New physicians face many challenges during their first job search, but candidates can make the process easier by avoiding seven common mistakes, Leigh Page writes for Medscape Medical News.
Young doctors often lack experience searching for jobs and negotiating contracts. According to Tony Stajduhar, an official with Jackson & Coker, "Starting a career is one of the toughest things they'll do."
Page outlines seven mistakes to avoid when young doctors launch their first job search—lessons that can apply to older doctors, too.
1. Not launching a broad search. In a survey, Jackson & Coker found that over half of physicians leave their first job within five years. Stajduhar says many first-time doctors settle for positions that are a poor fit because they do things like limit their search to a small geographic area. Instead, first-time doctors should launch a broad search to have a better chance of finding something which is a good long-term fit.
2. Rushing to find a position. New doctors should start their job search early. "If you wait too long, confusion and panic can set in, and you can accept a job out of necessity rather than choice," Stajduhar says. Many search firms suggest starting the process 12-18 months prior to the end of training to avoid having to make a rushed decision.
3. Focusing only on large cities. There is no shortage of job openings for new doctors, but many applicants say it is difficult to find positions. That may be because many applicants gravitate toward large metropolitan areas—such as cities on the East Coast—where competition is the most intense. New doctors can often find more job openings and higher salaries by applying to jobs in smaller cities or on the outskirts of larger ones.
4. Being too drawn toward employed positions. New graduates are often attracted to employed positions with large health systems because those organizations mirror the environment where they received their medical training. While such jobs have advantages, Keith Borglum, a health care consultant, says new doctors should also be mindful of potential drawbacks, such as less autonomy and reduced income potential.
5. Relying too much on a recruiter. Many new doctors work with a recruiter to find positions, and they can be helpful in securing offers. However, Page notes that individual recruiters only have access to a fraction of available jobs and ultimately are loyal to their client. Job seekers should maintain a level of independence.
6. Accepting the first reasonable offer. Jim Barna, a contract attorney, says, "A lot of young physicians jump at a job without doing much due diligence." Before accepting an offer, Barna says applicants should carefully scrutinize their contract, make sure the organization is a good culture fit, and consider waiting for other potential offers.
7. Negotiating poorly. A new doctor's first salary negotiation is particularly important because it heavily influences later salary levels. "There's always room to negotiate salary," advises attorney Ezra Reinstein. New doctors should be careful not to indicate they are comfortable with a certain salary level early on because it makes latter negotiations difficult. Reinstein also notes doctors should think beyond salary. "If research is important to you, ask for a research budget. If time off is important, ask for additional days off," he says. (Page, Medscape Medical News, 4/7).
The takeaway: Avoiding some key, common mistakes in the job search can help new doctors secure the right job and get their career on the right track.