homes, and so on. Or, if attending medical school or a physical therapy program is your goal, you should undertake clinical observation of people working in a variety of settings within those professions. Students interested in law school can gain exposure to the legal profession by, for instance, interning at a law firm or committing themselves to law-related volunteer activities. If you are a high school student and your school has a shadowing and observation program or offers classes that involve such, we strongly encourage you to participate in them.
Do not delay this important step in your professional development. For further advice on the types of experiences appropriate for your desired career path, consult those sections on the HPPLC website which are devoted to your specific area(s) of interest. Also visit HPPLC's Internship and Research Opportunities page. In addition, the Career Development Center offers internship courses and internship databases, and the student-run Council for Advancing Student Leadership (CASL) offers a Professional Mentoring Program that connects students with mentors from the professional community. Since there is no central location at IUB for internship and mentoring information you will also need to keep your ears and eyes open for opportunities.
In addition to shadowing and observation, performing volunteer work ("service work," "community service") is also an important part of any professional development plan. It is sometimes required for admission to a given program, but regardless of whether or not it is required, volunteer work is one of the best ways to develop professional skills (see Skill Development, below). Furthermore, by volunteering you simply become a better citizen and a more mature person, which are rewards in their own right, and ideals which are often undervalued in our 24/7 culture.
If you are prehealth or prelaw, visit the HPPLC page for your area to see what kind of service is most suitable to your goals. Also visit HPPLC's Volunteer Opportunities page. Feel free to sample different opportunities until you learn which are best for you given your circumstances and area(s) of interest.
All students interested in professional programs should take advantage of any connections they might have, such as family members or friends of the family who are members of the given profession, or anyone who knows someone who is a member of the profession. These connections can sometimes open the door to shadowing, service, or internship opportunities. Some old-fashioned leg work is usually involved in arranging such opportunities as well. For instance, some students have had success scouring the yellow pages for the kinds of businesses, practices, and firms associated with their area of interest, making a list of two or three dozen of them, and then delivering a well-crafted résumé and cover letter inquiring about internships, shadowing, volunteer opportunities, or setting up an informational interview. Also keep an eye out for networking events like those offered through the Career Development Center. The Council for Advancing Student Leadership (CASL) offers a Professional Mentoring Program that connects students with mentors from the professional community, and attending HPPLC-sponsored events is another way to meet people from a variety of areas and backgrounds.
Participating in Events, Clubs, and Organizations
Any activity that helps you become a more experienced, enlightened, skilledl person can become part of your professional development. For instance, explore the listings of student clubs and organizations and see if you can find two or three of interest in which you can become involved. If you become actively involved with a student organization, opportunities will usually come about to take on a leadership role of one kind or another (e.g., president or vice-president, treasurer, eventsor recruitment coordinator). You might also contact academic departmentsand programs and ask about other such opportunities.
Some students become politically active in local, state, or national elections, and / or get involved with student government (IU Student Association, IU Student Body Supreme Court, Department of Student Rights). In addition, frequently check the HPPLC Events Calendar and attend those events pertinent to your area(s) of interest. Also bookmark and form the habit of checking the IUB Events Calendar for visiting lecturers, entertainment and cultural events, and the like. Finally, bookmark and frequently visit the my INvolvement at IU e-bulletin board of events and opportunities.
Any opportunity that helps you become a more knowledgable, worldly person is worth pursuing!
Keep a Professional Development Journal
Material from a professional development journal could become part of a personal statement or résumé cover letter. As you engage in professional development, whether it is shadowing, volunteering, skill development, or the process of becoming more aware of your growing professionalism, keep a journal in which you consistently keep track of and reflect upon your experiences. If a particular event, experience, or interaction with another person strikes you as especially significant, write a few paragraphs about it. Later on you'll be able to better recall it when writing your personal statement and assembling other materials for your application or for people writing letters of recommendation. Your professional development journal is also an excellent self-assessment tool: What skills am I developing? Where are my strengths and weaknesses? Where do I most need to concentrate my efforts at this point? How is a given experience helping me prepare for my professional program? How is it confirming or making me question my decision to pursue this particular career?