In medical training, we prepare for a lot of things — independent practice, board exams, lifelong learning — but we never really talk about job hunting. That’s a real shame because it leaves most of us feeling intimidated and helpless when the time comes for our first job search. Make no mistake: Prospective employers will use your lack of real-world experience against you.
The key to a successful job search is to know your worth. You’ve spent years cultivating a rare and valuable talent, and now it’s time to cash in. Here are a few tips to help you feel empowered to advocate for yourself and get the job that you want.
Get clarity on what’s important to you
You don’t have to blindly accept the job description that’s being offered to you. But, before you can negotiate, you have to know what you want and what’s most important to you. Is it location? Time? Research support? Money? It may be possible to work with employers to create a unique role that works for you, but first, it is essential to get clear on your priorities.
Don’t automatically believe them when they tell you it’s not negotiable
Employers will be quick to say that they are offering you a “standard contract” with no room for negotiation. Hearing that will make you feel uncomfortable to ask for what you want, and to be honest, that’s probably their goal. It’s true that there may be some components of the contract that are set in stone, but it’s worthwhile to discuss what you’re looking for and to see if compromises can be made. RVU targets, call schedules, compensation, protected time, and more should be considered in your discussions. If a hospital or practice is unwilling to budget on anything, is that really an environment you want to work in?
Knowledge is power
The most valuable thing I did during my job search process was to talk to friends and colleagues in my field. In medical culture, it is usually considered taboo to talk about money and contracts with other doctors, but many of us are now realizing how advantageous it can be to collect information from each other.
Ask your peers about the specifics of their contracts. If you are going through this process at the same time as fellow trainees, talk with each other about all the offers you’re seeing. Knowing what’s out there will give you a sense of what is reasonable to ask for in your own negotiations. It can also serve as a reality check for gauging how favorable (or not) your offers are.
Play the field
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket — that takes away a lot of your negotiation power. It is perfectly acceptable to interview and negotiate with multiple employers at once. The more offers you have in hand, the more comfortable you will be to push for what you deserve. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to show prospective employers that you are an in-demand applicant.
Hiring a lawyer is probably worth it
Lawyers who specialize in healthcare contracts know what red or green flags to look out for. They will help you understand things like malpractice insurance terms, termination clauses, and noncompete clauses. They will also help you negotiate and can often provide national compensation data for your field. Trainees often shy away from hiring a lawyer out of concern for the cost, but the lawyer’s fees will probably be much less than the added value they bring to your final contract. Think of it as an investment.
You are not a trainee anymore and you shouldn’t be treated like one
Medical trainees don’t have any control over their professional responsibilities, compensation, or schedules. We get used to that feeling over the years, but don’t forget that your first attending job is also your first opportunity to take back some control! You do have a say in what your job looks like and you absolutely deserve that.
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About Dr. Leah Croll
Leah Croll, MD, is a neurovascular fellow at NYU Langone Health. She was also a neurology resident at NYU. Prior to that, she graduated from NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She is a contributor to the ABC News medical unit. In her free time, she is working on trying all the pastries in New York City, one bakery at a time.
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