Seven Job-Search Mistakes of New Physicians

Leigh Page


April 07, 2015

In This Article

Seeking the Right Job

Each year, tens of thousands of final-year residents and fellows start looking for their first job. They have to deal with thousands of job openings, decide what kind of job they want, focus on a particular offering, and negotiate a contract.

This is a tough challenge for new physicians, who often have little background in the business of medicine. "Starting a career is one of the toughest things they'll do," says Tony Stajduhar, president of the Permanent Recruitment Division of Jackson & Coker, a nationwide physician recruiter based in Alpharetta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb.

"Residents have been working in a somewhat protected environment," he says, adding that many of them don't yet have a clear idea of what they want.

Here are some common mistakes that new physicians make in attempting to land the best job possible.

1. Refusing to Cast a Wider Net

Call it "the curse of the first job," Stajduhar says. Overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choices and unaccustomed to negotiating for a job, new doctors often wind up in positions that are a bad fit for them, and they move on after just a few years. In a survey[1] of established physicians, Jackson & Coker found that more than half had left their first job after 5 years, and more than half of that group had stayed only 1 or 2 years.

"New doctors often don't pick wisely and tend to regret their decision," Stajduhar says.

One common mistake that newly minted doctors make, he says, is to focus their job search on a particular location. That narrow approach could force you into a job you don't really like. In fact, the Jackson & Coker survey found that when physicians had chosen "location" as the top priority in their first job search, they were more likely to leave within 5 years than those applicants who had chosen "quality" as the top priority.

Nevertheless, more new physicians still seem to be putting location first. In a 2014 survey[2] by Merritt Hawkins, another major physician recruiter, 69% of final-year residents cited location as one of the most important considerations in choosing a job, up from 57% in 2008. This emphasis on location is largely encouraged by employers, who believe that recruiting a physician with roots in the area will improve retention.

In some cases, doctors insist on a certain location because they have aging parents to take care of or children in school, but in many cases, it's just a comfort issue, Stajduhar says. "They just want to go back home," where they grew up. "They're not focusing on finding the best jobs."

Of course, if you remove the location filter from a job search, the number of possibilities can seem overwhelming. Stajduhar estimates that there are probably 20,000 current openings for internists alone. Winnowing down the choices means having a good idea of what kind of job you want. Do you want to work for someone or strike out on your own? Do you want to be in a large organization or a small one?

The answer often depends on your personality type, Stajduhar says. He suggests taking a personality test, such as the extended DiSC® or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, which can be found on the Internet.


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