Tip: Please come with notepad and pen ready.
Come with questions.
Tip: Multiple questions, prepared in advance.
Wear business casual attire.
Tip: When it doubt, keep it professional. Or better yet, ask what attire is preferred.
Handwritten thank you cards.
Tip: Thank you cards are not a dying art, rather an art form. Your effort will be duly noted. No matter how terrible your scribbling may be, handwritten always adds that personal touch.
Pro Tip: Get a business card from the GC. That way, you have a mailing address. Keep it in a safe place, as you never know when you may need it! (Sometimes, it may not be until after graduate school!)
Keep in contact.
Pro Tip: If you do not go the thank-you card route, try a thank-you email. Then, send a follow email again once you are accepted to a program (this is always appreciated). Then, if you want to be a super-duper star, you can even consider sending an even later follow up email once you are halfway through your program or accepted a job. Who knows, someday you could be coworkers!
Be highly courteous to those at the front desk.
Tip: Treat the lady (or gentleman) at the front desk the same as you would the genetic counselor. Introduce yourself. Thank them for their time too!
Fix: Hospitals are a challenge to navigate. Be prepared for it to take longer than anticipated to arrive at your destination. If you arrive over 20 minutes early, stall and get some coffee. There is such a thing as being too early as well!
Ask to shadow last minute.
Fix: Ask at least a week in advance.
Write informally in emails.
Fix: Do not use contractions. Keep it professional. Try using “control find (f)” for the words “like” and “very”. These are typically fluff and can be eliminated with ease. Keep things short and to the point.
Surprise the genetic counselors with guests.
Fix: Even if your best friend or your mother would LOVE to see what a genetic counselor does, this does not mean that you should bring them with you. You will someday be an independent adult, and shadowing is the first step. You must do this solo. Feel free to later call your mom and BFF to dish (without breaking HIPAA, of course).
Interrupt during patient sessions.
Tip: Remember that you are truly a discreet fly on the wall. Unless a patient speaks to you specifically, do not talk in the session. If the genetic counselor leaves the room, follow them like a shadow (pardon the pun). Feel free to jot some notes so that you can ask all of your questions afterwards.
Shadowing should not be used as a free genetic counseling session.
Tip: If your passion for the genetic counseling profession was sparked by your siblings diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, that is perfectly fine to share. However, do not use your valuable time face to face with a GC to try to determine if your mother is a risk for hereditary breast cancer or early onset Alzheimer disease. This is not the place to ask for a risk assessment, stay focused on your future career aspirations.
Getting anxious when a genetic counselor does not remember you.
Tip: GC’s have TONS of students shadowing them. If they do not remember you, this does not mean that you did a bad job. In fact, it likely means that you met or even exceeded expectations. Many genetic counselors will admit that they only remember the students who left a negative impression. Conveniently, we have made this list so you do not end up being “bad email girl” or “the guy who brought his mom.”