Congratulations — you are a practicing ophthalmologist!
Now it’s time to find a job. Whether you’re fresh out of residency, fellowship or making a career change, finding a job is one of the most exciting, yet stressful experiences you will encounter.
There are plenty of great jobs out there, but there are plenty of bad ones too. What makes a job great or bad is highly subjective. Just like a movie you think is great, another might think is awful — you must find the right fit for you.
I was one of the “lucky” trainees who entered the workforce in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Many practices were on hiring freezes and many of my friends and colleagues were getting laid off. But after a winding road with a few bumps along the way, I finally found a job that I love.
Here are the three steps I followed to find the right job.
Step 1: Get Oriented
What do you want?
This is the time to be open and honest with yourself. Do you know what you want? Although it does matter what your parents or family wants, what your mentors encourage, and what you think you should want — what matters more is, what do you really want? After all, you will be the one going to this job everyday, and if you were influenced incorrectly, you will find out soon.
I encourage everyone to take a page from some of our business colleagues to help guide you. Whether it’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Workplace Personality Inventory, the Team Dimensions Profile or the Stratified Systems Theory, psychometric assessments can help you identify your preferences for thinking and action. They certainly have helped me.
What is the current employment landscape?
Each practice setting can have dramatically different experiences in various parts of the job. Although you will still practice ophthalmology, there are vastly different working environments. For example, working in a tertiary care academic center offers different benefits and challenges compared with a private practice owned by a private equity group.
Working in a private practice in the urban or rural setting owned by a single or group of physicians versus a large medical group like Kaiser-Permanente is also different. Mentors, friends or colleagues in these different settings can advise on the differences. The more perspectives, the better.
Where do you want to live?
If you have no geographical constraints, then great! You will have a lot more flexibility to really pursue the best fit for you. If you do have constraints, then figure out exactly what those constraints are and how to balance them against a particular job opportunity. Region, state, city, county, part of town — all these things are important. Write it down and stick to it. This will make it easier to stay oriented when the times are tough and decisions need to be made.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Now that you know what you want, it’s time to make a plan on how to get it. It is important to both know for yourself and be able to communicate to others clearly what your goals are. Write them down.
Seek advice from mentors and colleagues, but be cognizant about whom you get your opinions. The best people to learn from are those who have already done what you want to do. It is even better to learn from those who have repeatedly done what you want to do at a high level. People love to share their opinion — in fact I am doing it right now. That love doesn’t necessarily make the information relevant or helpful for you.
Network, Network, Network
Mentors and faculty from your training institution(s) may offer you a position or help guide you to one. The Academy has an Ophthalmology Job Center on its website, where you can search for a job and others can search for people that match their listings, like you. There is an American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives® (AAOE®) consultant directory that includes recruiters who specialize in the ophthalmology marketplace.
YoungMD Connect has a job opportunities section. LinkedIn has a number of regular job postings. Local industry representatives are often in-the-know for offices that are considering hiring, and “off-market” hires. National or local conferences and societies (state and subspecialty) are an instrumental part of introducing you to potential employers, partners, and colleagues and may hold formal job fairs. Many of the large medical groups will post job listings on their websites. Google Maps can show you a list of the offices in a desired location.
Step 3: Be Proactive
Some of the best opportunities in life will tap you on the shoulder, but all the other ones you are going to have to go find. You must knock on the door. Ask for the next step, ask for the appointment, ask for more information, ask for a meeting, ask for the key decision-maker and ask for what you want.
We all fear rejection. We fear failure. Although this is only natural, this fear is also what is holding you back. Although the fear will never totally go away, the more you prepare, the easier it becomes to face it.
Stats vary, but as many as two-thirds of people leave their first jobs in their first year. You may not get everything you want the first time around, but you should strive for it.
My wish for you is the same as Steve Jobs’s famous commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005: to pursue the path you really love. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So, keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Wishing you success in finding your right job.
||About the author: Alexander Knezevic, MD, is an ophthalmologist with the Macy Eye Center in Los Angeles and a clinical instructor of ophthalmology at UCLA.