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. Yes, the market has been slightly improving due to retiring senior radiologists and growth in imaging studies. However, in many locales, the job market may not have opened that much. Competition remains fierce especially on the east and west coasts. You will likely find it very difficult to obtain 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!!!
Maintain Relationships At Home
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? Well, your current attendings monitor everything that you do as a radiology resident. So, 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”. More often than not, therefore, many can tell you about opportunities in the area. Moreover, they can guide you to those jobs. So, 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” during training will not receive those inside tips. More likely, the poorly behaved resident will need to fend for himself. On the other hand, those residents that constantly strive for excellence and relate well to their colleagues will have first dibs on those desirable jobs with connections to your radiology attendings.
Keep In Touch
It also becomes more important than ever to stay in contact with your colleagues and coworkers. So, when you are ready to leave your residency to go to your fellowship, keep in touch with your former colleagues, residents, and attendings. You never know when that next job lead is going to pop up. And, most former colleagues will happily give you a tip for a new lead. These connections will be the most likely to help with finding 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. In addition, social media can keep you in contact with your former colleagues. And, social media allows you to let others stay aware of your current training and expertise. Therefore, 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 as well as a way to obtain new leads.
Always Be Nice
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 in a practice who was touting the merits of his practice to me. I subsequently found a job with a different practice. 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 mammograms. 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. Therefore, you should not just concentrate on your fellowship skills or areas of comfort, but also on your weaker procedures/modalities.
As a fellow, it also becomes crucial to moonlight to maintain your skills in other general radiology areas, outside of fellowship. In fact, it can build your speed and accuracy. So, when you start your first job you will be able to read studies at a reasonable pace. This will allow you have a greater likelihood of remaining at your first job after training!
Should Location Be The Sacrificial Lamb?
Sometimes the job market in some locations becomes so ultra competitive that good jobs may not exist 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. By switching locations, the applicant may significantly increase the job market choices that will allow him/her to practice his own subspecialty or earn more income. However, an applicant should not take this decision lightly because personal or family issues sometimes can trump job selection. But, an applicant should consider all the alternatives prior to selecting a job.
As a radiology resident or fellow, obtaining a recommendation for a radiology job differs significantly from asking for a recommendation as a medical student. Instead of a formal letter, a radiology resident or fellow should let the attending know to expect a phone call from a radiologist at the practice where he had interviewed. Although informal, this practice gives more information to the radiology practice than a simple letter of recommendation. A radiologist can more easily relay the true personality and information about a candidate on the phone without legal repercussions. In this situation, no paper trail exists.
In the conversation, the caller may informally ask your supervising attending about your work ethic, whether you played well with your team, and more. 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 and program know to expect a phone call!
For those of you that are interested in academics, completing research projects can help to snag that first academic job. Although not as crucial for the private practitioner, it also can’t hurt to have completed research projects. As I’ve mentioned in a prior post on research, if practices have a choice between two equal candidates, sometimes it 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. Residents should consider participation in these organizations. You never know… It could be a stepping stone to finding a great job or to becoming the next President!
Final Thoughts About The Job Market
If the job market is tough, all is not lost. Even in the toughest markets, some practices will usually have 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!!!