SET YOURSELF APART ON ROTATIONS
As someone who has helped pick our future residents, precepted students and residents, organized student shadowing experiences and coordinated experiences with our neighboring pharmacy schools, there are a few things that set a student apart from the rest. And really, I think these principles apply to everyone, not just students. No matter what profession or where you are in your career, I find that I still need to apply these principles to be a successful, engaged person.
When I finished pharmacy school, I wanted to dive into the working world and absorb all of the experience that I could. So, outside of my job, I applied for another part-time job in a smaller hospital to gain more experience. I got the job and after my first day, the director called me into his office and told me he didn't think it was going to work out. I remember feeling surprised and then basically talked him into it by reassuring him that I really wanted to work there. Bottom line, he didn't think I was excited about the job, but really, I was just (initially) quiet and not that assertive. Maybe this was due to a lack of confidence since this was one of my first real jobs and in an unfamiliar (to me) setting, but a lot of it was just my personality. I may be ambitious and son the inside but I come across as very passive and laid-back.
When I left that job (we moved out of state), my director pulled me aside and said that he was so glad that I stayed - and then gave me this advice. Act excited! Act like you are glad to be there! In my mind, I was excited, but it didn't translate to my face and actions. Well, lesson learned and I have heeded his advice in many new situations since.
I don't care how bored you are or how disinterested you are in the subject (say a clinical rotation that wasn't your first choice), if you want to more further in your field, act interested. If someone doesn't think you care, then they aren't going to put time into you or give you more opportunities. And people talk and networks are small so do your best in the small things and you'll move along to the big opportunities. Pour yourself into that journal article presentation no matter how boring it is!
I can think of another example in college. I was interested in a leadership position and I asked my good friend who was in a similar position how I could apply and get nominated for the role. Her response, "I didn't think you were interested". Once she knew that I was, things moved forward quickly!
Along the way of success, you are going to have to do some things that you don't want to do. Everyone starts somewhere and most of the people at the top have had to do some undesirable tasks.
CULTIVATE LIFE-LONG LEARNING
You will never know everything. You still have A LOT to learn so don't act like a know-it-all! In school, the phrase "life-long learning" was ingrained in us because medicine, research and technology is constantly changing and progressing. In business school, one of our very successful professors focused on reading A LOT about his profession and what was going on in the industry.
When you stop being interested in your work, then it is harder to motivate yourself to maintain and grow your knowledge, especially when the other life things get in the way. This is another reason why it is important to choose a profession that you enjoy (easier said than done, I know).
Don't wait for assignments or things to do; be proactive and get to work. I cannot emphasize this enough. Your supervisor or preceptor is probably very busy and can not micromanage all of your needs. If you take action you will set yourself apart in the eyes of your supervisor or preceptor. This also applies if you are applying for a new job or trying to get into school, etc.... the person who takes initiative will always be three steps ahead of his or her peers.
PUT YOURSELF TOGETHER
If someone is disheveled, dropping papers everywhere and looking overwhelmed, they are probably going to have to work a little bit harder to make a good impression in their job or on their rotation, etc....
We had a resident a few years ago who was as green as anyone and really had a lot to learn, but he was so put together. I know he agonized over it but he didn't let it show. He was as new to his projects as anyone could be, but yet, he appeared to have it together, never appeared overwhelmed and was very well spoken. Because of these characteristics, he was trusted with a lot of responsibility and I believe will go far in the profession.
I know some very smart people whose offices look like a bomb went off - I know it works for some people, I have even been that person. But once, I took a day to organize, my mind was a lot clearer. Clear the clutter!
Things go wrong. There are a lot of unpredictable things in medicine and having a good attitude and going with the flow will get you far. Still be prepared and organized, but keep in mind that "this too shall pass" and you will get through!