Volume 36 Number 2 | April 2022
Hassan Aziz, PhD, FACSs, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President
Over the years, I have advised hundreds of students. Prospective and current students, as well as graduates, seek my advice on academic and professional issues. Academic advising is an ongoing, decision-making process between educators and students. The purpose is to assist students in realizing their maximum intellectual potential through the development of reasonable educational plans.
When I meet a student for the first time, I start by asking the typical question: “Why have you chosen this field?” I usually listen to the answer with minimal interruption, allowing the student to talk freely. I am always impressed with those who have done their homework and researched the profession before meeting with me. I ask the students to bring a copy of their transcripts to review together. After collecting the necessary information, the student and I enter into a discussion about future aspirations and realistic expectations. A follow up question is, does the student have what it takes to succeed in school and after graduation?
I rarely have a student who asks about the money. There is no shame in that. Students need to contemplate the earning potential and base salaries after graduation. I often ask whether students would be happier in a job they would love with less pay or in a job that they could tolerate with substantial pay. Students need to be honest with themselves. What lifestyle would they like to maintain and how might certain salaries affect it. Students must think about growth potential and advanced career opportunities.
Unlike most majors, a degree in medical laboratory science relates to a specific career. This is an advantage over other disciplines where students find themselves lost in securing a job or a career after graduation. Most, if not all, students attend college expecting it to lead to a better future and increased employment opportunities and earning potential.
Professional visibility starts on the first day of class. Behaviors and attitudes that make one a successful student will translate well to the workplace. This can be one of the first building blocks of increasing the visibility of the profession. The classroom can, and should, be a training ground for students as they prepare to enter the professional workforce.
Graduation from college and getting a job is a dream for many, if not all students (and parents!). It is also the ultimate goal of attending school in the first place. However, the transition is not automatic and does not happen overnight. The first few days on the “real” job can be confusing, challenging, and apprehensive. Graduates and young professionals must adjust, and they need to do it quickly. This is a series of tips to help students and young professionals improve their understanding and perception of achieving the status of becoming professionals, thus improving our professional visibility. It is a dramatic change that must happen.
In school, you were given a schedule of classes and you were expected to attend and to complete assignments and tests as they were given to you. If you have followed instructions, the outcome could be predictable. The real world is different.
Now, you are answering to and serving many peoples from supervisors and coworkers to clinicians and patients. They all expect you to perform professionally and exceptionally. Coming to work on time is expected. Timely completion of tasks is the norm. Do not expect a reward because you have done what is “expected.” You are not “entitled” to a promotion just because it is time for one. You need to find ways to excel in your performance. Adjust your attitude. Be patient and learn all aspects of your job to prove to others you are a valuable team member.
If you missed a class one day, or you were late to lab session on another day, you may have gotten away with it. You may have received a point deduction here or there, but you could still manage to advance. At work, it is a different story. You have to show up every day on time, whether you feel like it or not. It is expected and not rewarded. Actually, if you exhibit issues with attendance, you will be labeled as “undependable” and you should expect disciplinary action to be taken against you, and it could include termination. Yes, it is a serious offense.
Introvert vs. Extrovert
We all have different personalities, and it is difficult to change. However, we can maintain a professional and friendly relationship with coworkers whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Talk to people in your work area, know where they are from, their habits, and ask them about themselves, within limits, of course. Do not jump to conclusions and enter into any cliques. Get to know everyone. You will enjoy work more!
Talk the Talk
Expect to work with people from all walks of life. You will experience a huge diversity in age, race, background, religions, and many other attributes. Do not be judgmental. These differences are what make our interactions as humans interesting. Keep a professional interaction at the workplace. Language and gestures should be guarded. Learn from others around you. Observe how supervisors and coworkers communicate with each other.
Killer Outfit, but not Here
Appropriate dress code is not an option, and it is not open to your own interpretation of what you consider acceptable. It is mandatory. Uniforms are a gift from God. It makes life much easier. Just make sure they are clean and pressed.
Never Stop Learning
You graduated, but you never stop learning. Workplaces offer many learning opportunities, formally and informally. Take advantage of all of them. The responsibility of continuing your education is up to you. Ask for feedback from others and stay up to date by taking continuing education classes, joining professional organizations, and attending regional and national meetings. The least you can do is to read related and recent publications.
Look for Opportunities
Supervisors like energetic and enthused staff. Instead of waiting for assignments, stay a step ahead by finding ways to contribute without being told what to do. Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is a great example to show your skills. Volunteer to take the lead in organizing an event or a social gathering.
The above list of guidelines is not inclusive, but if followed, one will be on their way to a very successful and rewarding professional career.
Hassan Aziz is Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.