Frequently Asked Questions: Fellowships
1) When not specified, who are the best people to get recommendations letters from?
You will want to have a short list of reputable contacts who can speak to the quality of your work and strength of your character. The actual list will vary depending on the job and the phase of your career. Below are some general suggestions to consider:
■ Consider contacts who know someone at the organization that you are seeking employment with.
■ Early in your career, it is helpful to have the chair of your graduate department write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
■ Preceptors/mentors for any internship or school positions are always good resources for recommendations when applying for fellowships and first jobs.
■ Always keep in touch with well-known references, regardless of the industry; more than likely someone at the top of one industry will know someone at the top of another.
2) Should I limit my resume to one-page for my fellowship application?
Experts at ACHE state that length is not an issue – content is the important factor. Do not limit the resume for artificial length, and do not try to cram the information on to one or two pages when your work experience requires a longer document. Remember, the first page is most important and must be strong – if the reader(s) cannot get past the first page, it makes no difference how long the document might be.
3) What are the basic elements of a personal statement?
The personal statement is a tool that will help employers better understand who you are as a person, a professional and a leader. It is important to think about what type of message or story you are telling before you write the personal statement so that everything that you write will lead the reader(s) to conclude that you are committed, passionate, well-versed, etc. without you having to write “I am a leader because…”.
Health care leaders and fellowship selection committee members are looking for four things: commitment, leadership, experience and fit. While the list is short, it is challenging to convey these messages in a clear and concise manner, and to do so in less than one page. Below are critical questions to answer and recommendations for each of the different pieces of the personal statement.
■ Why do you want to continue to excel in health care?
The first part of the personal statement should help the reader(s) to understand who you are and why you are passionate and committed to health care. Many people often begin by telling the reader(s) how they got to where they are and set the framework for where they want to go as an obvious next step in their development. You can leverage your personal experiences from being a patient or family member of someone who experienced a chronic illness or complications during their treatment, but do not be too personal and keep in mind that many others have similar experiences. Challenge yourself to come up with a story that uniquely explains why you want to continue to excel in health care.
■ Are you qualified for the fellowship?
The body of the personal statement should compliment your resume and highlight those key skills sets, work history and experiences that are relevant to the application. Include any work or projects in which you held a leadership role.
■ Are you a good fit for our organization?
Now that the reader(s) understands who you are as a person, and that you have the work history and leadership skills to perform in the fellowship, it is important to link your “story” to the position that you are seeking. There are many fellowship opportunities, so be thoughtful about why you are applying to one particular fellowship over another and be certain to convey your reasons to the reader(s).
4) When is the best time to send in applications? The earlier the better?
Send applications within the first week or two weeks of the deadline. There are not many advantages to getting applications in too far in advance. Keep in mind that organizations have many other activities, internships and initiatives; the fellowship opportunity is just one. Many organizations may not be ready to receive applications two to four months in advance of the deadline. That being said, it will not hurt your chances to get your application in early. The goal is to not be late.
5) Should I only look for administrative fellowships in the types of organizations in which I see myself working in the future?
Determining which fellowship to apply for will vary for each applicant. For some, applying to a particular fellowship is about working at a well-known organization, with a well-established leadership team. Other applicants will only apply to fellowships that provide direct operational experience and projects. More and more students are looking for opportunities to secure future employment at the organization where they complete their fellowship.
Don’t let the fellowship application process guide your decision. Instead make sure you understand what you are looking for and, before you look for different fellowships, determine your criteria. Regardless of your criteria, choosing a fellowship for the wrong reason is unlikely to lead to a positive experience.
6) What are the advantages and disadvantages of two-year fellowships?
Two-year fellowships can often provide a longer orientation period so that fellows have an opportunity to get to know the organizational culture, as well as an opportunity for fellows to work in each of the key areas (e.g., Human Resources, Finance, Operations, etc.). On the flipside, two-year fellowships can be long. Fellows are typically ready to start working with less supervision and more autonomy than a fellowship provides.
Many fellows working in two-year programs leave in the middle of the second year to accept full-time employment. Leaving a fellowship early can strain your relationship with the organization if they expect fellows to complete the two-year commitment.
7) What is the typical compensation for an administrative fellow?
Visit www.ache.org for their report on postgraduate fellowship compensation.
8) What characteristics do organization seek out in an administrative fellow?
Health care leaders and fellowship selection committee members are looking for four things: passion/ commitment, leadership, experience and fit. Overall, fit is the critical, and often the determining, factor. Organizations want to ensure that the student has something to offer them, and that they have something to offer the student in return. Some candidates are not a good fit for smaller organizations because they are over-qualified and raises the issue of whether or not the organization will have enough work to keep them engaged.
9) What types of positions are offered after the completion of a fellowship?
Some organizations do not offer employment after the completion of a fellowship. But for those that do, various types of positions are available. Positions range from entry-level management positions to administrative vice president positions. Often, it depends on the vacancy, turnover rate and degree of succession planning in the organization. If there is not a pool of qualified candidates, then the fellow becomes a likely resource to fill empty positions. Visit www.ache.org and select “Employment Guidelines for Fellows” for more information.
Please note: Many organizations are willing to consider employment after the fellowship, and this opportunity can be discussed during the interview phase of your fellowship process. Be certain to write any verbal commitments into your contract.
10) How can I effectively research an organization I am considering for a fellowship opportunity?
■ ACHE and the Kaiser Foundation both offer online resources for fellowship opportunities.
■ Look through recent health care magazines and resources
■ Use your networking skills to identify someone who works at or recently worked at an organization you are interested in who is willing to speak with you about current initiatives, projects, organizational culture, etc.
■ Contact current and past fellows at the organization of interest.
11) How can I get in touch with current fellows?
Check with your graduate program advisor or coordinator. Each graduate program has a list of where past students completed their fellowships. Many programs even have a list of where students accepted positions after completion of their fellowships. Also consider reaching out to members of your professional organizations to find out who completed a fellowship or interviewed at a particular organization.
12) What are the advantages of having several preceptors rather than one throughout the entire experience?
It is best to have one assigned preceptor. However, there will be many opportunities to develop formal and informal mentoring relationships.
13) What are good questions to ask during a fellowship interview?
■ Who will I be directly reporting to? Is there an assigned preceptor?
■ What type of skill set will I leave with?
■ How will my performance be evaluated?
■ What is the benefit package?
■ How many fellows worked at your organization after completing their fellowships?
■ How receptive is the staff to the fellowship program?
■ What types of projects have past fellows completed?
■ Is there a past fellow I can speak with to learn more about the fellowship experience at your organization?
14) What are the advantages, if any, of completing a fellowship within a system rather than a single hospital?
There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the equation. Multi-hospital systems are likely to have more projects and more employment opportunities due to the size of the organization. Regardless of the type of organization, the success of the fellowship program is often based on your relationship with your preceptor. This is likely to be even truer in a larger, multi-hospital health system than in a single facility, but it will vary according to organization.
Click HERE to hear what current and fellows have to say about the fellowship process.