Follow these tips for a successful first job search.
The job search is anything but ordinary for radiologists — most of whom went directly from college to medical school and on to internship, residency, and fellowship. “For a lot of us, this is the first time we’re looking for a job,” says Jonathan Flug, MD, MBA, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colo. “And I think that, for a lot of people, it’s hard at first.”
On top of it all, the job market for radiologists hasn’t exactly been booming since the economic crisis in 2008, which may have led to “conservative hiring practices by radiology groups that are unsure what the future holds in terms of reimbursement.”1 For trainees, there is no crystal ball predicting which subspecialties will be popular or which geographic regions will have more job openings. In fact, the best advice comes — quite simply — from those who recently underwent their own search. Here are some tips from radiologists who succeeded in securing a full-time imaging gig.
1. Start Early
Timing is everything. And, luckily, radiologists are used to starting early. “You apply for medical school a year in advance,” Flug says. “You apply for residency two years in advance because we do a year of internship that’s separate. And you basically apply for fellowship two years in advance.” However, with the job search, Flug says, you only need to start applying approximately six months in advance.
Nonetheless, you will need to start thinking about other aspects of your job hunt much earlier. These decisions include subspecialization, geographic region, and what kind of practice — academic, private, clinic, etc. — you’d like to join. “Start paying more attention to the ACR Workforce Survey and what’s out there,” says Flug. For more information about this year’s survey — an annual electronic survey to radiology practice leaders about workplace-related trends — turn to the end of the article. “As far as starting to gather information, the sooner you start, the better,” says Flug. “And if you know that you want to be in a specific location, you have to really start exploring early and be aggressive about seeking opportunities and networking, which is something we do not think about often in medicine.”
In a stack of fifty CVs, it’s challenging to get noticed. That’s why networking is so important. For Flug, who discovered his job through a connection, national meetings like AMCLC and RSNA have been invaluable: “I went over to tell someone ‘Hi’ at a national meeting. They asked how my job search was going and introduced me to someone from their department. Next thing I knew I had an interview. Had we not met in person, I don’t think I would have gotten that interview and opportunity.”
Ryan Brady, MD, a breast-imaging fellow at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, notes that ACR’s annual meeting is a “valuable source of information and networking opportunities and one of the best conferences that residents can get involved in.” He adds, “Residents shouldn’t undervalue the importance of networking in the job-seeking process. The people you meet can play an important role in helping determine the type of practice you want to join.” Brady recently accepted a position with Park Nicollet Health Services in St. Louis Park, Minn., beginning in July 2015. “Though residents may not need to formally apply for a job until their last year of training,” says Brady, “they shouldn’t hesitate to discuss employment opportunities with radiology practice leaders on a more informal basis earlier in their residencies.”
Flug also sees this process as one guided by the “pay it forward” mentality. “If somebody helps you, then two years from now, when a trainee calls you up, turn around and do the same thing for them,” he says. “If we keep helping each other out, we’ll get through the tough job market. And sooner or later, the market will hopefully turn around. We need to really look out for each other in radiology.”
3. Be Open-Minded but Picky
When it comes to making decisions about the job search, the ACR Workforce Survey data shows it’s important to be open-minded. “People need to be open regarding geographic location and the type of work situation they seek for the first time,” says Edward I. Bluth, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Human Resources, which conducts the annual survey.
However, being open-minded doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be picky too. Remember that you want to find a position and a practice that’s a good fit for you personally. Brady suggests finding out as much as you can about a practice or department you’re considering joining — especially by talking to physicians who work there. “The more you can find out about the culture of a practice, the more informed decision you can make,” Brady explains.
Flug adds that it’s important to prioritize what’s meaningful to you — whether that’s being in a certain city or working in academic practice. “When I applied for a musculoskeletal imaging job, it was one of the hot fields,” Flug says. “But I chose it because it’s what I wanted to do.” Brady agrees, saying, “I think it’s important for residents to go into a field that they find interesting and that they think is the best long-term match for them, not to necessarily focus on a hot subspecialty in the short term just to gain a job.”
4. Provide Value
In the era of Imaging 3.0™, the ACR Workforce Survey can help gauge changes in expectations for practicing radiologists. According to Bluth, radiologists need to be open to taking on other duties and providing value outside of image interpretation. “Most job opportunities are for individuals who are subspecialists in a field but also are willing to do other radiologic activities, including interpreting other subspecialty areas,” says Bluth.
Employers are looking for well-rounded applicants who can add value, which can be difficult to prove through your CV. Brady notes, “Anything you can do to distinguish yourself during training, such as serving on committees, participating in organizations such as the ACR, or serving as a chief resident will demonstrate leadership and motivation. I think those would be attractive qualities in applicants.”
5. Utilize Your Resources
“The ACR Career Center was the best resource for looking for jobs,” says Flug, who signed up for the daily job e-mail alerts. He notes that you can sign up based on subspecialty or location and the service is free. Flug also advises trainees to sign up as soon as they have a general sense of what they’re looking for. “You’ll get a feel for what’s out there,” he says. The ACR Career Center also has several other resources, such as information on CVs, interviews, and negotiation. Check it out at www.acr.org/Career-Center.
Note: click on images below to enlarge.
Attention Practice Leaders
Next year’s survey will be distributed electronically in late January 2015 and due back in March. The ACR Workforce Survey information is only as powerful as your participation. Please provide your input to help your specialty understand the current workforce climate.
By Alyssa Martino, freelance writer for the ACR Bulletin