By Sheela Reddy, MD, Trainee Member, AASLD TH Pilot Program Fellow, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
For the last six years, every career decision has culminated with me anxiously awaiting a computer-generated notification of where the next chapter of my life would be spent. Upon entering my third year of GI fellowship, I realized that all this was going to change with my next big move. No longer was I reliant on a computer to tell me what was next; I realized I was finally in charge of my own future.
And right about then is when the panic set in. While the match process had its frustrations, in some ways, it was nice knowing that the extent of my involvement was ranking my choices, and leaving the rest up to fate. Knowing that I was in charge of choosing my first job without the crutch of a rank list or match was an entirely new and scary feeling. Despite this, I managed to navigate the process, and am excited about the prospects of my career. Looking back on this experience, there were a few major decision points that helped guide my journey that I think are worth sharing.
1. Be honest with yourself
If there is ever a time to live by the old adage “honesty is the best policy,” your job search is it. You will never be happy with your decision if you are not honest with what you want out of your career. This was, by far, the hardest part of the process for me. You have to ask yourself the hard questions: is living in a certain part of the country non-negotiable, would you be willing to pick up and move to a new city, is being in private practice out of the question, is finding the right job more important than being in the right city? Being honest with yourself in the beginning of this process will help you focus in on what is right for you.
2. You might surprise yourself
Even though you think you know exactly what you want out of your future job, always keep an open mind. There is no harm in interviewing with a program even if, on paper, it might not seem like the right fit. You never really know what a program is about until you meet the team, and see how things run. Moreover, a program might be perfect for you on paper, and there might be red flags that you notice during your interview. It is worth a day of interviews to get a real sense of what a place is like.
3. Use your resources
While there is nothing wrong with sending out emails with a cover letter and resume attached, it is also fair game to ask people to email programs on your behalf. Your attendings most likely have contacts at certain programs, and can reach out for you to find out whether places are hiring, and get you in contact with the right people. This in no way guarantees anything, but at least it gets your foot in the door.
4. No job is perfect
There are things about every job that are non-ideal, but it is about weighing the good aspects against the bad aspects, and finding a balance that fits your needs. Moreover, no job is forever. If, after time, you realize that the good does not outweigh the bad like you had initially thought, nothing is permanent.
5. At the end of the day, it’s your decision
A lot of people have helped you get to this point, and they will all have an opinion about what job will be best for you. It is absolutely worth hearing all these opinions, and getting different perspectives on your options. That said, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is ultimately your decision to make.
All in all, the process of finding a job will be exciting and fulfilling. The liver community is small, and it is a great chance to meet new people, get different perspectives, and see how different programs do things. While it can be stressful, try to enjoy the experience, knowing that things have the tendency to fall into place.