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Avoid the Resident’s First Job Curse

Jackson Physician Search
September 19, 2017

As a resident entering your final year of training, logic may lead you to believe that the high demand and limited supply of physicians will make it easier for you to find your first job whenever you start looking. But with literally thousands of options available, the opposite is true. Keep reading to see how you can avoid the curse of the resident’s first job.

Many final year residents are overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choices, are unaccustomed to negotiating for a job, and underestimate the timeline involved from application through interviewing and licensing. As a result, the most desirable positions are often filled early, and new doctors often wind up in positions that aren’t their best fit. If you wait too long, confusion and panic can set in, and you may accept a job out of necessity rather than choice.

It sounds ominous, but it is estimated that more than half of new physicians leave their first job within five years, and more than half of that group had stayed only one or two years.

Getting ahead of the timeline will position you to land the best job possible and avoid common missteps including:

  • Not spending enough time with your job search
  • Lacking resources for due diligence on market conditions and trends
  • Succumbing to external pressure from family or colleagues
  • Failing to optimize and negotiate your contract and compensation package
  • Rushing to make a decision in the eleventh hour based on what’s easy or “fast”

Finding the Right Fit is Important for a Resident’s First Job Search

One common mistake that newly trained doctors make is to focus their job search on a particular location to be near family and the community where they grew up, rather than focusing on finding the practice setting and culture that offers the best fit for their career and personal goals.

This narrow “location-only” approach could force you into a job you don’t really like. We surveyed physicians and found that when “location” was the top priority in their first job search, they were more likely to leave within five years than those applicants who had chosen “quality” as the top priority.

Of course, if you remove the location filter from a job search, the number of possibilities can seem overwhelming. Narrowing the choices means having a good idea of the type of job and employment model you want. Do you want to work for someone or strike out on your own? Do you want to be in a large organization or a small one?

Perhaps you know you want to pursue academic medicine in a big city with job opportunities for your significant other. Or if you’d like to see your compensation stretch further, a smaller city may be best. Due to the more limited supply of physicians, small-town practices often provide higher earning potential and a lower cost of living.

Once you can clarify what really matters to you, it becomes easy to focus on the best fit locations, practice settings and organizations.

Spring into action on your job search, with our Job Search Preparation Guide.

Connect with us for help with your job search timeline and game plan.

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