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“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” -Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

This resonates so profoundly as a physician, especially one who is actively looking for a job and/or in negotiations. Let’s talk about patience, time, and timing.

In undergrad, medical school, and residency, time and timing are laid out and dictated for us. Our medical school application dates are due by a very specific day and time or we fall into next year’s hopefuls. Our Step exams need to be completed by certain milestones or we fall out of compliance with our training contracts. Our Match Day happens once a year and tells us precisely where we and our friends are going to live and work for the next 3+ years. Our graduation date is set and shared with our 2000, then 200, then 20 (or maybe 2!) classmates. Our board exams are offered only a single or perhaps handful of days a year. However, when it comes to our jobs, suddenly there is no due date. We have received our most open-ended assignment and it is up to us to determine how, where, and when to begin the job search.

HOW: How do you find available jobs?

I imagine there are more ways than I can even list here, but here are my go-to’s for job searching:

Ask your mentors. Your attendings, former co-residents, program directors, etc. have connections throughout the country and often have insights into groups that are hiring. They can also help guide you with any regional or specialty-specific nuances to application timing, so start there! Colleagues and mentors are great resources and likely know your personal situation and professional interests and goals as well and can help guide you into identifying appropriate practices to fit these areas.
Check your national organization’s website for job postings. For example, as an OBGYN I can go to ACOG’s Career Connection page and search for available jobs there.

Contact practices directly. I fell in love with an area once and literally just googled and then contacted the three OBGYN practices in that town. Turned out, one of them was hiring! They hadn’t even posted the job yet, so it seemed like kismet. We met for an interview the following week. It never hurts to have a cover letter and a CV at the ready, then politely and with genuine interest reach out to the area groups or hospitals directly.

Look on hospital system websites for job postings. Most larger systems are required to formally post their available jobs through their career page on their website. So if you know what system you are interested in working with (for example, the VA, Kaiser, Indian Health Service, etc.), go to their career page for physicians (note, this is sometimes a different page than their non-physician postings, so you may need to do a little digging).

Locum tenens temporary to permanent postings. If you would like to trial working with a group, consider looking at locums postings that are intended to become permanent positions if all parties deem it a good fit. Check out my Q&A blog on locum tenens for more information and considerations regarding this option!

Connect via websites or recruiters. Sites like Indeed and LinkedIn will often advertise job postings for positions that could likely be identified in numbers 1-5 above. These sites as well as physician recruiters (and by this I mean recruiters unaffiliated with an organization. Often larger organizations will have recruiters through their HR department that will be your first line of contact) may charge a fee for their services, so if you can skirt the middle man it may offer you some additional negotiation power on the backend when you saved them this fee.

WHERE: Where will you go to practice?

For some of us, we know where we will go. Perhaps we have a sibling or a parent already in practice and we plan to join them. Perhaps we have family in a small town where there is only one practice to join and they recruited you when you were barely a medical school graduate. Keep in mind that the location will often dictate the demand and also the competition. For the rest of us, the career world is our oyster, and that becomes both an exciting and terrifying realization.

WHEN: When should you start looking for jobs?

The answer is actually quite nebulous. In general, it is never too early to start looking, or at minimum, start networking. Attend conferences and meet fellow physicians in various parts of the country and in various practice types. Ask questions about their experiences, how they picked their job, what they would do differently (or the same) the next time, and if you’re intrigued, whether they anticipate any staff turnover or available positions in the next couple of years! Overall, when you start seriously looking and applying will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to!):

  1. What field you are in. Some fields, like Family Practice, have ongoing needs for physicians and so practices are routinely looking for new providers to manage their patient growth. Some may be so specific that they cannot justify the need for more than one or two in a given area, and the radius for that area may even span state lines.
  2. What practice setting you are looking for. Are you aiming for a rural practice in a beautiful small town or a large academic practice in a highly desirable city? A rural practice may not often have turnover, but when it does it may have jobs posted for one or more years – attracting a physician to a rural area can be a challenge in some situations (are you the only physician and therefore on-call 24/7? That’s a tough sell to a new grad who may want and need clinical mentorship, or to a young couple planning to build a family in the next few years, or to a physician who loves to travel on a regular basis!). If this practice is for you, you may be able to negotiate a contract with them years in advance and you can often even negotiate to secure a monthly stipend until you begin. On the other hand, an academic practice may only post their job openings 3 or 4 months in advance of their anticipated need, and receive 20+ applicants in that short time.
  3. When you want to start. Once you have an idea of what type of practice you are interested in pursuing, start looking. If you’re a resident, generally you can keep your eyes and ears open in the first year or two, start looking seriously in the second to last year of residency and then start interviewing, applying and accepting late that spring or fall of your final year. If you haven’t found a fit by then, do not fret! There are always jobs and there is always time. Patience is key in finding a good fit. If you are already in practice and considering a new job, you can start looking once that bug hits, and keep in mind your notice interval so you give appropriate termination notice.
  4. Your flexibility. If you are open to any location and job setting, you may not need as aggressive of a timeline for yourself. As mentioned previously, there are a lot of jobs available (and more coming with this Great Resignation!) so you are likely to find something. If you have specific criteria and a specific timeline, then you do want to be aggressive. Even if your job is for two or four years from now, you can start getting to know people and practices so that you can keep an eye on their availability, and be a known and desired entity to them.

We have all invested and sacrificed so much of our time, energy, and money to achieve our skill set. Now it is time to make that investment worth it by knowing your values, exploring the market, and identifying the job that fulfills and fits you most ideally. And once you find that perfect job, let us at Contract Diagnostics help you negotiate the contract that reflects all of those goals and ideals you have worked for. Good luck and have fun!

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