Candy Bradford, CPC, CERS
What matters to you?
Before you even contact a physician recruiter, respond to a posted position, or network your contacts for leads, you need to know which factors are important to you in finding the position that meets your goals. At the most basic, what do you want to do with your hard-earned years of training and experience? What kind of work do you want to do: academic research, clinical, teaching, or pharmaceutical company research? Do you want to treat mixed patient populations, or do you want to specialize in specific populations? Ideally, you made most of these decisions before or early in your fellowship. If not, it’s time to do some soul searching.
The first step is determining what your preferences and priorities are.
Candy Bradford, CPC, CERS, vice president of operations at Odell Medical Search, a medical professional search firm with an oncology service line, offers some specific advice. “The key to your first full-time position is to have a clear understanding of 4 areas that can make a difference in where and how long your search takes,” she explains. “These are: the type of work you will be doing, the location, how soon you need to be employed, and your compensation goals.”
Each of these 4 areas has many variables to consider in making your decisions. Think through these factors to help you narrow your search.
Are you clear in the specialty area you want to practice within the oncology field? Your future employer wants to know what your goals are and what you’re passionate about.
Do you want to be involved in clinical trials? Not every employer will have this component available. So if clinical research is important to you, identify possible employers accordingly.
Be honest with yourself, where do you really want to live? Think about what you like to do in your off time, your personal interests, and where your family is located. Start your search centered on your geographic priorities.
How long are you willing to hold out for the perfect job? It’s important to have realistic expectations and know your flexibilities. If you need to find a job sooner rather than later, decide in advance which of your priorities you are willing to forgo in the interest of finding a job more quickly.
Don’t forget to think clearly, and critically, about that important fourth area, compensation goals. While you certainly want to be paid well, it’s important to do your homework and research current salary ranges in your preferred specialty and geographic area. Rehana Dharani, CPC, executive healthcare consultant in oncology at Odell, notes that “unrealistic salary expectations will turn off a potential employer.”
Balancing your goals
Don’t make your job search harder on yourself than it needs to be. In addition to the areas Bradford and Dharani noted, there are still more questions to ask yourself. What kind of work environment do you want: private practice, large academic medical center, community hospital, corporate laboratory…or something else? Where do you want to live and work: big city, suburbs, or more rural locations? Do you have family ties or geographic limitations to consider?
With these preferences in mind, it’s time to prioritize your professional goals. Even if the highest salary possible is your primary goal, how will you balance salary requirements with your other goals? Don’t forget to consider other issues that will have a significant impact on your life and career: work/call hours, patient load, research options and clinical trial opportunities, meetings, travel, or presentations, hospital administrative duties, partnership future, and employee benefits.
Before you even consider a specific position, you need to decide which factors are negotiable for you and which aren’t. Everyone will have a specific list of deal breaker issues that are absolutely essential to making a job the right fit, or not. Whether it’s lowest acceptable salary, location, hours, administrative duties, patient, hospital services…you need to know what your non-negotiable list includes. Then you should make up another list of the areas that you can be flexible about.
With these lists in hand, you will be better prepared to narrow down your job options and to navigate the search process.
Enough about you…
While the process to this point has been all about you and your priorities, it’s now time to take a step back and find some perspective. You know what you want, but now you need to be sure that an employer will want you to be able to actually land a job.