3 things residents get wrong when selecting their first job
In a prior installment of our Residency to Retirement column, we addressed the importance of financial modeling for young physicians trying to evaluate job opportunities. While a pure financial evaluation is critical to making informed job-related decisions, a practical big-picture approach is also recommended. Such an approach is described briefly here by our colleague Dr. Dhand. The three tactics he describes all make good sense.
David B. Mandell, JD, MBA
Editor, Residency to Retirement
by Suneel Dhand, MD
Finishing residency after what seems like a lifetime of education is obviously an exciting time for any young doctor. This moment is the accumulation of your dreams, and it feels great to be in-demand and receiving numerous highly paid job offers. For most specialties, you can pretty much pick and choose wherever in the country you wish to go and what type of practice you want to join.
However, despite reaching this milestone, it's also a time to be very careful and avoid certain mistakes when hunting for your first job. We will review three of the most common.
1. Restricting yourself only to what you know
There's a big wide world out there, and practice environments vary enormously by location. You may feel happy with where you are, have a burning desire to continue academic medicine (because that's all you know) and keep climbing the chain at your institution — but don't neglect exploring and interviewing in as many places as possible. You owe it to yourself to get the very best deal, which for most physicians will not necessarily be where they trained. The age-old adage also applies about always striving to get out of your comfort zone, to truly be making progress in life.
2. Failure to network
Medical professionals are generally not as good at this as many others. It's an essential career (and life) skill that everyone should actually be learning from high school. The ease of reaching peers in today's online world makes networking easier than ever. So don't be shy: Reach out to other physicians, go to conferences and talk to as many attendings as you can in your own institution. Be a ruthless networker and information gatherer!
3. Signing a contract too quickly
No matter where you decide to practice, always be very cautious before actually signing on the dotted line. The medical world is littered with horror stories (it is likely many doctors you work with can tell you theirs). Be extra careful with issues such as medico-legal insurance (tail coverage), restrictions to where you can practice after you leave (non-competes) and on-call coverage. Never be so happily overwhelmed with the bottom-line salary that you race to send a signed contract back. Ultimately, the best thing to do is have your own attorney review it. Short of this, have a trusted experienced physician colleague look it over.
Many good residency programs offer resources and advice to their final year residents, guiding them through the process of securing that first job. In addition, there are lectures, seminars and specific mentorship programs. All doctors have worked way too hard to make a serious mistake at this point, but a misstep here can be very costly indeed and also cause unnecessary stress at an early stage of your career.
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- Suneel Dhand, MD, is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the cofounder of DocsDox (www.DocsDox.com), a service that helps physicians find local moonlighting and per diem opportunities, bypassing the middleman. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Dhand is cofounder of DocsDox.