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Section 4: Career Development
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📝 CV & References
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Your CV is an efficient way of listing your work, qualifications, research and publications, teaching, prizes and awards, and referees in a clear and concise manner. It should always be located at the front of your portfolio.
When writing your medical CV, it’s important to think specifically about the job – or types of jobs – you’re applying for, and tailor it as much as possible. You may want to have several versions of your CV saved (or a master CV with all of your skills that can be cut down and adapted to each application) if you are applying for different types of jobs at the same time (i.e. a locum role and an overseas position and a clinical fellowship).
CV Key Principles
When writing a CV, there are several key principles to keep in mind:
1) Cover all bases. There are basic things that every CV must include which you can read about here.
2) Keep it brief. Maximum two sides of A4. Find tips on how to increase your impact with limited space here.
3) Make it tailored. Adapt your CV each time you apply for a job to specifically highlight the kind of skills and qualities needed for this particular role. Keeping a generic 'master' copy of your CV means that you don’t forget what older versions of your CV looked like, and make it easier to tailor each new version to your needs.
4) Hold off on the photo. Adding a photo can lead to stereotypes and bias so don’t include one unless asked.
5) Job overseas? If you are planning to work abroad, it is sensible to include in your initial statement the reasons why you wish to work in that country and demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to staying there for the duration of the job. Read more about CVs for overseas roles here.
CV Basic Structure
There is some basic information that is essential for a medical CV. This is:
🤙 Personal Details: Name, contact details, nationality (and visa status if necessary), and GMC number. Including a physical address is becoming old-fashioned and is no longer essential.
Note that UK employers are forbidden by the Equality Act from making decisions based on potentially discriminating factors (marital status, DOB, gender, photo) so you don't need to include these on your CV.
📝 Summary Statement: A short paragraph summarising your current position, interests, and the kind of work you are looking for. You may include your career aspirations depending on which type of job you are applying for.
Be sure to include (as a minimum) the grade and specialties that you are interested in, how much experience you have in those specialties, any additional exams or courses you’ve done (relevant to the work you are looking for), and when you can start working.
🏥 Clinical Experience: List your employment history as a doctor (in reverse chronological order) with a brief summary of the work you have done since graduating from medical school. This should include your Foundation Training rotations, locum work, clinical fellowships or trust grade positions, and shadowing or taster days/weeks. For each role, include the name of the hospital, your job title, and the dates you worked in that role.
You can include non-medical jobs in this section. Depending on what you are using your CV for, you may want to expand on these to highlight transferrable skills and why that role may be relevant to your future ambitions.
If you have gaps in your clinical experience (i.e. parental leave, extended sick leave, or period of volunteering or non-clinical work) then it is worth adding dates for this and a short explanation or note as to why there is a gap in your employment.
Depending on what you are using your CV for, you may want to go into more detail about certain past positions - use this as an opportunity to sell yourself and convince the reader you have the skills to do the job you are applying for. You can include your responsibilities in the job, any procedures you conducted or gained experience in, and instances when you acted up or took on extra responsibility.
Note that you should also be able to provide a reference for every role you list on your resume, including tasters and locum work.
🎯 Skills and Procedures: This is your chance to call out specific skills, procedures, and qualities that are important for the roles you're applying for, and explain how you have demonstrated this in your work. Try and step into the mind of your employer - What skills would it be desirable for you to have in the role you are applying for? This will offer them confidence that you will be able to hit the ground running without needing lots of training and supervision.
You should include: clinical skills and procedures you are competent in, IT systems you are familiar with, and personal qualities that you possess that will make you valuable and easy to work with.
🤓 Education and Qualifications: Keep this brief as this is much less relevant than your recent clinical experience. A-levels may be appropriate to include but GCSEs can be removed now that you have more advanced qualifications. Include distinctions or merits you’ve earned and other degrees that you have undertaken.
🥇 Courses, Exams, and Achievements: This section can include publications, audits, quality improvement projects, prizes, presentations, courses attended, exams taken (i.e. MCRP), and leadership roles at local, regional, or national levels.
You may have a lot of information in this section so you might have to tailor it to the role you are applying for. Locum roles care a lot less about audit, and more about additional courses (i.a. APLS) and skills (i.a. suturing) you can bring to the department. Specialty applications or fellowships may want to know more about your research and teaching experiences.
Don’t overfill this section, but curate it to display your present skills. There is no point including every ILS and ALS course you have attended - the highest qualification that is still in date is enough.
❓ References: Either include the details of your referees or a line to say that references are available on request. Most places will ask separately for your reference details.
See our example CV here and use it as a template for writing your own.
All UK doctors are required to supply references throughout their career, whether they’re registering with a locum agency, applying for a training role or fellowship, or moving to a job overseas or in the private sector.
Most locum agencies will ask for references to cover every single role you have listed on your CV. If you did one week of shadowing in ED, then you may need to provide a reference for that period or risk it not counting as ‘experience’. Some hospitals will not allow you to locum in departments where you lack previous experience so collecting references is essential.
Keep hard copies of hand-written or hand-signed references in your paper portfolio, along with printouts of all digital references that you have collected over time.
What is a medical reference?
👉 Factual References: Used to flag up concerns, missing experience and skills, or as proof that you have the employment history and experience that you claim you have. Generally, the information provided in a factual reference is completely neutral.
👉 Detailed References: A more in-depth review of your capabilities and skills used to highlight candidates’ skills such as communication, leadership, research, and technical abilities through a rating i.e. a scale of competency (poor, satisfactory, good, very good, or excellent) in a particular skill. They often cover the factual details of your employment history, but also highlight or rate your skills and competencies. Our OneRef form is an example of a detailed reference.
👉 Character Reference: Provided by someone who can more effusively attest to your qualities that make you an ideal candidate for a role. Often these are qualities like honesty, integrity, reliability, good time management and attention to detail, kindness, intelligence, and enthusiasm (to name a few).
How do I ‘collect’ a medical reference?
If you have any hard copies of medical references already, hold onto them and store them in your portfolio. Some agencies still accept these, depending on the level of detailed information the reference provides and whether it has been properly ratified.
For all references going forward, we strongly advise that you use Messly’s free OneRef service. It digitally and securely collects high-quality references that can be shared with all agencies across Messly. This reduces the amount of admin that your referees have to do on your behalf. It has so many benefits so if you want to know all the reasons we love OneRef, read this article: 7 Reasons That We Love OneRef.
OneRef works like this:
👉 You ask a consultant if they’re happy to provide you with a reference. 👉 If they agree, you upload their contact details to OneRef through your Messly account. 👉 They get sent a reference form to complete. 👉 This form can be shared with multiple locum agencies without the need for it to be re-completed each time (which was the case before OneRef). 👉 You can view a copy of your reference and add it to your medical portfolio (unless the signing consultant has specifically denied you access to view the reference).
When you reach out to a consultant to ask if they’re happy to provide you with a reference, you should include some key details in your request. In our article ‘How to ask for a medical reference’ you can find information on what details you should include, as well as a template to ask someone to act as your referee.
For all other FAQs about medical references, click here.