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Internships and Networking Provide the Contacts for Successful Job Searches

Friday, April 27, 2012

For college students about to graduate and pursue careers as laboratory professionals, it is never too early to start networking, particularly in laboratories where they have current or past internships. “Sixty percent of our laboratory staff is made up of graduates,” said Donna Wray, MLS(ASCP)CM, Program Director, School of Medical Laboratory Science at Hines VA Hospital, Maywood, Ill. “Make a good impression during your internships because laboratory staff have good connections.”

“The majority of laboratories that educate students are thrilled to be able to hire graduates as positions become available. The internship is often looked at as a ‘year-long’ job interview.”
—Donna Wray, MLS(ASCP)CM
Ms. Wray oversees the hospital-based internship program at Hines VA Hospital for students pursuing careers as laboratory professionals. Creating a lasting impression at internships and networking with laboratory staff can set students apart from their peers, providing them with key connections when searching for a job.

“The majority of laboratories that educate students are thrilled to be able to hire graduates as positions become available,” Ms. Wray said. “The internship is often looked at as a ‘year-long’ job interview.”

Faculty members at the university and at the clinical sites are also great resources. Ms. Wray called medical laboratory professionals “a pretty tight knit group” who are more than willing to put the word out to people they know who might have job openings.

“We are still in touch with graduates from all over the United States,” she said. “Many are now in leadership positions and are always happy to consider our students when jobs open up.”

Since most laboratories are 24/7 operations, flexibility, reliability, attention to detail, a sense of commitment, and good communication skills are important assets.

“Experience is important to show on resume, but the interview will be key in showing your adaptability and the personal skills you bring to the table,” said Marian Ewell, MT(ASCP)SBB, Program Director of Clinical Laboratory Science Program at Oregon Health and Science University-Oregon Institute of Technology (OHSU–OIT), Portland, Ore. “In preparing for a job interview, think about how you want to portray yourself. Consider friends who could role play with interview questions. Be open to constructive criticism and learn from it.”

Students are advised to do their homework and be prepared for interviews. “Proofread your resume and cover letter,” Ms. Ewell said. “Visit a prospective employer’s website, get a sense of what they're doing, and customize your resume for that particular job. Appearance and body language are important.” She described the professional demeanor of a recent hire, describing him as positive and enthusiastic, which are qualities potential employers like to see in job candidates.

“Jobs are available if you are flexible,” Ms. Wray said. “You might not land your ‘dream job’ right after graduation, but you will be surprised how many options are available to you if you stay open-minded."

During her internship, she recalled being the least interested in blood banking but soon discovered in her first job that she enjoyed it. Blood Banking has become her area of expertise.

Both medical laboratory program directors encouraged students to look at opportunities offered by professional organizations such as ASCP, which allows them to join for free and attend conferences and workshops at reduced rates. The networking groups and continuing education opportunities allow students to meet other members who can be great resources when looking for a first job. They also have student sections that are helpful when creating a resume or looking for opportunities.

Ms. Wray also recommended the magazine Advance, a free publication focusing on specific healthcare careers, as well as various websites, including indeed.com. Additionally, ASCP has a robust online job center, including entry-level positions for graduating laboratory professional students. For more information, go to www.ascp.org/careers.


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