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Take It From Me…

About to head out on some interviews? First spend some time with these physicians as they share their own job-search lessons.
When Brooke Buckley, M.D., was searching for her first position as a general surgeon in 2007, she didn’t appreciate how important it was to make the organization’s future plans a focus of the interview. It didn’t cross her mind to ask about the direction of the organization, much less how her surgical role might be modified in the future.
Turns out that one system’s plan for regionalization—funneling patients from small outpost hospitals into big medical centers where services and doctors are consolidated—would significantly influence the types of cases she would be treating in the future. And that wasn’t the direction she wanted her career to take.
You’re looking for a job that utilizes your skills, fulfills your drive and lets you grow as a physician. What could go wrong? Plenty, if you’re not on the top of the job-search game.
Admittedly, you can’t unearth every nuance about a place until you’re actually part of it. But you can learn a bevy of lessons from others who enjoy the benefits of retrospect. What should they have asked or done that they didn’t ask or do to get the most from their interviews and site visits? Their hindsight could prove great foresight for you!
Job search: Don’t miss the basics
Conducting a thorough job search is critical in realizing your professional dreams. You want to have enough opportunities to weigh your options and enough information to get an accurate picture of each one. But what did physicians who have already transitioned from training to full-fledged practice fail to do or notice in pursuing their own positions?
One piece of advice echoed by many is to pay closer attention to the tactics necessary to structure a productive pursuit: Begin early to target the best options, conduct due diligence and negotiate a good deal. Additionally, don’t be afraid to widen your search to options normally below your radar. Even though your dream practice is on one coast or the other, it may be worth your while to listen when a hiring team from an institution elsewhere in the country calls. By recalculating your GPS, you might uncover a very satisfying career in a place you never anticipated. As one physician noted: “The landscape of your work and home life becomes dramatically different as you finish training and jump into your first job. So it’s worthwhile to be open-minded…to explore situations that may have seemed unorthodox in the past.”
Christian Millett, M.D., knew he was a city person who’d likely end up in a metropolitan practice after graduating from residency in 2011. Even so, he wishes that he had extended his potential options to a few rural opportunities—if for no other reason than comparison. Instead, Millett added Boston and Philadelphia to a list of possible locations when Washington, D.C., didn’t yield enough choices initially. Later he’d circle back, eventually finding a great opportunity with The Dermatology Center, a Germantown and Bethesda, Maryland-based practice with an office in D.C. But at least he had broadened his market by looking elsewhere. “You have to expand your search,” he says, “if things aren’t popping up exactly the way you’d like.”
Once you’ve spotlighted a place, don’t be shy in nailing down the business particulars of your search. Your life will be less stressed if you can muster questions such as “How much time does hiring usually take?” “What people or committees are involved?” “What can I expect going forward?” Clarify the reimbursement policy for site visits while you’re at it to save yourself a surprise in the end.
Joaquin J. Garcia, M.D., would be much more inquisitive today about the hiring process than he was when he first joined Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic in 2009 as a surgical molecular pathologist. Granted, his offer came within days of interviewing for the job. But since employers can’t always pounce on plum candidates quickly, it’s worth your peace of mind to know the next steps. Now as Mayo Clinic’s vice president of recruitment, as well as assistant professor and vice chairman of laboratories and medical director of the histology laboratory, Garcia notes: “People often feel they should know within a month if they’re getting the job. But by understanding the timeline and the layers of scrutiny, you can take a little pressure off yourself. You’re freed up to look at other opportunities.”
Site visits: Make them count
A Skype or phone interview can help you decide if you want to pursue an opportunity in earnest. A site visit, however, yields the kind of nuanced information about space, technology and coworkers best acquired face to face. Yet what did physicians who’ve navigated this terrain before miss that you should target during your visit?
Besides physically touring as many places in the community as possible, job-search veterans say they wish they had focused less on the physical plant and more on the people. Yes, it’s important to scope out infrastructures and layouts. You want to know if the technology to support your specialty exists and, if not, how you get it. But meeting, talking to and getting a sense of your potential coworkers is value-added information you shouldn’t let pass.
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