I'm starting to worry about getting letters of recommendations for residency applications. One common piece of advice I hear is to get letters from people who know you well. The problem is that, for whatever reason, I haven't really been connecting with my attendings. I am usually a person who has very positive relationships with my superiors, and there is nothing negative about my interactions with attendings to date, but I feel like there has a been a marked sense of distance and that none of them know me on a personal level at all. I don't know if that is in part due to the fact that I worry that my personal life would detract from people's opinion of me (not sure if that makes sense, but I guess I'm referring to being a parent), but whatever the reason, while I've made really good connections with plenty of residents, I don't feel this way about attendings. I had one attending after an elective that gave me glowing praise and offered me a letter without being asked, so obviously I can take one from him (though that was neonatology, and I am probably applying to psych - not sure if that matters).
I guess what has made me more acutely concerned is that I contacted one of my pediatrics attendings from January and asked him for a letter. I got an honors on that clerkship and he was the attending I had the most contact with. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask him at the time and only just got in touch with him. He responded that while he would be happy to, he wouldn't remember the details by the time it came to write the letter, and that I would be better of getting a letter from my peds acting internship. In other words, a very polite "no". I was crushed. It didn't help that my husband really didn't understand what I had to be upset about. I'm also unsure as to whether he was being completely honest, or if the reason he declined is because he doesn't have enough good to say about me.
I know I still have time. I have neurology and psychiatry clerkships coming up next, and then my child psychiatry acting internship, and then in August either a peds elective or my peds AI. So any suggestions going forward on how to appropriately connect with my attendings so that I can get good, personal (i.e. not generic) letters? Feeling kind of lost here...
I know exactly how you feel. All my attendings keep me at a distance as well. I'm in the same boat you are. Here's what I'm doing, get my evaluation and if I'm happy with it, I'm asking for an LOR. If I'm not happy with it, I'm not going to ask. They have lives of their own and aren't really trying to make friends with you. It can really be hard with male attendings, I think if they give you too much attention they think you might think they are hitting on you. It seems like most attendings really do not want to be bothered by you, although this is not always true. Some love to teach. If I ever take students, I will MAKE SURE they always have somewhere to sit so their feet don't hurt constantly.
I think it really helps to give the impression that you may choose their field. This shouldn't be a problem since what you have left are pretty much just that. Look interested and ask questions. If one of the attendings makes a comment during rounds you find interesting, look it up and follow up on it. Also look into what the attending is researching. People love to talk about their area of research.
And when I asked for a recommendation, I went prepared with my CV, resume, and my personal statement. I also asked more than I needed, and let my dean choose the strongest 3. I would check to see if your school offers this service.
Don't let one rejection get you down. In fact, when you ask for a recommendation, ask if they feel they can write you a strong recommendation. That way, they have a way out. Especially if you don't have the option of your dean choosing your recommendations, last thing you want is a weak recommendation. This guy did you a favor.
clee03m, that means that you didn't ask for recommendations immediately after your clerkships, right? Because I've often heard it advised that you ask right away, while you are fresh in their memory. I would certainly present someone with my CV and personal statement before they actually wrote the letter. I will also ask my dean if she will choose my letters.
And yes, I know he did me a favor by saying no instead of writing a mediocre letter, but it still felt yucky.
Don't worry about it. I don't think I got any recommendations from my third year clerkships. I did get one from my advisor in my field. Do you have an advisor in Psychiatry? I met with that person a few times to talk about my career goals and she wrote me a great letter. Even though I had never worked with her clinically. I remember getting three letters all together, probably one from each sub-Internship and my advisor. You will be fine. I am sorry though that this particular attending was not helpful to you, even though you did very well in the rotation. Believe me, it is more a reflection on him than you! Good luck!
I have started to wonder about letters as well- is this something that I should be asking for now with research mentors or faculty advisors for volunteer activities? I am trying to keep an open mind, so I can't say for sure what field will go into...
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy - MLKJ