Your first job as an ophthalmologist can significantly shape the course of your career, impacting not only the type of work you do, but also the people you work with and the community where you settle.
Inside academia, however, most of your experience has focused on clinical training and honing your specialty. So how can you step out of your comfort zone and start the often-dizzying pursuit of landing your first job?
Three experts share the steps you should take — whether you’re interested in a position in private practice or at an academic institution.
They include Amelia Rogoff, an ophthalmic recruiter and president of The Eye Group in West Palm Beach, Fla., Alfredo A. Sadun, MD, PhD, chair of the Doheny Eye Center in Los Angeles and member of the Academy’s Senior Ophthalmologist committee, and Priyanka Sood, MD, a cornea specialist at the Emory Eye Center in Atlanta.
- Location, location, location. “First and foremost, you need to be happy in your location,” said Rogoff. “It’s the most important thing you should consider — especially if you have a spouse and children or are planning on having a family in the future.”
- Do sweat the small stuff. “Landing your first job isn’t just a single big decision, it’s a series of many little ones,” said Dr. Sadun. “So pay close attention to the seemingly minor details. By taking on these small steps, you’ll end up with even bigger opportunities — and one that will hopefully be the right fit for you.”
Example: See how staff interacts with the doctors, if people are happy at a practice, whether people have enough operative time. Ask about the turnover in staff and physicians.
- Find your role model. “The world belongs to those who show up,” said Dr. Sadun. “When you show up — even at your state or subspecialty/specialized interest society meetings — you meet people who can open doors. For example, you don’t see a grand castle from a great distance and figure out how to cross the moat. Rather you walk around the castle enough times that you meet the right people and get invited in.”
One way to find a role model is to seek a mentor. You can find mentors through the Academy’s Leadership Development program or if you’re a member of a minority group, through the new Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program.
- Be a lifelong learner. “Residency is so much different than any other job you will take in your life,” said Dr. Sood, MD.
“As much as it prepares you to be an ophthalmologist, it doesn’t necessarily prepare you for that first or second job,” she said. “So you just have to be a lifelong learner in every aspect — in whatever opportunity you find yourself in, stay curious and build your network!”
- Be cognizant of your time. “Time is the most important resource that you should be evaluating and it’s the most important resource that’s negotiable during the job hunt,” said Dr. Sadun, especially when looking for a position in the academic world.
During the first five years in academics, set your trajectory: publishing papers, establishing yourself as an expert in a particular area and getting your grants underway. The most important resource in establishing all of those is time.
Consider negotiating for things outside of your salary such as protected time for research or your own schedule of activities.
The Academy Is Here to Help
The Academy’s Ophthalmology Job Center is the quickest, easiest and most reliable way to find career opportunities. Upload your CV for free and start your search today. The site puts practices directly in touch with you and offers enhanced posting options to heighten the visibility of your ad.
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Academy experts boil things down for residents and young ophthalmologists embarking on a job search. They offer time-saving strategies that you can help YOs navigate through the process. Recorded during the AAO 2018 YO Program, the video features speakers Amelia Rogoff, ophthalmic recruiter and president of The Eye Group, Priyanka Sood, MD, and Alfredo A. Sadun, MD, PhD.