Transitioning From Fellow to Attending: Tips For the Job Hunt
As medical trainees, we are all familiar with the match process. It proceeds in a predictable way: talk to mentors, submit your CV, receive interview invitations, attend interviews, rank your choices and cross your fingers.
All steps are completed within a pre-specified period of time and with a clearly defined process in place.
Transitioning from medical school to residency and from residency to fellowship follows this established, comfortable template. Transitioning from training to full-time employment is a different animal. Gone is the warm blanket of the clearly-defined timeline and process, which can be appropriately anxiety-provoking for graduating fellows.
Collective wisdom on finding a permanent position is just that. There is no guaranteed pathway to your dream job, but based on my own experience as a graduating fellow and the extensive conversations with faculty members as part of my own job, search a consensus around the following advice has emerged:
Start your preparation early. This may be obvious, but it is worth repeating as having time on your side takes rushing later out of the list of things to provoke anxiety. It does not hurt to get started on preparing your CV, having mentorship discussions and even reaching out to possible employers well in advance.
Review examples of successful CVs and cover letter formats and get your own documents started. This process of creating application documents that you are happy with takes a long time, and you need to have people you trust review the drafts before you have a finished product. Expect creating a good CV and cover letter to take as much as 2 – 3 weeks with revisions.
Talk to recent graduates from your program. Find out what they wish they did at your stage, how they like their job and what questions you should be asking potential employers.
Talk to faculty in your program. Make dedicated conversations as much as possible and schedule a time to sit down with faculty – do not just catch them in the hall. You must be sure to talk to the faculty with careers closest to what you want to be doing, but talking to any faculty interested in helping fellows or with a good perspective is worth your time. It is almost always a good idea for one of these people to be the chief of cardiology of your department.
Reach out to faculty at other programs who are willing to provide advice. In particular, faculty with ties to your institution will be most willing to chat with you. Ask them about who has been successful in their program making this transition and what steps they think are most important for you to be making.
Make friends. Networking is a major part of the job hunt. People want to help you, but you have to put the effort into meeting and asking them questions. Being friendly and professional in these interactions is important.
Be an excellent fellow. Many jobs are attained based on others' perception of you (faculty, colleagues, nurses, APPs, techs, etc.). Maintaining high standards for your clinical care and being professional in all interactions are the most important factors to getting a job. There is no better way to build your reputation than for people to say nice things about you behind your back.
Know what you are looking for in a job. Unfortunately, many graduating fellows get into jobs that they are not happy with and have to search for a new position within the first few years out of training. While quick transition to another new job is not necessarily a problem, the best way to ensure you are starting your first job from training in a spot that you will be successful is extensively considering the type of position that what you want and to pursue positions that feature those things.
Prepare for your interviews. When interviewing, take time to know details about the practice you are going to and the people you will be meeting. Obviously, you will learn a lot more about the place when you are at your interview, but you should read all you can online and talk to your contacts ahead of the meeting. The people you are meeting will appreciate this and you will get more out of your interview.
Talk to your loved ones. Your significant other, children and family are critical to you being successful in your new position. Finding a job with features that support a healthy relationship with them is very important. Discussing each opportunity that you are considering with them is a great way to include your loved ones in the decision-making process and ensure that everyone is satisfied with the new employment situation.
There is no way to eliminate all anxiety for the job hunt, but you can take steps to make yourself the most informed, best candidate you can be. These may seem like obvious pieces of advice, but each step takes effort on your part and with an early, organized approach you can maximize your chances of finding your dream position.
This article was authored by Charles Miller, MD, Fellow in Training (FIT) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.