The first physician job search is a transition marker from trainee to independent practice, concluding with a multiyear contract potentially affecting one's entire career. It can be multifaceted and anxiety provoking for trainees, especially when done with limited guidance. This Rip Out outlines a deliberate approach to the process.
What Is Known
For many trainees this will be their first professional job search at a time when they are still learning. In preparation for the search, numerous issues must be considered, from career goals to personal priorities, before initiating the search. Trainees must then align their conclusions with the search process. Resources are available locally and online to help navigate this career progression, and a deliberate approach can lessen trainees' anxiety and maximize options.1
Start the job search early, at least 18 months prior to graduation.
Define your career goals and priorities, and let those guide your job search.
Revise and update your curriculum vitae monthly with any new committees, publications, and accomplishments.
Cultivate local, regional, and national networks that can help connect you with job opportunities.
How You Can Start TODAY
Start early. Although hiring timelines vary by specialty and hospital, start the job search at least 18 months before graduation to allow time for goal setting and networking. Internal medicine residents reported that starting more than 1 year in advance was among the best advice they received.2
Define career goals and priorities. Assess your career goals and priorities prior to beginning the actual job search. Start by envisioning yourself 3 to 5 years into practice and listing the most important features of your job at that juncture. Considerations include geographic preference, desired practice type (academic, group or individual practice, community health system, hybrid model, National Health Service Corps, locum tenens), expected compensation and benefits, opportunity for academic or administrative leadership roles, and the ability to get an advanced degree. Addressing these considerations at the outset will focus the job search. The American Medical Association offers a concise summary of benefits and drawbacks of different practice patterns.3
Build a professional support network. Identify individuals at your home institution who can help brainstorm about career trajectories, analyze job opportunities, tighten up application materials, and make introductions to potential employers (eg, individuals inside and outside your institution, including alumni of your training program). Program directors, advisors, and clinical or research mentors often play an important role. Networking at regional and national conferences can lead to introductions and unadvertised job opportunities. Be visible through presentations, committees, and casual conversations. Interact with those colleagues you know less well. These “weak ties” are at least as valuable as strong ties in developing career opportunities.
Review your digital footprint. Potential employers often screen applicants for online evidence of professionalism issues or other red flags. Social media has many potential benefits in the job search (such as expanding your network), but it must be managed carefully. Set privacy controls on nonprofessional social media.
Revise your curriculum vitae (CV). Revise and then update your CV regularly. Set monthly calendar reminders to update your CV with any new committees, articles, roles, and presentations, especially if you plan to apply for jobs within the next year. For more information on crafting a CV, read the upcoming Career Transitions Series Rip Out by Jericho and colleagues in the June 2019 issue of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, and utilize online resources, such as the JAMA Career Center (figure).
What You Can Do LONG TERM
Search online job postings. Online job searching websites connect you with potential employers. The JAMA Career Center has job postings and numerous online resources, including licensure tools and geographic information about communities across the country. The Association of American Medical Colleges' CareerConnect allows for job searching and customizable alerts for new postings, mostly in academic, hybrid, or public practice settings, as well as a CV review service.
Attend physician career fairs. In-person fairs are often large and hectic; it is helpful to schedule meetings with specific hospital or practice representatives ahead of time. Online career fairs offer flexibility and the opportunity to explore job opportunities across a wide geographic range.
Connect with physician recruiters. In-house recruiters are employed by health systems or organizations to connect job applicants with available positions. Recruiters understand their organization's vision and direction and are generally the first point of contact when applying to a position. Search firms (headhunters) are contracted and paid by employers to identify potential applicants, or they can assist individual applicants in identifying potential positions, for a fee. When sharing contact information in online job post forums you should be aware that it typically results in unsolicited recruiter contacts.
Contact potential employers and include your CV. Once you have identified hospitals or practices that interest you, send your CV and a letter of interest to division/department directors or practice managers (usually via e-mail). This can be in response to an available position or as a “cold e-mail.”
Use your professional network. Reach out directly to your contacts at hospitals or practices that interest you, either via your own network or professional societies.
Cultivate negotiation skills. The terms of the first contract will determine much about your work life, from clinical responsibilities and compensation to protected academic time. While both you and the employer will have nonnegotiables, negotiation can help to maximize your job satisfaction. Consider engaging in mock interviews and negotiations with someone not involved in the hiring process at your home institution. Use online resources (such as a case-based discussion on job negotiations for graduating trainees).4 Sending a summary e-mail after an interview when items were negotiated can help document what was agreed on, prior to signing a contract. Confirm all negotiated items are written into your contract before you sign it.