How To Combat A Difficult Radiology Job Market?
For several years, radiology has been slowly climbing out of a recessionary job market for its graduating residents. Although the market has been slightly improving, perhaps due to retiring senior radiologists and growth in imaging studies, the job market is still not wide open. And, many locations remain very competitive for new radiologists, especially on the east and west coasts. It is very difficult to find a partnership position in San Fransisco or Manhattan!!!
So, how do you, as a graduating radiology resident or fellow, begin to approach finding a job in this competitive landscape? We are going to cover the essentials for finding a quality job in these difficult radiology markets. I will divide the essentials into the following sections: networking, diversification of skills, location, recommendations, and research/national organization involvement.
Networking, networking, networking!!!
Networking does not only begin when you start looking for a job. In fact, the search for the ideal job begins at home. What do I mean by that? Everything that you do as a radiology resident is monitored by your current attendings. And, the first and most important part of networking is maintaining good relationships with your colleagues and attendings.
Many attendings have their proverbial “ear to the ground” and can tell you about opportunities in the area. They can guide you to those jobs. In order get access to these high quality jobs, you need to perform and be a good team player. The resident that has not been “playing nicely in the sandbox” over the four years of residency and that final year or two of fellowship is not going to get those inside tips. This resident is more likely going to have to fend for himself. On the other hand, those residents that are constantly striving to become the best radiologist they can be and relate well to their colleagues will have first dibs on those desirable jobs that are known by their radiology attendings.
It also becomes more important than ever to stay in contact with your colleagues and coworkers. Even when you are ready to leave your residency to go to your fellowship, try to keep in touch with your former colleagues, whether it be your fellow residents or attendings. You never know when that next job lead is going to pop up. And most of these people are going to be happy to give you a tip or two on any new leads as well as how to find that next great job.
What about social media? Nowadays, professional based social media groups such as linkedin can play a role in getting that next job. It can be another means to keep in contact with your former colleagues and keep others aware of your current training and expertise. I think that most residents should maintain at least one account. But be careful to keep the account relevant and correct. View it like a resume. If it is not updated and contains false information, it can be a detriment toward finding that next great job. Otherwise, it can be a great way to contact your former colleagues and mentors as well as a way to get new leads.
Finally, even when you have started on that first job, whether it be a dream job or merely a stepping stone, make sure to be cordial and appropriate to your interviewees. I remember when I was interviewing, I met with an attending at a practice who was touting the merits of his practice to me. I subsequently found a job with a different practice, different from his. However, 6 months later that same attending who interviewed me became an interviewee at my current practice. You never know what is going to happen!!!
Diversification of Skills
As a resident and fellow, try to do things in your field slightly out of your comfort zone. What do I mean by that? You never know what practices are going to want. Things change. Sometimes practices may need a cardiothoracic radiologist, but have a need for a radiologist that can also read mammo. Other times, a practice may need an interventionist that feels comfortable with reading musculoskeletal MRI. So, to become the most competitive candidate in your class, you need to make sure that you feel comfortable in as many modalities as is reasonable. The only way to do that is to not just concentrate on your fellowship skills or areas of comfort, but your weaker procedures/modalities.
As a fellow, it also becomes crucial to moonlight to maintain your skills in other general radiology areas, different from your fellowship. It will build your speed and accuracy so that when you start your first job you will be able read studies at a reasonable pace. This will allow you have a greater likelihood of remaining at your first real job!
Should Location Be The Sacrificial Lamb?
Sometimes the job market in some locations becomes so ultra competitive that it may not be possible to find a good job in your desired area. In that case, there are times when it makes sense to alter ones expectations and apply to other locales outside of ones original intentions. This may significantly increase the choices of the applicant and allow him/her to practice their own subspecialty or have a better income to support the family. This is a decision that should not be taken lightly, given that there may be personal or family issues. But, it is something that should be considered depending upon the living situation of the applicant/resident/fellow.
As a radiology resident or fellow, obtaining a recommendation for a radiology job is much different than asking for a recommendation as a medical student. Instead of a formal letter, typically a radiology resident or fellow will simply let the attending know to expect a phone call from a radiologist where he/she interviewed. The process is a bit more informal but is actually more informative than a simple letter of recommendation. It is easier to relay the true personality and information about a candidate on the phone than on paper. In the conversation, the caller may informally ask your attending of record what kind of resident you were and if you were a team player. Other times, a member of the practice may speak with a friend of theirs within your residency program to confirm that you would make a reasonable job candidate. Bottom line: it is good manners to let your attending you specify for a recommendation as well as your program know to expect a phone call!
For those of you that may be interested in academics, staying involved in multiple research projects can be crucial to finding that first academic job. Although not as crucial for the private practitioner, it certainly can’t hurt to also have good quality research under your belt when you look for that first job. As I’ve mentioned in a prior post on research, if there is a choice between two candidates that are equal, many times a practice may choose the resident with more research experience. You never know…
Also, getting involved in national organizations, whether it be the ACR, RSNA, or AUR, can be a great way to learn about the politics of radiology as well to meet colleagues and practitioners. Participation in these organizations should be considered by all residents as it could be a stepping stone to finding a great job or to becoming the next President!
If the job market is tough, all is not lost. Even in the toughest markets, there are usually a few jobs available. In order to increase your chances of getting one of these desirable slots, you may need to work a bit more intelligently and focused to become a desirable candidate. Networking, diversifying your skills, making sure to get great recommendations, finding the correct location, and participating in research and national organizations can help your cause. Ultimately, these practices will choose someone that fits the expected identity of an ideal candidate. If you follow these essentials, you have a much better chance that person will be you. Good luck!!!