Finding Your First Job After Residency: Tips From a Fourth-Year Resident

finding your first job after residency

Photo credit: Jeremy Schneider

If you’re a resident, it’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next. We spoke to a fourth-year resident embarking on her first job about tips for when to start applying for jobs after residency, how to make yourself stand out, and how to get a job in a competitive market.

Finishing residency is simultaneously exciting (finally! freedom! an actual salary!) and also terrifying (wait, I have to practice on my own now?). Beyond the pressure of seeing and treating patients and putting into practice all the years - and years - of work, you’ll now have to work to find a job.

In some cases, finding the right fit can be easy: if you’re willing to move to a rural area for example. But what if you’re seeking opportunities in a competitive “best-place-to-live” market? Or what if you have your heart set on one of the top research hospitals in your area? Chances are, simply sending off your resume isn’t going to cut it.

To help you prepare, we spoke to a current fourth-year internal medicine resident in the competitive Southern California market about her experience applying for hospitalist jobs, when the best time to start looking for residency jobs is, and how to get an edge on your application.

Provider Spotlight: Ingrid Y., Fourth-Year Resident, and Soon-To-Be Attending Hospitalist

When did you first start looking for hospitalist jobs/exploring your options for jobs after residency?

In October, I started to send my resume out to a few companies. But in November, I hadn’t gotten as much interest as I had hoped and started wondering if I had to broaden my search. Where was I going to work?

I felt October was a little early - most places aren’t thinking about hiring that early. January was when most of my peers started really applying. I think November and December are when you can start. The colleagues that started looking later (like, January) were still in the interview process in February, when I had already found a position by then because I applied early.

Give yourself about four to six months. And be patient and wait forwhat you want.

My best recommendation would be to start earlier rather than later and try and find connections in the places you are interested in.

Did you know what kind of role you were looking for?

Not at first! I had an idea that I wanted to do hospital medicine, but I didn’t have a detailed picture of what that looked like. I weighed all the options: full-time in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, locums, and especially telemedicine. In the end, I decided telemedicine wasn’t something I wanted to start out my career in.

(Wheel Tip: We recommend residents get at least a few years of practice in a hospital or brick and mortar clinical setting before pursuing telemedicine. The best telemedicine employers prefer some hands-on patient experience before hiring. Here are 6 keys to finding a great job in telehealth).

What did you find was the most helpful in your job search? What were the biggest challenges you faced when searching for hospitalist opportunities?

You have to be tenacious when it comes to job searching. Remember that most hiring managers are doctors, not business people. Keep checking back in and sending emails, which aren’t too obtrusive It doesn’t hurt to make a phone call to follow up. There’s a balance between being annoying and being persistent, and from my experience, persistence is sometimes appreciated. Don’t worry about being annoying; I was told this exact thing by a physician hiring manager. If they’re not interested, they will let you know.

What was the physician interview process like? Any tips on what to expect or how to prepare?

Do as much research as you possibly can on the group and hospital/facility. Try to find out about their employee/physician satisfaction and their retention rates. Your research proves your interest and will help you talk about why you’re interested in working there in your cover letter and interviews.

Talk to as many people as you can. Connections are key. Have or know someone that can vouch for you. Tap into your alumni network from residency or medical school, even as far back as college or high school. They are going to get dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes—especially in competitive markets like the big cities and coastal networks—and you need to do anything to stand out.

Any tips for physician resumes?

If you’ve published, make sure that’s right up front after education. People want to know you are active in the research realm and innovation. After that, include other work/business experience, anything that demonstrates you are hard working, a team player, and have professional maturity.

What’s your secret to getting the hospital job you wanted?

In my case, the biggest key was to have connections to get my foot in the door and get my resume into the right hands. The job I eventually accepted was a referral through a friend that I went to medical school with, who was already hired in the group. He was able to pass on my resume and vouch for my work ethic and professionalism. Again, in competitive markets, having a former colleague speak to your capabilities and character can be essential to standing out.

What do you think residents know but are afraid to admit about completing school?

Debt is a really scary thing and can, unfortunately, govern moredecisions than we‘d like.

Do you have any fears about (finally!) finishing school and starting to practice on your own?

Every resident does. If you are starting out, it helps to have an established network that you can call with questions and for advice. Try to find a trusted mentor quickly in your group. It’s nice to have someone who is evidence-based and can cite research and also someone that is more responsive and can think quickly if you need an immediate answer. No matter how confident you are, you’re inevitably going to encounter things you’ve never seen before and have questions.

What are your biggest tips for residents starting to look for their first job?

Really sit down and think about what your priorities are and what you can let go of. Some people want to teach residents and be part of a research institution. If that’s your goal, stick to those priorities when you are job searching. And remember your value. Make your priorities list and make sure your priorities will be met with the groups you talk to. Make a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves”, and be willing to let go of the latter if it means all your “must haves” criteria will be met.

Did you negotiate your contract at all?

Again, it depends on your priorities. If it’s on your “must haves” list, then you should consider negotiating, but small things might not be worth it. Depends on the market - if you are in a competitive market you may have to take what you can get (if being in that location/group is worth it to you)! Depends on the context. But don’t be afraid to negotiate for what’s important to you.

Thanks, Ingrid!

If you’re a resident considering a telemedicine career, check out our guide to charting your telemedicine career path for details on how to get started. And stay tuned for our next provider spotlight interview with a family nurse practitioner turned urgent care telemedicine NP.