Career counselling: frequently asked questions

What does a career counselling appointment involve?
What is a pre-assigned appointment?
How do I prepare for a career appointment?
What qualifications do the career counsellors have?
What is CaRMS?
What is the difference between an Elective and a Selective?
When should I decide on a medical specialty?

Q. What does a career counselling appointment involve?

Career counselling allows you to explore your medical career development with a professional career counsellor. You may be experiencing difficulty deciding on a medical specialty, feeling overwhelmed and confused by options, worried about things you have heard about the CaRMS process or you may be unsure about how your extracurricular activities may enhance your application to residency. Alternatively, you may be quite clear about your options and direction, but seek advice on developing an elective strategy or implementing an effective residency application. During your confidential appointment, which is up to 50 minutes in length, a career counsellor will discuss your needs and goals, help you make sense of your options and teach you skills to help you manage your medical career. 

Q. What is a pre-assigned appointment?

To ensure that you have opportunities to discuss you career goals with a career counsellor, we schedule appointments for every student in each year of the four years of program. We use an online appointment booking system, Veribook, which enables you to confirm the appointment you’ve been offered or change to a more convenient time and date. We aim to offer these appointments during the most beneficial time for you:
•    First year – March to May
•    Second year – September to November
•    Third year – January to March
•    Fourth year throughout the CaRMS application cycle, commencing in September

You do not have to wait for a pre-assigned appointment to be offered to you. You can schedule an appointment at almost any time throughout the year by contacting the OHPSA office or using the online form

Q. How do I prepare for a career appointment?

Prior to a pre-assigned appointment, you will have received an e-mail identifying the major career management tasks for your year. Reviewing this information beforehand will help you identify questions you might want to ask during the appointment. Bringing in a printed copy of your resumé is a good idea, especially if you are seeking advice on your content and format. Bringing in a copy of your completed self-assessments from Career in Medicine, for example, the Medical Specialty Preference Inventory will provide useful information about your medical career interests. You may also e-mail a copy of this report to your designated career counsellor in advance. If you are coming in for a practice interview, we suggest that you review the resources on CaRMS interview questions and prepare some answers in advance. You'll find resources to help you prepare for appointments on the OHPSA Portal in the section Career resources for MD students.

Q. What qualifications do the career counsellors have?

Both of our career counsellors have Master of Education degrees, which include training in adult education, counselling and career development theories. Additionally, we have had supervised practice as career counsellors and many years of experience in this field. We consider ourselves lifelong learners, engaging in ongoing professional development that includes certification in career assessment, coaching and both fundamental and contemporary models of practice. 

Q. What is CaRMS?

The Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS) is a not-for-profit organization that provides an electronic platform and process to make residency selection more effective and efficient for both students and programs. CaRMS itself does not make any decisions about residency selection, nor do they conduct interviews. See the CaRMS website for more information. 

Q. What is the difference between an elective and a selective?

For the purposes of Toronto MD students, electives are clinical experiences that you undertake during the fall semester of your fourth year. You must successfully complete 12 weeks of electives to fulfill your course requirements, but you can choose the medical specialties and locations. Selectives are clinical experiences that you undertake during the winter semester of your fourth year, as part of the course requirement of Transition to Residency. For more information, refer to the MD Program curriculum details.

Q. When should I decide on a medical specialty?

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You may hear some of your classmates discuss their career plan in great detail as early as first year, but in fact, a significant number of medical students make the decision somewhere between second and third year. The goals of career management during preclerkship are to develop a good understanding of your unique preferences and attributes and become acquainted with the different possibilities of medical specialties and environments. This action on your part will help you to make an informed decision. Checking in with a career counsellor is a good part of your preclerkship career management strategy.

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