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September 1, 2009

No One Taught Me How to Do This in Med School

Handling the workshop like a pro

Becky is a neurology resident at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. When she graduates in July, she hopes to land a job in Chicago so she can join her husband, with whom she’s been apart for a year, while he completes his cardiology fellowship. Ron, a colorectal surgery fellow, is 33-years old. He’s been training to be a surgeon for as long as he can remember. He’s never looked for, or had, a job. He feels lost as to where to look, how to write a cover letter, if he should use a placement agency, how much he should expect to make, and how to move forward if he gets an interview or a contract. Roland and his wife Bushra are both on J-Visas (a visa for non-immigrants to come to the United States for training purposes). They have no CVs, no cover letters, and are looking for opportunities in the same city that can offer a J-1 Waiver (special permission to stay in the country without the usual requirement of returning to one’s home country for two years) so they can stay in the United States together.

Where to start?

Regardless of one’s profession or age, the job search can be a time of stress, confusion, and anxiety. Years of training come to fruition as tough decisions need to be made. The process is an experience that, if approached strategically and managed proactively, can be navigated with great success. In order to assist our approximately one thousand residents and fellows (like the ones above) in their job search process, Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Physician Recruitment has developed a cost free program, the Resident and Fellow Initiative at Cleveland Clinic. Since the program’s introduction three years ago, we have engaged over 400 of our training physicians in one-on-one job search assistance, CV and cover letter preparation, lead generation and prospect searches, and departmental presentations on the job search.

How the program works

Referrals to the program come from four main sources: program directors (13 percent), print flyers (27 percent),  word of mouth (23 percent), and from our group presentations (31 percent). The remaining referrals come through program coordinators, chief residents, and our quarterly newsletter. Interested  individuals (and couples) are asked to complete and return an electronic intake form along with a current CV (if they have one). From there, one-on-one meetings are arranged and a game plan is put into motion.

Through the intake process and our initial meetings, we get to know the people we work with and help them determine their specific needs. While offering Websites, contacts, and leads is a big part of what we do, helping people emotionally prepare for their job search is also a high priority. Perhaps the most valuable role we can take on is simply to be there for people to answer questions and offer support.

During a meeting last year, a top administrator at the Clinic noted how unique a physician’s career truly is: "In no other profession do you have highly intelligent, highly trained people in their mid 30s who have never had a job before and still follow someone else around calling them sir and ma’am."  Breaking out of that mindset requires both time and effort. We work to help people not just find a job, but to find the right job so they aren’t merely a statistic who makes the wrong choice for their career.

One program’s philosophy

Our program places a primary emphasis on support and assistance as we help guide individuals. We look to provide people with the tools they need to launch and manage their own job search. We are not "headhunters" and we do not find people jobs. We work to empower our graduates so they become skilled at managing their own search. In our experience, the earlier people start and the more involved they get, the more opportunities they’ll discover and the more choices they’ll have.

We work to establish this "support and assist" role from the very first contact with individuals. Our electronic intake form was specifically designed to encourage an active and solution-focused mindset from our residents and fellows. Before we will work with someone, we want to know specifically what they have done so far (if anything), where they want to go, what their practice scope and interests re, and personal information which will help us get to know them and their needs.

Helpful guidelines for your search

Though all situations and individuals are different, we do offer a few guidelines to our residents and fellows:

  • Have a plan. Job searching is like getting into a pool, you can’t ease in you just have to jump in and start swimming. That being said, you can’t jump in wearing a business suit (or scrubs and a lab coat), you have to have your bathing suit on and have your towel by the side of the pool. Take some time to determine what needs you and your family require. What is important? Research, teaching, location, practice type, and scope must all be considered.

Job searching is like getting in a pool; you can’t ease in,
you just have to jump in and start swimming.

  • Make the right decision for the right reason. Don’t follow the money, or you will never stop chasing it.
  • Don’t settle but keep an open mind. It never hurts to talk to someone. At the very least, you are gathering additional information on the market and the process.
  • You can’t compare hypotheticals. We often encounter people who are comparing offers that haven’t been made. It’s good to think and plan ahead, but the reality is, if you don’t have an offer, you can’t make a decision.

Tools for success

Since no career search is exactly the same, we must tailor the process to meet the needs of the individual with whom we are working. However, there are certainly a few processes in place that have grown to be a valuable part of our success. In the spring of 2008, we decided to create a quarterly newsletter to be published by the Office of Physician Recruitment called Cleveland Clinic FYI. The goal we had in mind for this newsletter was to spread the word about current activities going on at Cleveland Clinic and to highlight some of the entry level physician opportunities we have to offer. While we did achieve both of these goals, we were more importantly successful in developing relationships with other in house recruiters throughout the United States. It has been beneficial to our residents and fellows that we can reach out to our colleagues and inquire about potential opportunities that may be a match. In addition to using Cleveland Clinic FYI to reach out to our colleagues, we also rely heavily on networks provided to us by professional organizations such as AIR (Academic In-House Recruiters Network) and ASPR (Association of Staff Physician Recruiters).

In order to be successful within our own organization, we have relied on giving departmental presentations to our residents and fellows to inform them about our services as well as giving them information on the job search process and how to get started. We try to coordinate these presentations at peak times during their training when they are most likely to be starting the process and will be looking for extra guidance and direction. While we present a wide variety of information such as CV and cover letter assembly, we feel the most important thing is our personalized guidance every step of the way. The ability to give people a sense of ease as they enter into new territory is a major accomplishment all on its own

Success stories

Roland and Bushra came to us with years of training and a desire to stay in America. During our initial meeting, we determined this would be a complicated search. Our first step was to develop CVs and cover letters for both of them. We sent several samples and reviewed and revised the documents over the next few weeks.

Due to their visa status (He was on a J-1 and she a J-2.), we decided to cast the widest net possible and start broad. The game plan was as follows:

  • They would post their CVs on job boards and professional society Web sites.
  • They would attempt to attend as many specialty conferences as  possible to network.
  • They would talk with their program directors to see if they knew of any opportunities.
  • We would get them a list of ASPR and AIR members in locations that were of specific interest to them.
  • We would blast messages out through forums and chat rooms alerting recruiters of their availability.

After several "re-grouping meetings," Roland and Bushra happily reported back to us they had two offers allowing them to stay together and practice in the United States.

"You can’t compare hypotheticals. We often encounter people who are comparing offers that haven’t been made. It’s good to think and plan
ahead, but the reality is, if you don’t have an offer,
you can’t make a decision."

We met Samantha after a job search presentation to her department. Samantha’s journey had been a long one and her training was only months  From being completed, again. After completing an internal medicine residency in Argentina in 1998 she stayed there to work, before eventually relocating to the United States. She moved to San Francisco to conduct research and ended up as a Hematopathology resident after completing an Anatomic Pathology residency in St. Louis, Missouri, and a Cytopathology fellowship in Houston, Texas. Fourteen years after graduating from medical school and she was finally ready for a job.

Samantha desired a position allowing her to practice both Hematopathology and Cytopathology, but she did not think that was a realistic possibility. After meeting her, it was obvious her mind was made up and that a "start broad to test the market" approach would not be the best angle at which to attack her search. Though we preached the "don’t settle but keep an open mind" concept, we decided to test our luck. Samantha agreed to contact her former training programs to search for opportunities and contacts while we would tap into our health system and ASPR and AIR networks. Within weeks of sending her CV to Cleveland Clinic Florida, Samantha had an interview resulting in an offer to split her practice between Hematopath and Cytopath. Samantha’s unique story is an example of figuring out what you want and working to implement a plan to get it.

While these are only a few examples of the impact we have made, they illustrate the difference that a little guidance and direction can make. Physicians who were once frustrated and intimidated by the job search process now find themselves eagerly looking forward to the road ahead with their new career. This is the kind of excitement that the Office of Physician Recruitment at Cleveland Clinic runs on. We look forward to the incoming residents and fellows, and we recently launched several marketing efforts in order to increase awareness and participation in the program. We thrive knowing every person who trains here is going to have a once-in-a- lifetime experience and if the Office of Physician Recruitment can do anything o enhance that, we will try.

Lauren Forst is the senior physician recruiter at the Cleveland Clinic; she can be reached at [email protected] Joel Klein is a physician recruiter at the Cleveland Clinic and can be reached at [email protected] Together they oversee the management and development of the Resident and Fellow Initiative.

The comments in Remarks are solely those of the author and may or may not be shared by Unique Opportunities or its advertisers.



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