When I was first asked to write the Fellows Perspective column,
one of the thoughts behind it was that I might share some insights unique to
the fellowship experience and possibly help other fellows. I have not done much
in the way of how to or advice columns, but for this
one, I thought I would share a few words about the experience that has occupied
much of my time and, in fact, my life over the last several months
looking for an academic faculty position.
The job search process has been illuminating. I have learned a lot about
academics and a lot about myself that I did not necessarily know, or at least
recognize, before the search began. In that spirit, I wanted to share a few
reflections with those of you who are fellows and who may be thinking about
embarking upon this process in the coming years.
First, I found that applying early and often was a helpful strategy.
There are several ways to identify possible openings around the country in a
particular field. However, I found that sending applications to places that I
felt would be good matches for my personal interests, irrespective of whether
or not these places were actively advertising for positions, was effective. In
so doing, I inevitably connected with individuals at those institutions who
appreciated the skill set that I might offer and who could help to look on my
behalf for a potential opportunity.
Additionally, I found that it was helpful to gain an understanding of
the way that places outside my own institution worked. I was unable to fully
appreciate the myriad ways to organize a clinical and research enterprise until
I visited and learned in detail about several other places. This, in turn,
helped me to more readily identify advantages and disadvantages of the work and
research environment of each institution.
I cannot say enough good things about the experience of meeting and
having rich conversations with extraordinarily compassionate and talented
individuals around the country who are engaging in my area of interest. This in
itself is a valuable reason for visiting several possible places of future
employment. Through this process, I have been able to identify several
individuals who will hopefully serve as great friends, collaborators and,
possibly, mentors for me in the coming years. People whom I otherwise would not
have had a chance to meet so early in my career.
The job search served a valuable function in enabling me to prepare a
presentation the job talk that thematically organized
the work that I had done throughout my fellowship. This was important, not only
in terms of the scientific details of the presentation, but also in allowing me
to say This is who I am by showing the areas and projects in which
I had chosen to invest significant amounts of time.
A technique that I used, this time by necessity, though in the future
perhaps by choice, was to divide my presentation into three roughly equal parts
that summarized three different projects under a thematic umbrella. In breaking
up the presentation in such a way, I was able to provide a clear roadmap and
enough distinct transitions that I was able to keep myself on task and my
Beyond This is what I have done, the job search was
tremendously helpful in provoking me to crystallize my thinking about the
question, What will I do in the future? The answer to this question
is absolutely key to determining whether an institution is a good match for
ones academic interests as the personnel and resources of an institution
will be the key components to enabling ones vision. I would advise anyone
considering an academic job to think hard about this question before embarking
upon the process.
Finally, I would have to caution fellows getting ready to start the
process that it is an exhausting, demanding but, ultimately, extremely
rewarding experience. I have grown so much throughout this last year and am so
grateful to all of the individuals inside and outside my institution who have
invested themselves so significantly in me and who have facilitated this
growth. Any success that I achieve in my early faculty years will have some
roots in the fertile ground created by my job search experience. I am more
enthusiastic and excited about academic medicine than ever before, and I cannot
wait to get started. I would be happy to write or talk with any of you who are
thinking about doing this in the years ahead.
William Wood, MD, is a third-year hematology/oncology fellow at the
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and is a member of the HemOnc Today