Hey all, I'm new to this board, and figured I'd introduce myself by conducting an interview that might be useful for those on the fence about their career.
I'm here today with a friend of mine who gave up everything to shoot for finance. My friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, graduated at the top 2% of his top target university, aced the MCAT (40) with minimal studying, was accepted into a top 3 medical school, and pretty much had it all. But he didn't. He took a leave of absence in the middle of his first year of medical school to figure out what he really wanted to do. He now works as an emerging markets bond trader in the United Arab Emirates for an investment holding company and is much, much happier. In his own words:
So why leave medical school? You seemed like you had it all.
Well at a certain point I realized that I just didn't want to be a doctor. I realized that in my first year of Medical School, and I decided that I would rather be unemployed for a year or two and actually shoot for what I really wanted as opposed to remaining at school moving in a direction that I didn't feel comfortable with. When I did leave, I was unemployed for a few months. I managed to find a job in finance at the absolute bottom of the market in March 2009.
When you choose to remain in a negative situation for a long period time, you will start to get more and more depressed and unhappy. That was me in medical school. It reminds me of this psychology experiment that I read about before. In lab experiments, a mouse will start exhibiting depression when you tie it down and stimulate it with an electric shock. It knows it can't escape and stops trying after some time. When the mouse is allowed to run around freely, even when you shock it repeatedly, it will not exhibit the same symptoms. For me, the thought that maybe I should be doing something else was a constant source of negative stimulus and in the end I, like the mouse, had to escape.
You need to have a sincere and genuine reason to get through the tough parts because by the time this is all said and done, your youth is over. I didn't have that, so I left.
But why make the decision so late?
It was a late decision. Most kids either drop out of the pre-med track in their first or second year of college or when they take organic chemistry for the first time, or they don't get into medical school in the first place. Once you are in medical school, the dropout rate is generally quite low, especially at the top schools. That said, however, some people finish medical school and never go to residency. Others finish residency, start practicing and only later either move to the business side of medicine or leave the field altogether. It varies.
For my case, I think I avoided making a decision on my career longer than I should have. I liked the idea of medicine more than the actual practice, and as I was generally good at science...being a doctor seemed to make sense.
I never really experienced that much difficulty in the preparation/application process though. It was generally quite easy. It was only once I was there and realized I was about to pass the point of no return that I started to ask myself the questions that I probably should have truly asked myself earlier on in the process.
So why finance then?
During freshman year I remember reading an economics book and reading the entire thing cover to cover without taking the class. I fell in love with the subject. In fact, I ended up majoring in Economics at my university. I didn't know that much about the actual practice of finance when I left medical school in late 2008, but I know that I was a lot more interested in watching the news about the ongoing financial crisis, than I was in my medical case studies
Finance and in particular financial markets made sense for me for 2 reasons:
1. I always loved numbers, and financial markets are all up about numbers... from the financial statements that companies release, to the pieces of macroeconomic data that move markets up and down, to the actual prices themselves of financial instruments that are constantly fluctuating all the time.
2. I grew up all around the world, and really enjoyed following international news and learning about the world, which is great forroles where you are often required to do so. In my job, I am required to follow everything that may have an impact on the value of our positions. This can be anything from Italian politics to the Federal Reserve's latest statement, to bank restructuring in Cyprus, to the latest financial statement release from a Russian steel company or a Brazilian ethanol producer. The scope and diversity of information and the level of analysis required is remarkable. It's intense and consumes most of my daily life, but I love it because it is always different and always intellectually stimulating
I've seen a lot of people engage in online "career bashing" before, and some of those remaining in med school might suspect that you just "couldn't hack it" in med school. What would you say to that?
First of all, I wouldn't bash anyone's career decision. Each person has his own interests and suitability and I don't think it makes sense to
Regarding current medical students' suspicion that I "couldn't hack it".... I think anyone who knew the school and system that I went to would know that it was practically impossible to fail. In the first place, we didn't have grades during the first 2 years. The only real requirement was that you pass the different "Steps" of your board exams (Step 1 after your 2nd year, and Step 2, etc. later on). Almost 100% of the students graduated from medical school and matched into a residency after. Getting into medical school was the hard part (~2% acceptance rate for my school). Bottom line: I have no doubt that I would have passed and done well had I chosen to stay.
The key question was not if I should continue but WHY I should continue. Medical school is a vocational school. The only reason to go to medical school is to practice medicine after. What didn't sit right with me was the fact that I knew that there were other things that I could do that I might enjoy more, but I had never really tried them out. Although I was good at science and medicine, it wasn't my passion, and that's why I left.
So if you were to say anything to anyone considering medicine... what would you say?
If you have any doubts, you have to address them sooner rather than later. It takes a special type of person to do medicine and really enjoy it. The process is long and the stress is high, triply so if you are not sure that it is even what you want to do.
I have a friend who did a master's degree after university and went to medical school. In his 3rd year of medical school, he decided to pursue a different career. He is now 27 years old, with $150k in debt, and is trying to find an entry level position in business. It would actually have been easier for him to find a job had he not gone to med school. Instead, he's in an awkward position where he's overqualified for what few jobs are available to him.
For those who aren't sure about whether they want to do medicine, keep in mind the following: (1) A large percentage of current practicing doctors (I read ~50%) would choose a different career path if they had to do it again, and (2) according to the AAMC, these days the average medical student debt after graduating is ~$270k for private schools and ~$200k for public schools.
Sometimes the grass really IS greener on the other side of the fence.
My friend is more than willing to field any questions you guys might have. Cheers and have a good weekend.