Physician job search: Your next 7 steps

Even the savviest physicians don’t always hit home runs when it comes to conducting effective job searches. But for every missed opportunity to delve deeper or look further, physicians can usually point to positive and proactive steps they took to find the right position. Below are a few steps that you might want to take, too.

1. Seize the moment.

The sooner you participate in your specialty - thinking, feeling and behaving outside the trainee box - the sooner you’ll transition from resident or fellow to true colleague. To leverage your blossoming career and benefit your job search, serve on a board, teach a practicum or take a leadership role in your specialty’s society. By actively assuming responsibilities you’ll increase your exposure and networking links. Also since duty-hour restrictions won’t apply past training, shed the notion of working a shift as quickly as possible. "That’s not the real world," Reardon says. "You can’t say to your boss, ’I’m sorry, but I can’t work more hours today because I’m maxed out.’ That raises red flags."

2. Nail the address.

With health systems expanding every which way, make sure that your contract not only includes what you’re going to be doing but also where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, you may think you’re signing up for one convenient location and end up far from the center of activity or ancillary services and with a staff you’ve never met.

When Reardon accepted her psychiatry faculty position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she made sure that her agreement not only reflected her patient care expectations, but also her location in the hospital’s central clinic. In contrast, Pokabla learned during one site visit that he’d be working at a satellite facility 40 miles away from the building pictured on its website. Had he asked in advance, he would have nixed the interview. "You need to get down exactly what you’re going to be doing and where you’re going to be doing it," he says. "Make sure that you understand their plan and that it matches yours."

3. Look for candor.

Ask physicians what they don’t like or wish they could change about the group and/ or their jobs. Even though you may catch people off guard, their answers might prove insightfully candid. Also seek out a recent hire just to make sure that you’re not the only fairly new kid on the block. "It’s always a big red flag when you’re fresh out of training and there’s not a single young person in the practice," says Reardon. "That means you could end up with undue call or burdens that may not be spread equally."

4. Seek second opinions.

Query others about the reputation, integrity and work ethic of your future practice, not to mention the quality of people who’d be surrounding you. Because John Birbari, Jr., M.D., would be using his surgical oncology, advanced laparoscopy and other skills at multiple Ft. Worth, Texas-area hospitals, he wanted to make sure that the ancillary services at each facility met his specifications. Would the individuals assisting him in making accurate decisions possess high caliber imaging and other skills? Could he trust referring doctors not only to make the right referral call, but also to work up patients correctly? He was heartened by everything he saw and heard, especially when someone offered about his future Texas Health Care partners: "Yes, these guys do good work. One of them operated on my wife."

5. Stand by your passions.

If something is important in your life, let it be known upfront, especially if it might affect workflow or scheduling. Birbari, for instance, told the hiring partners that he’d want to continue an annual medical mission to Ethiopia. Since he could assure the docs that he’d be paying his own way, they agreed, freeing him to plan for the two-week stint every February. "Job candidates are often very reluctant to admit that they want leisure time," he says. "They want to say, ’I’m a hard worker; I don’t need time off.’ But you want to be in this for the long haul. So you need to be frank about your needs."

6. Find a mentor.

Engaging someone who can help you plot your search and support your career path is a giant step toward a fulfilling future. Anyone who understands the rigors of looking for and succeeding in a job can be a great help. Yet connecting with another doctor who’s relatively new to the scene is a plus. You can find great mentors in preceptors, program directors or professional societies - or ask the organization you’re about to join if it has a formalized program. "If you get the feeling that these people have a desire to invest their emotional capital in your growth and maturation as a professional," says Birbari, "that’s going to be worth more than any dollars you’re earning."

7. Keep your goals front and center.

Wherever you land, check out the opportunity for growth. As someone who entered medical school at 48, Lustig believed she had a lot to share beyond just clinical skills. So when Cleveland Clinic expanded its osteopathic family medicine residency at suburban South Pointe Hospital, she jumped at the chance to remain with the facility where she also had trained. South Pointe would not only give her the opportunity to see patients and teach but also support her long-term managerial goals and outside professional pursuits, which were numerous.

"You need to know yourself and what you can contribute," she says. "But you also need to be confident that you’ll have a support system for whatever you want to develop."

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