Finding the Right Career Opportunity
by Patrick C. Alguire, MD, FACP
Director, Education and Career Development, ACP
A number of resources can be marshaled on your behalf to find just the right career opportunity for you. But first you need to get organized, which means planning and documenting what to do and scheduling your time appropriately to fully implement your plan.
First, choose (from below) and write down the strategies you intend to use. Then create a timetable to accomplish the necessary tasks and store the information collected from potential job sources in one place. Keep a copy of everything you send and attach responses to your inquiries. Document all phone calls with a summary of the discussion and what follow-up is needed.
Many contacts will first be made on the telephone. It is important to master certain telephone techniques so you can be efficient, sound professional, and make a good first impression. Before you make or receive a phone call, know two things: what you want to say, which you should practice in advance, and what you want to accomplish, which is usually obtaining information or an interview. For information gathering, write the questions down on a piece of paper before you make the call and have it handy at the time of the call. When being interviewed by phone, have your CV available. This will make you feel and sound confident. The CV will also remind you to emphasize your strong points.
There are six commonly used resources that can help you: attending physicians and residency alumni, professional organizations, professional publications, physician recruiters, database companies, and the Internet. The first and probably most important are your attending physicians and residency alumni. These individuals often have a vested interest in your success, so talk to them and ask for recommendations. Conclude each discussion with a request for at least three other contacts. This is the time to ask for a letter of recommendation. After contacting your referrals, send a note or letter to the person who referred you to inform them of your progress. Staying in touch with all your contacts keeps doors open for future help. This process of networking is an important and efficient means of getting the right career position. The Department of Labor estimates that 60% of those making more than $100,000 annually secured their positions through referrals from acquaintances!
Professional organizations can offer assistance in a variety of ways. Organizations like the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association have local, regional, and national chapters that will assist you. If you are looking for a position in a geographic area different than where you trained, contact the local chapter for that region. They typically maintain lists of practices, hospitals, and communities looking for partners and physicians. This information can often be found online, at the organization's Web site.
Publications from professional organizations are also a valuable resource. Medical journals typically carry classified ads in print and online. Whether or not you intend to make a contact through the classified ads, always take time to review them. Classified ads are an excellent source of information on the market in terms of job availability and salary. Be somewhat suspicious of ads that list a post office box rather than a contact name, address, or phone number. Occasionally, professional recruiters will place a blind ad (no real job is available) only to collect your name for their database so they can use it later when they need to fill a position.
There are various kinds of physician recruiters, each with a different purpose to fulfill. The hospital-based recruiter is a salaried employee of a hospital who helps establish a practice for that hospital and decides whether you meet its needs.
A retained recruiting firm is hired by a hospital, group practice, or other practice arrangement to find, screen, and present candidates with a certain profile. They will have in-depth knowledge of the practice and the community and will be careful to make sure you are the right match. In order to be successful, try to find what the profile is before you reveal all of your credentials; this will allow you to emphasize certain credentials that make you appear to be the "right fit." This recruiter is paid a retainer's fee and will receive a bonus when a match is made.
A contingency recruiter works for a hospital, group practice, or other practice arrangement and is compensated only when a physician accepts a position. Typically, they are national in scope and have only a limited knowledge about the practice and the community. Contingency recruiters try to match as many physicians with positions as possible, and the match may not always "fit."
Database companies can be useful if you are willing to share your CV and personal information with a wide variety of employers. If you use this resource, be as specific as possible about your desired location and practice setting; otherwise you may receive calls from places that will not interest you.
The Internet gives you the flexibility of researching potential practice situations from your home at a convenient time. A number of sites are available, and you should sample more than one. If you are interested in an academic position, perhaps the best site is "Academic Physician and Scientist" offered by the American Association of Medical Colleges. Their search engine allows you to specify the type of academic position that you want (i.e., assistant professor of medicine) and will list all available positions. Finally, for those interested in a non-clinical career in a pharmaceutical company, there is www.pharmaceuticalcareers.com.
The information presented in this paper is drawn in part from "Making the Right Practice Decision in a Rapidly Changing Environment," published by ACP.
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