Moving from residency to finding a job as a physician is a daunting process by anyone's estimation. At the same time, it represents the culmination of years of education, long hours, and hard work to the promise of a highly rewarding career.
Now that you've completed your training and find yourself on the cusp of a career transition, our Residency Resource Team recommends that you follow these five tips. The simple steps can help you succeed in today's challenging healthcare environment.
1. Find a Mentor to Guide You
Benjamin R. Doolittle, MD, program director of internal medicine and pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine, writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, said about life after residency:
"In medicine, we are steeped in a culture where the next step is well-defined. There is the next rotation, the next board exam, the next application. The path is clear, and the next horizon is clearly visible from where we stand. Everything changes after training. The horizon is not always easily visible. Because of this, we can lose our bearings."
His insights testify to the need for a mentor, someone who can act as a teacher, motivator, role model, and advisor — a person who has your best interests at heart who will push you to do your best and continue a pattern of lifelong learning.
The Association of American Medical Colleges suggests these tips for finding a mentor:
- Look for role models. A mentor is often someone who has a career you hope to emulate.
- Build relationships. Remember, however, that physicians have incredibly busy schedules, so don’t be discouraged if relationships don’t develop overnight.
- Ask the right questions. Learn about your mentor’s path to medicine, what their challenges were, and what they learned.
- Be open. It can be beneficial to have multiple mentors with different strengths and points of view, so be open to the idea of finding more than one.
2. Manage the Transition Like a Pro
Your life changes in a number of ways post-residency: Your role evolves from student to clinician, from relying on attendee’s advice to making clinical decisions independently, and from having others prescribe a defined curriculum to charting a career course of your own.
Dan Newhaller, DO, SVP, Group Medical Officer at Schumacher Clinical Partners, offered the following advice to help ensure you manage the transition successfully.
Keep Calm and Don’t Get Overwhelmed
"Although you are taking on a big task, refuse to become overwhelmed or frightened," Dr. Newhaller said. "Draw upon your years of training and the knowledge that you retained during medical school and residency, and know that you are equipped to handle any situation that arises.
Get to Know Members of the Staff
"Building positive relationships with the people you interact with on a daily basis is vital to your career success," he said. "Learn more about the attending physicians, nurses, medical directors, administration, office manager, and other staff. Get to know them on a personal level by finding out where they are from and how long they’ve been at the facility."
Maintain a Healthy Work-life Balance
"All too often, I see newly graduated residents burn out in their first year of post-residency because they did not maintain a positive balance," Dr. Newhaller noted.
"It is easy to get caught up in all of the job offers thrown at you and extra shifts that can be picked up on the side. But don’t underestimate the importance of making sure your work life is stable, meeting your needs to make a living and pay back your student loans."
3. Contract Negotiation: Learn the Art of the Deal
As a graduating resident, understanding and negotiating contract terms is essential. That includes things like knowing your employment status (Are you a contractor, employee, or partner?), who will cover credentialing expenses, whether a non-compete clause exists, your rights and responsibilities, and your compensation and benefits.
“The contract review process can be intimidating so seek tax, investment, and legal counsel to guide you as you make contract decisions,” said Jason Bradberry, vice-president, physician advisory recruiting and residency resources for Schumacher. “Keep in mind, you have more bargaining power than you may think. Never sign a contract until you understand every tenet.”
Read the SCP blog post "7 Questions Residents Should Ask During Contract Negotiations" to learn more about contract negotiations.
4. Write a CV That Gets Attention
The quality of your curriculum vitae (CV) can be what either gets you in the door for an interview or shuts it soundly in your face.
“To make sure your CV gets the hiring committee's attention and consideration, it must not only impart information about your personal history, educational and professional experience, and achievement, but also establish a favorable image in their minds,” said Jason Bradberry, vice-president, physician advisory recruiting and residency resources for Schumacher. “It should emphasize your strengths and create enough interest to earn you a personal interview.”
Bradberry added that as a resident, you should “give extensive thought to everything you have done during your residency and the skills you bring to the job to ensure it presents a complete picture of your expertise.”
Include the following elements in your CV:
- Objective statement (optional)
- Contact and personal information
- Internships, residencies, and fellowships
- Board certification, specialty, and states where you are licensed
- Professional experience
- Publications, presentations, and other activities
- Professional memberships, awards, and honors
- Extracurricular activities and interests (optional)
If you are uncertain about including a piece of information, ask yourself: Will this information help me get an interview? If the answer is yes, then add it; if not, leave it out.
Recommended reading: Common CV Mistakes Residents Make and How to Avoid Them
5. Make an Outstanding Impression during the Interview
As the saying goes, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." With the level of scrutiny you will undergo combined with, potentially, scores of applicants, the impression you make can't just be good — it needs to be outstanding! The best way to reach that high bar is to be prepared and ready.
That includes doing your homework about the facility, being prepared to answer the hard questions that will invariably be asked, dressing appropriately, arriving early, and displaying a relaxed, confident demeanor. The interview is no time to be modest and self-deprecating about your skills and experience but to convince the decision-makers that you are better qualified than anyone else.
When asked if you have questions (that, too, will happen), be prepared with a list. It demonstrates that you have interest in the position and want to learn more.
Once the interview is over, send thank you letters to each person you spoke with, reiterating your interest in the job and mentioning highlights about your discussion.
Coming out of residency can be a time of excitement but also uncertainty. Hopefully, you found these five tips helpful as you make the transition.
SCP's Residency Resource Team helps new physicians embrace this change with guided onboarding, additional clinical support, mentorship, and educational resources.
SCP offers residents careers in several specialties, including emergency medicine, hospital medicine, urgent care, intensive care, and pediatrics.
To learn more about how Schumacher Clinical Partners can help you succeed in your transition from residency into a career as a physician, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.