As you begin reaching out to potential preceptors, either directly through your own networking process or through CareerConnect, first consider your learning goals for your Practicum.
Review your self-assessment of core competencies for your field of study to develop these goals, and be sure to include other professional goals as appropriate. This should be your guide in determining what kinds of placements might provide the best professional growth opportunities for you.
Types of Applications
Outreach to potential preceptors can be either exploratory in nature, such as a preliminary networking email to see if a practitioner would be interested in working with you; or it can be an actual application, such as through CareerConnect. Keep in mind that a networking email will require more lead time (perhaps 1-2 weeks) to set up a discussion or meeting with the preceptor about potential projects, whereas projects on CareerConnect have already been developed by interested preceptors and you can apply immediately.
Number of Applications
If you do not have a confirmed preceptor, conduct your outreach simultaneously, rather than sequentially. Consider reaching out to 3 or 4 host organizations to increase your chances that at least one of them will be able to get back to you to discuss the opportunity further. If you only reach out to one or two before expanding your search, you could lose 2 weeks’ planning time. If you reach out to too many, you may have the seemingly good situation of three or four interested host organizations – but remember, their time is valuable, and telling them that you found something else is not easy. A preceptor may feel that the student did not take the process seriously or value their time appropriately. Therefore it is important to be honest during your process if you are speaking with multiple organizations, and only pursue opportunities in which you have a genuine interest. The professionals that you are meeting with can also become valuable networking contacts in the future so professional courtesy and respecting the time that they invest in meeting with you is crucial, not only for you but for future Harvard students.
Timeframe of Applications
Because of the lead time required to identify your preceptor, do not delay in contacting host organizations. If you see an opportunity that you are interested in, apply to it right away. Aim to establish your preceptor decision approximately one month before your Learning Agreement is due. This will allow you a few weeks to have at least one meeting with your preceptor to outline the scope and deliverables that you will describe in your Learning Agreement. Practicum is not like the rest of your coursework because it relies on the availability of a real-world organization and professional contact which involve other commitments, meetings, travel schedules, and so on. The bottom line is that you should build in more lead time for your practicum phases than you might do for coursework.
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