How can I raise my profile as a junior doctor?

Authors: Kathy Oxtoby 

Publication date:  27 Jul 2017

Kathy Oxtoby asks what junior doctors should consider to raise their profile, and how to overcome challenges they might face

“Do something useful”

David Oliver, clinical vice president, Royal College of Physicians, London, says, “To start with, you shouldn’t be looking to raise your profile for your own sake—that’s self promotion. You should look into doing something useful. That might be for patient care, the medical profession, research, or your peers. It could be helping people support the junior doctor workforce, or raising the public’s understanding of medicine.

“You could consider taking on a professional leadership role. All of the royal colleges, specialist societies, and the BMA have junior doctors’ committees. If you get involved early on in your career it’s win-win for you and for the profession—we don’t want those organisations to be over-reliant on older doctors. We need diversity and fresher, younger perspectives.

“Another way of raising your profile is by campaigning. If you are campaigning on behalf of your peers or the wider NHS it is important to represent everyone’s views.

“Medical training doesn’t include much about leadership, quality improvement, or policy. If you’re interested in these areas, find out if there are opportunities to work with a local manager. This will give you a steer on the best way for you to suggest improvements to services.

“As their careers progress some juniors may want to take on doctor-manager roles or do quality research at a university. Whatever their choice, it shouldn’t be about acclaim. Being a doctor is about wanting to do a good job for patients and being seen as a valuable colleague.

“Remember to be available and approachable”

“Be a communicator”

Ollie Bevington, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Trainees’ Committee, says, “You need to decide what you’re interested in early on in your training and look at what you can get involved in locally. Most deaneries will have lots of things going on.

“I got involved with my local paediatric school board in 2011, started representing the RCPCH’s Wessex trainees’ committee two years ago, and recently became chair of its national trainees’ committee.

“As a junior doctor you’re dealing with busy rotas and exams, and the thought of doing anything else can be daunting. You need to be organised and have good support from consultants and trainers. You might not be paid extra but it’s not about monetary gain, it’s about wanting to improve things.

“Be a communicator. Talk to people from different levels including consultants and those in management positions. Be available and approachable, so that people know who you are and trust you.

“Your efforts should be measurable and this will depend on the activity you have chosen. So, if you’re involved with teaching it’s about the feedback you get. If you’re thinking of raising your profile by working in management, then look into where you can see the results of your efforts, such as boosting recruitment numbers to a specialty.

“Be keen, get involved, have a go, and say ‘yes’ when opportunities present themselves.”

“Decide what your goals are”

Simon Fleming, president, the British Orthopaedic Trainees’ Association, says, “Decide what kind of doctor you are, what your goals are, and where you want your career to go. Then you can pick out the bits of your profile you want to raise, and find ways to do this.

“If your interest is to, say, focus on your chosen specialty then there are lots of different ways to do this, including presenting at meetings, attending conferences, or joining a trainee organisation.

“Social media is a powerful tool, if used sensibly. It allows you to have professional and informal discussions with people you would never meet or talk to in person. It lets you interact with, and have a role within, not only your specialty, but the wider world of medicine.

“I was following a surgical conference remotely on Twitter, re-tweeting and commenting on people’s tweets and slides. This led to a conversation with the organiser of that conference who asked me if I would speak next year.

“Be realistic about your goals—they need to be achievable. Rather than having a huge list it can be more powerful to focus on a couple of things you want to achieve in your career.

“You may face obstacles, but the biggest obstacle is you. Ask yourself how much time, work, and physical, intellectual, and emotional effort you are willing to put in. Know what kind of person you are. If you’re always driving yourself forward, recognise that. But achieve your ambitions in a healthy way. Strive for a work-life balance.”

Kathy Oxtoby BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: