Resources for Job Searches

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Searching for your first job can be an incredibly exciting time. After years (and years) of training, it’s finally time to call yourself an attending. But alongside this excitement, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the prospect of a job hunt. After all, for many of us, our prior efforts to secure positions in residency and fellowship were done through the Match, in which the process was fairly standardized: submit your application by one deadline, receive interview requests, submit your rank list by another deadline, and if all goes to plan, await your match!

In contrast to the Match algorithm, the process of applying for a faculty position can be rife with uncertainty—When should you start applying? What types of institutions should you consider? What do you want your clinical/educational/research breakdown to be? What’s a reasonable salary and RVU target? Let’s try to tackle some of these key issues (and more!) to help make your job search as smooth as possible.

As a quick note, the focus of this post will be on searching for a position within an academic medical center. Seeking out a private practice or community-based type of position is a different endeavor and merits its own blog entry!


1.  When should I apply?

Start early…but be prepared to wait.
The timing for initiating your job search may vary a bit depending on your particular circumstance. I have several friends who knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was only one institution (or, in some cases, one specific city) they were interested in pursuing. If that’s the case, begin communication early. Identify any contacts that you may have at that specific institution and let them know of your interest so that you already have an advocate when it comes time for the institution to start evaluating potential candidates for new faculty. If you don’t have any personal contacts, find opportunities to introduce yourself to and network with current faculty. National conferences, including the American Thoracic Society, CHEST, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine, are a great place to start, but don’t underestimate the power of social media to help get your name out there. #MedTwitter, in particular, can be an incredible resource. In my own experience, I have made many virtual introductions that have later given way to friendships and collaborations.

If your scope is a bit more broad, I would recommend starting your search about a year before you hope to begin your new position. For current fellows, this typically means the summer/early fall of your final year of training. Be aware that many Divisions have not finalized their budgets at that time of the year, so you might not have a sense of what types of positions may be available (or, indeed, whether any positions will be available) until later in the year.


2.  Where should I apply?

Location, location, location!
For all stages of training, location is a significant factor to consider; however, when you are looking to secure your first job, you are (ideally) looking to accept a position at an institution where you will grow and develop your career. Professionally, you want to be sure that the institution fits your needs and that your missions align. Is there a specific clinical niche you are interested in? If so, it is important to consider whether this area is already established at the institution or if you would be expected (and encouraged) to develop this. If the latter, would you have access to necessary resources to help you with this endeavor? In my own clinical practice, for example, I enjoy working with patients who require advanced forms of non-invasive ventilation. Having the support of a skilled respiratory therapist and access to transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitoring in clinic were important factors for me to weigh when considering my own job prospects.

If you are a researcher, you need to consider whether the institution has the resources that you need to conduct your work. This includes both physical resources (laboratory space and equipment, access to data repositories, simulation space, etc), as well as the mentorship necessary to help foster your career. Also consider whether you are interested in pursuing additional advanced degrees as new faculty. If so, it may be helpful to prioritize applying to programs affiliated with universities that offer such programs (and, ideally, support faculty who wish to pursue advanced degrees).

Finally, don’t forget about your life outside of the hospital! Now is the time to consider what makes you (and, in many cases, your loved ones) feel happy and fulfilled. For some, this means settling close to extended family or finding a place to raise their growing family. For others, it may mean having ready access to city life or nature. Others may prioritize proximity to their favorite hobby or even their favorite sports team. It is important to try to identify a job that will allow you to derive happiness and fulfillment not only from your work life, but from your personal life as well.


3.  How should I apply?

Reach out to your former contacts.
After surveying friends who had recently (successfully!) completed their own job searches, we all agreed that this was the single most important piece of advice that we could offer: before you reach out to recruiters and headhunters, let your friends and former colleagues at other institutions know that you are beginning your job search. These contacts need not necessarily be in your own field, though this is certainly helpful. Friends and colleagues may be able to provide you with useful information about available positions and, because they are able to vouch for you and your work, these contacts can sometimes help you to get your foot in the door to secure an interview. Your contacts can also give you an insider’s perspective on working at a specific institution, providing you with a more honest, informed view of a potential job. Finally, even if your contacts do not know of any available positions at their own institution, they may be able to recommend you for other positions elsewhere, thereby expanding your search and helping you to survey your options.

Don’t be afraid to cold call…or more commonly, cold e-mail.
If you have your sights set on a specific institution, take a look at their job postings to see if there are any advertised positions available that align with your goals and interests. Still, even if you do not see a position listed that matches your needs, it may be worthwhile to reach out to the Division Chief via email to let them know of your interest. By emailing, you can help to establish your interest in a program in the event that the Division’s budget changes or new positions become available in the future. Don’t forget to include your curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter, with this email. This cover letter should emphasize things that make you a desirable applicant and should be tailored to the specific program to help underscore why you would be a good match for a specific Division and institution.


4.  What do I do once I have an offer?

Compare notes.
Talk to friends and colleagues who you know have also recently (that’s the key word here) applied for jobs. It can be surprisingly challenging to try to determine what is a “reasonable” salary and workload (and, in fact, this can vary based on geography). It is most helpful to compare offers with others who have applied for similar positions. In other words, if you are looking for a clinician educator job, compare your offer letter with friends who are also applying for clinician educator positions.

It is also very helpful to have others review your contract. When I was considering my own job offers, I asked my mentor and other trusted clinical advisors to weigh in. Their insights were invaluable and helped to shed light on things I should ask for (for example, an office!) but did not think to request.

Finally, it may be useful to have your contract reviewed by a lawyer. I have many friends who sought out online resources that allowed them to email their contract to a lawyer for review. This process was typically quick (important when signing deadlines are looming) and provided reassurance, though in some cases, the cost was relatively expensive.

Know your worth. 
This last point may sound obvious, but it bears repeating— know your worth and don’t be afraid to negotiate. You have worked hard for many years and have proven yourself to be a smart, capable, and productive physician. Remember what your priorities are and stick to them. Early in my job hunt, my mentor encouraged me to create a list of my “must have-s,” “would like-s,” and “must not have-s.” If a position did not have something on my “must have” list, I negotiated to see if my contract could be modified to include this. By engaging in this type of negotiation, I was able to carve out some protected time for teaching and research.


Hopefully this overview has provided a little insight to help guide you through your upcoming job search. While these questions are important to consider before you start your search, it’s also important to frequently check in with yourself throughout the job hunt process to see if any of your goals or preferences have shifted as you explore the marketplace. Good luck and happy searching!


Megan Acho, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, where she divides her time between Pulmonary/Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. She previously completed her fellowship training in Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, as well as Sleep Medicine, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She is interested in medical education and works closely with the DC/Baltimore Educational Consortium, teaching and studying educational efforts related to mechanical ventilation.