One of our trainees recently asked me for advice finding that first job. She had been combing the Internet for job postings in her area of expertise, and was finding very little that interested her. She had definite preferences as to geographic region, and that additional constraint was, of course, further limiting her options. She was getting nervous. She hadn’t been offered an interview yet. What should she do?
I gave her the following advice, which has worked well in the past.
• Define as clearly as possible the sort of job you are looking for and (if appropriate) the region of the country or the kind of community in which you want to live.
• Note any additional issues – for example, a job for your significant other.
• Use the Internet to identify, for example, teaching hospitals in the Midwest; or, to choose another example, small group practices in Southern California.
• Write letters to key decision-makers in the identified groups. So, for example, if you are looking for an academic job, direct your letters to the Chair of Surgery. If you are looking to join a group practice, direct your letters to a senior person (or, possibly, someone who graduated from your residency program).
• Individualize each letter. Why are you interested in a position at this institution or in this region? Be as specific as possible.
• Keep the letter brief, just a couple of paragraphs, and send it by snail mail with a copy of your CV. This in and of itself will compel attention.
• Phrase your request something like this, “If you know of any positions at your hospital or an affiliated institution, I would appreciate your passing my letter and CV along.” For private practice, write, “If you know of any positions in your area, I would appreciate…” The point is to ask for help without putting the person on the spot.
You may get a positive response, that is, a job lead, in one out of ten tries. So, persistence and careful research are crucial.
Give it a try! Time and postage spent on this will be rewarded.
And, oh yeah, my trainee got an expression of interest with her first round of letters.