Starting Your Job Search: Figuring Out What You Really Want

Koushik Shaw, MD


May 03, 2019

In This Article

The Importance of Peers and the Right Place for You

Contact fellow trainees who graduated before you. Physicians who have looked for jobs know about good locations, job leads, areas to avoid, and current salary ranges.

The best move is to find a job that you will be happy with for the long haul, while recognizing that your goals might eventually change.

It's important to get the job that's right for you. If it turns out you don't like the job you choose, you have the option of moving on. Your employer, however, will probably make it challenging for you to do so. And, of course, you'll be back to square one in the time-consuming task of finding a job.

The best move is to find a job that you will be happy with for the long haul, while recognizing that your goals might eventually change. As Morgan points out, "If you're focused on saving money and paying off loans, it may make sense to work in an area where the cost of living is low and the demand for physicians is high—even if you know you probably won't stay long-term."

The Earlier You Start, the Better

Many residents and fellows wait too long to start their job search. In a 2015 survey[1] of new doctors by the physician recruiter Merritt Hawkins, 68% began their search during their final year, and fully 32% waited until the last 6 months to start. Here's some advice:

If you're a resident, start your job search 12-18 months before training ends. Because it can take 1-1.5 years to find a job, starting your job search any later than 12 months out will probably make your last months of residency a challenging race to the finish, forcing you to make poor choices or even delay the start of your new job. Physicians who are already employed, but want to move on, may take even longer to find the right job; because they have a paycheck, the need for immediate action seems less critical. Still, if you're unhappy at your job, it's wise to carve out time to find something new without letting the hunt drag on.

Why the search takes so long. Job hunts involve research, résumé writing, rehearsing for interviews, interviews, and making on-site visits. You'll also need time to deal with a job prospect falling through or waiting months for paperwork to be approved.

Certain people need to start even earlier. Physicians who want to practice in another state need to complete licensing paperwork. Special arrangements, such as a 4-day workweek, may take longer to negotiate. You may need to coordinate your search with a spouse who is also looking for a job. Noncitizen international medical graduates have to file extensive paperwork to get a visa.

Deciding Where to Locate: A Major Decision

Determining where you want to practice should be the first step in your job search. "If you've enjoyed the area where you've done your training, that could be a logical choice," says Morgan.

There are several major factors to consider, according to Hertz: "What kind of community do you enjoy most—rural, metropolitan, or large urban? Do you want to be near family and friends? Do you have special interest in a particular patient population? What's your political persuasion?"

Do some soul-searching. Don't be hasty. This is a time to get in touch with your feelings and be deliberative about your needs. Your first impulse may be to choose a familiar location, such as your hometown, your spouse's hometown, or the area where you're currently training. Or you might prefer a location that offers a lot of outdoor activity.

Second-guess yourself. Let nagging concerns about your choices bubble to the surface. For instance, if you're considering a small town, ask yourself whether you would feel isolated. If you're thinking of a large urban area, how would you cope with the traffic? And if you're looking for an outdoorsy locale, will it hold your interest in the long term?

Aim for a specific area. For internists alone, there are thousands of jobs from coast to coast—and the numbers are expected to rise. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that overall employment of internists would increase from 49,800 in 2016 to 57,000 in 2026—a leap of 15%—primarily owing to the growing and aging US population.[2] Even restricting your search to a region, such as New England or the Northwest, would be too overwhelming for large specialties. Before you can begin a job search, you'll need to get specific.

Focus on one state, if possible. One compelling reason for choosing a precise location early is that you'll need to get licensed in that state. If you choose a different state from the one you're training or working in, it can take months to get licensed. Even after you get licensed, you will have to get credentialed with the local hospital and insurers.


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