As healthcare continues to experience ongoing changes, it is becoming increasingly important for physicians to learn and practice strategic career management skills.
COVID-19 has left many physicians feeling confused, unsettled, and concerned about the future of healthcare and their careers. Overnight the pandemic forced healthcare organizations to initiate hiring freezes, cancel surgery and office visits, and conduct major budget cuts. Many physicians found the loss of income and the uncertainty unnerving, spurring them to evaluate and assess their career goals. Whether making a decision to seek outside employment, initiate an internal job change, or redirect their career path, many physicians find themselves determined to engage in some type of career transition. Launching an effective and competitive job search requires skills and knowledge often overlooked by those wishing to navigate any job change, much less a career transformation. The transition from clinical medicine into administrative and formal leadership roles can be significantly different from the clinical job search.
As healthcare continues to experience ongoing changes, it is becoming increasingly important for physicians to learn and practice strategic career management skills. Gone are the days when physicians could grow their careers simply on the strength of their specific skills and capabilities. Even though concerns regarding physician shortages continue to haunt the healthcare industry, and organizations compete for physicians, physicians must have the necessary tools to launch an effective and successful job search.
STEP 1: SELF REFLECTIONS AND CLARIFICATION OF CAREER ASPIRATIONS
Before launching a job search, it is important to know what type of job you want and the motivation surrounding your desire to make this change. Physicians often believe that simply changing jobs will solve all their problems. However, it is crucial that physicians become critically honest about their motivation and aspirations before starting the job search process. To do so, they must ask themselves critical questions about the type of organizations and organizational culture that represents their aspirations. It is important to figure out the alignment of values and understand the intrinsic and extrinsic nonnegotiables they are seeking. It also is important to prioritize the most important or enjoyable elements of the duties to be performed in the new job. If necessary, begin by creating a dream job description to gain clarity. It is equally important to be honest about soft skills, personality, and personal preferences. For example, if teamwork is not a strength or preference, managing a department of people would not be the best fit. Perhaps it would be better to look for a job that provides the opportunity to be an independent contributor. Failure to spend the necessary time on self-reflection and honest evaluation of career aspiration can lead to an unfulfilling and disappointing career move or job change.
STEP 2: SKILLS AND PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT
After achieving some clarification on career aspirations, it is important to recognize any existing skill gaps and personality conflicts that could create a barrier to success. Conducting an honest and unbiased assessment for skill gaps that should be addressed is particularly important for physicians seeking either career growth or transition into administrative roles. The importance of people skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, negotiation, and problem solving often is underestimated. After an honest self-assessment or psychometric assessment has been conducted and skill gaps have been identified, take courses, or engage in professional development activities to address those gaps.
STEP 3: TRANSITION THE CURRICULUM VITAE INTO A RESUME
When launching a competitive job search, it is important to speak the language of the target audience. Although a current CV is important in the clinical job search process, when a physician is moving into an administrative role, the resume will be reviewed by individuals with business and human resources backgrounds. This means that the CV should be converted into a document structured to highlight the applicant’s specific leadership and people management skills. The resume serves as an abbreviated version of the CV, with the intention of creating an executive summary of accomplishments and attributes beyond clinical skills. Professional resume writers (specifically with healthcare experience) are familiar with key terms and skills that resonate with recruiters, human resource professionals, and healthcare hiring committees. A compelling cover letter that can quickly be updated to articulate the match between the job description and the individual’s skills helps create immediate interest and provides a succinct summary of the applicant’s interest in the position. It is critical to have a template that can be quickly and easily customized to align with a specific job description.
STEP 4: SOCIAL MEDIA
Candidates often overlook the importance of managing their image on social media. The professional rule of thumb is that LinkedIn is important for professional profiles, whereas Facebook and Instagram are for personal use. Before beginning a job search, candidates should conduct a Google search of themselves to see what a potential employer would see. Unfavorable images such as inappropriate party pictures or beach photo shoots should be made private using Facebook and Instagram settings. The LinkedIn profile picture should include a professional headshot along with an update of your professional skills, work experience, credentials, and professional testimonials/ endorsements.
STEP 5: CAREER LOGISTICS
Before launching a job search, it is vital to crystalize some logistics for your job search. Some of the questions that should be taken into consideration include willingness to relocate—and, if so, to what areas of the country or world; minimum salary requirements; the type of organizations that are of interest; the type of work environment; the size of the organization; and preferred leadership structure.
STEP 6: THE JOB SEARCH
When launching a strategic job search, the searcher should make a list of websites and job boards that align with his or her career goals. Create a list of organizations, networking events, people, and activities that can support the job search. When attending networking events, prepare an “elevator pitch” that quickly and succinctly articulates your career aspirations, and have business cards that allow support the quick exchange of contact information for follow-up. Keep in mind that networking can be formal and informal. Networking opportunities can be found at a cocktail party or at the gym. When networking, it is important to see every encounter as a possible opportunity. Remember, people like connecting people with other people. Although the person you are speaking to may not have a job opportunity for you, he or she may know someone who knows someone. It is important to open and close the conversation reiterating your openness to exploring new employment opportunities.
During the networking process, always have a pen handy to write notes on the back of a business card that will help you remember something personal about your new contact. This will be useful when reaching out for follow-up conversations. One of the biggest mistakes people make while networking is starting the conversation with a request. No one wants to feel used, so an effective elevator pitch should leave room in the initial conversation to create an authentic connection with the other person. Look for commonalities such as hobbies, interests, pets, backgrounds, professional interest, and personal connections that can serve as the foundation for future discussions. Always try to leave the conversation with something that opens the door for follow-up.
After the networking encounter, use your notes from the back of the business card to initiate a follow-up email. For example, if Dr. Jones enjoys fishing, follow-up with an interesting news article or fishing story. You can open the email or note by simply saying “I ran across this article and remembered how much I enjoyed our conversation.” This is a great opportunity to launch a relationship.
STEP 7: THE INTERVIEW
Once you land an interview, conduct independent research on the organization’s culture. Read recent news stories, research professional publications, or conduct a social media search of the organization’s leadership and the individuals who will be interviewing you. Seek commonalities such as places you both have lived, academic institutions, or anything else that can personalize the conversation. It is also important to review the job description and highlight your skills, interests, and professional experiences that correlate with the job. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer(s). If necessary, use the services of an image consultant to present a polished appearance and leave a lasting impression. Remember:
- Eye contact;
- Firm handshake;
- Adequate preparation; and
- Thoughtful questions.
STEP 8: POST-INTERVIEW FOLLOW-UP
The interview should be followed up immediately with a thank-you note. Although a handwritten note is preferable, a thank-you email also is acceptable. The thank-you note should include the following elements:
- Gratitude for the interviewer’s time;
- Reiteration of why you are qualified for the job; and
- An open call to action, such as, “I look forward to continuing our discussion.”
STEP 9: SALARY AND CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS
Salary research should be conducted before the negotiation process begins. In salary negotiations, you should consider variables such as cost of living (particularly if you are relocating) and benefits in addition to the financial, such as professional memberships, health and professional insurance benefits, vacation days, stock options, and performance incentives.
When negotiating, pay attention to the following guidelines:
- Don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiating. If, however, there are contractual terms or employment terms you genuinely disagree with or believe to be unclear or unacceptable, then negotiation is appropriate.
- Use emotional intelligence strategies to better understand and gain insight into the person(s) you are negotiating with. Understanding their motivations and constraints will expedite the process and move the discussions along.
- Throughout the negotiation process, consistently reiterate your desire to work for the organization and the importance of reaching a win-win agreement.
- Prepare yourself to create a compelling value proposition designed to demonstrate why you are worth the items, salary, benefits, and concessions you are requesting.
- Consider the totality of the deal versus the individual aspects. It’s very easy to focus solely on the financial aspects of an employment agreement, but items such as work–life balance, professional development, and opportunities for advancement should also be considered.
- Have a list of nonnegotiables versus negotiables. Keep this in mind throughout the negotiation process.
- Keep the lines of communication open throughout the negotiation process by clarifying timelines for responses and feedback.
- Keep in mind that employment contracts are particularly sensitive. Unlike many other types of contracts, your interaction with the negotiator will be continuous. Therefore, concluding a negotiation where all parties feel respected and valued will permit you to start your employment engagement on favorable terms.
- Be sure to have an attorney review the employment contract before signing. Before engaging legal counsel, make a list of any terms or conditions you do not understand. These should be clarified before executing the contract.
STEP 10: YOU’VE LANDED THE JOB
Once you have landed the job, it is important to hit the ground running. How you handle your first 90 days will be fundamental for your future within the new organizations. In the first 90 days you should do the following:
- Update your CV and biography. Undoubtedly you will be asked to share these documents with various stakeholders, and you should be ready to put you best foot forward.
- Identify the key stakeholders and create a list of top priorities.
- Create an action plan to facilitate early wins.
- If you will be overseeing a team, begin creating a culture that aligns with your leadership style and shared values.
- Look for a mentor or mentors who can assist you in the successful navigation of the organization’s culture and politics.
- Don’t forget to celebrate your achievement!
Dian A. Ginsberg, MA, CPCC, Senior Director of Career and Professional Development, American Association for Physician Leadership
PO Box 96503, BMB 97493, Washington, DC 20090-6503