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Job-Seeker’s Guide to the Joint Meeting

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By the end of the 2010 academic year, today’s residents and fellows will be looking to join a practice in what is and will, at least in the short term, continue to be an employer’s market. The good news is, if you’re coming to the Academy’s Joint Meeting in San Francisco this fall, you can take advantage of more than just the clinical education offerings. The meeting has much to offer job seekers as well.

Professional Choices Job Fair
One of the best resources for job seekers is the annual Professional Choices Job Fair, which often has more than 100 hiring practices participate, looking for ophthalmologists in most, if not all, subspecialties. This year’s job fair will be Sunday, Oct. 25, in the San Francisco Marriott’s Golden Gate Hall from 2:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

If you haven’t gone in the past, the job fair is a fantastic opportunity to find a practice that fits your needs and skill set. Best of all, registration for the job fair is free for job seekers. You can either register in advance or drop in on site during the meeting. Profiles of all registered job seekers are distributed to practices before the fair though, so it’s to your advantage to register early. In either case, be sure to have several copies of your resume on hand. But that’s just one key to getting the most from your job-fair experience.

Making the Most of the Job Fair
To help you increase your likelihood of securing a follow-up interview with the practices you speak with, we talked to one of the experts listed in the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives’ Consultant Directory: Mike Parshall. A 2004 recipient of the Academy’s achievement award, Parshall has advised doctors and practices on hiring and recruiting ophthalmologists and other physicians since 1987. Here are his top five tips on making the most of the job fair.

  1. Know what you are looking for in a practice. This is key to help you fine-tune your job search. Ask yourself what type of work you want, your ideal work schedule, whether or not there is a need for your service in the community, the types of patients you’d like to serve, etc. The more specific you can be in terms of what you are looking for, the more meaningful your conversations will be with potential practices. And, the more likely you will be to secure the job you are looking for.
  2. Know your needs and wants. Have a clear idea of the type of salary you need to make. Do you have student loans? Are you supporting a family? Also consider the type of city/community in which you’d like to practice. Keep in mind that the most desirable cities to practice in may not be the best choice in a soft market. To get the salary you want, you may need to be more flexible in terms of geography and cities of choice. Rather than being pinpoint-specific regarding where you want to live and practice, focus instead on the features you want. For example, rather than saying you want to practice in Boston, look instead for a job in New England within 100 miles of Boston or another big city. This will open more, as well as better, opportunities for you.
  3. Do your homework. Once you have identified what you are looking for and what you need, do your homework on the specific practices participating in the Joint Meeting job fair (or when interviewing for any position for that matter). Only visit those practices that fit your criteria and learn about them and how you fit their practice. Check their Web site and look for things you have in common with other members of their practice. Determine how your skills fit in with that they have to offer. What other aspects of the practice do they have? Do they have an ambulatory care center? A surgical center? Let them know why you would like to practice in their area. Have you been to the area? What did you like about it? Do you already have a license to practice in that state?

    The key is to know the practice, impress the other doctors and sell yourself to the practice. In this market, it is less about you trying to whittle down your options, and more about the different practices trying to whittle down theirs. Once the different candidates have been filtered out by competence, one of the biggest factors a practice considers is the likelihood a candidate will actually take the job should it be offered. Editor’s Note: For more tips on job-fair preparation, check out these keys from YO Committee member Robert F. Melendez, MD.
  4. Determine what the practice is looking for. Ask questions about their current needs and let them know how your skills meet or exceed their requirements. Quantify your experience whenever possible by providing the number of cases you have performed and the evaluations you have received.
  5. Be enthusiastic and charming. Hiring doctors at job fairs select candidates primarily for two reasons: likeability and probability of accepting an offer. They want to hire an affable colleague with whom they can get along and who will “fit in” with the practice. And they are looking for positive feedback to help gauge the candidates interest level. People like people that share similar interests and values and who will reciprocate the feelings that the candidate projects — and ophthalmologists are no different. If the candidate is cold and aloof, the hiring doctor will likely be so also. If the candidate is warm and enthusiastic, the hiring doctor is very likely to reciprocate.
By reinforcing your sincere interest in a specific practice, you are more likely to stand out and secure a follow-up interview at the practice. And this, after all, is the goal of a job fair.

Professional Choices Business Center
Another way to connect with practices is to look through the listings on Professional Choices and ask practices if they’ll be conducting interviews at the Joint Meeting. This can either happen during the job fair (at the table available for that purpose) or in the more private interview booths available in the Professional Choices Business Center. Booths have to booked by the practice and are available on a first come, first-served basis, so most interviews in the booths are usually scheduled before the meeting.

Interviews aren’t the only reason you might want to visit the business center, however. Its services include high-speed Internet access — perfect if you need to e-mail a resume to a practice representative you just met at the Job Fair. Note that Business Center Internet access is limited to registered Professional Choices users. 

During the Joint Meeting, the Professional Choices Business Center will be located in the Moscone South, Room 256. Office hours are Saturday through Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Conversations with the Experts
If your job search is nearing contract negotiations or you’re considering buying a practice, the meeting also has resources for you. Conversations with the Experts, taking place in the AAOE Practice Management Center (Moscone North, Booth 3553), provide a chance to schedule a free 20-minute consultation with a practice management consultant who is a member of the AAOE Consultant Directory. Areas of expertise include employment contracts and practice acquisitions, as well as other areas of practice management. All consultations take place in the AAOE area of the Academy Resource Center (Hall G, Booth 2939).

For a complete list of all consultants, their areas of expertise and their individuals schedules during the meeting, visit the Joint Meeting page on the AAOE Web site. For more information about Conversations with the Experts, or to schedule a consultation, e-mail Peggy Coakley at

Additional Resources
Another great resource for job seekers is the Joint Meeting Locator, which contains local contact information of Professional Choices users attending the meeting. It’s a great way to network with other interested Professional Choices users on-site at the meeting.

Whether you are a registered hiring practice, job seeker or practice buyer, you can add your information to the locator database. The best part of the locator is that job seekers can post (and read) information on the components of your particular area of interest.

You can also add your resume, view job listings and add or search for other attendees to network with during the meeting. This is a great way to get yourself out in front of hiring practices, as they will use the locator to contact the candidates they are interested in interviewing. By having an active resume posted on the locator, you can apply for jobs online and have automatic updates emailed to you as jobs matching your criteria are posted. Listings are continually updated and are always accessible. Plus, resume posting is free, and you can even choose to list anonymously if you want.

To take advantage of this great resource, simply log in to your Professional Choices account to add yourself to the Joint Meeting Locator and you are all set!

Lastly, don’t forget to also check out Joint Meeting courses for job seekers. These include “A Practical Guide to Understanding and Negotiating an Employment Agreement” (course 423) and “Anatomy of Your First Employment Agreement (course 754). There will also be sessions on finding your first job as part of the YO Program. Look for in-depth coverage of the program, including the panel discussion on getting your first job, in the September issue of YO Info.

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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and a frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and ghost writer of Eat Papayas Naked.