No One Taught Me How to Do This in Med School

In-house programs, such as the Cleveland Clinic, place primary emphasis on support and assistance to empower graduates and individuals as they become skilled at managing their own job search.

Could an in-house recruitment program help you in your job search? A few simple tips could make the difference.

By Joey Klein & Lauren Forst | Fall 2009 | Remarks


Becky is a neurology resident at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. When she graduates in July, she hopes to land a job in Chicago so she can join her husband, with whom she’s been apart for a year, while he completes his cardiology fellowship. Ron, a colorectal surgery fellow, is 33-years old. He’s been training to be a surgeon for as long as he can remember. He’s never looked for, or had, a job. He feels lost as to where to look, how to write a cover letter, if he should use a placement agency, how much he should expect to make, and how to move forward if he gets an interview or a contract. Roland and his wife Bushra are both on J-Visas (a visa for non-immigrants to come to the United States for training purposes). They have no CVs, no cover letters, and are looking for opportunities in the same city that can offer a J-1 Waiver (special permission to stay in the country without the usual requirement of returning to one’s home country for two years) so they can stay in the United States together.

Where to start?

Regardless of one’s profession or age, the job search can be a time of stress, confusion, and anxiety. Years of training come to fruition as tough decisions need to be made. The process is an experience that, if approached strategically and managed proactively, can be navigated with great success. In order to assist our approximately one thousand residents and fellows (like the ones above) in their job search process, Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Physician Recruitment has developed a cost free program, the Resident and Fellow Initiative at Cleveland Clinic. Since the program’s introduction three years ago, we have engaged over 400 of our training physicians in one-on-one job search assistance, CV and cover letter preparation, lead generation and prospect searches, and departmental presentations on the job search.

How the program works

Referrals to the program come from four main sources: program directors (13 percent), print flyers (27 percent),  word of mouth (23 percent), and from our group presentations (31 percent). The remaining referrals come through program coordinators, chief residents, and our quarterly newsletter. Interested  individuals (and couples) are asked to complete and return an electronic intake form along with a current CV (if they have one). From there, one-on-one meetings are arranged and a game plan is put into motion.

Through the intake process and our initial meetings, we get to know the people we work with and help them determine their specific needs. While offering Websites, contacts, and leads is a big part of what we do, helping people emotionally prepare for their job search is also a high priority. Perhaps the most valuable role we can take on is simply to be there for people to answer questions and offer support.

During a meeting last year, a top administrator at the Clinic noted how unique a physician’s career truly is: “In no other profession do you have highly intelligent, highly trained people in their mid 30s who have never had a job before and still follow someone else around calling them sir and ma’am.”  Breaking out of that mindset requires both time and effort. We work to help people not just find a job, but to find the right job so they aren’t merely a statistic who makes the wrong choice for their career.

One program’s philosophy

Our program places a primary emphasis on support and assistance as we help guide individuals. We look to provide people with the tools they need to launch and manage their own job search. We are not “headhunters” and we do not find people jobs. We work to empower our graduates so they become skilled at managing their own search. In our experience, the earlier people start and the more involved they get, the more opportunities they’ll discover and the more choices they’ll have.

We work to establish this “support and assist” role from the very first contact with individuals. Our electronic intake form was specifically designed to encourage an active and solution-focused mindset from our residents and fellows. Before we will work with someone, we want to know specifically what they have done so far (if anything), where they want to go, what their practice scope and interests re, and personal information which will help us get to know them and their needs.

Helpful guidelines for your search

Though all situations and individuals are different, we do offer a few guidelines to our residents and fellows:

  • Have a plan. Job searching is like getting into a pool, you can’t ease in you just have to jump in and start swimming. That being said, you can’t jump in wearing a business suit (or scrubs and a lab coat), you have to have your bathing suit on and have your towel by the side of the pool. Take some time to determine what needs you and your family require. What is important? Research, teaching, location, practice type, and scope must all be considered.

Job searching is like getting in a pool; you can’t ease in,
you just have to jump in and start swimming.

  • Make the right decision for the right reason. Don’t follow the money, or you will never stop chasing it.
  • Don’t settle but keep an open mind. It never hurts to talk to someone. At the very least, you are gathering additional information on the market and the process.
  • You can’t compare hypotheticals. We often encounter people who are comparing offers that haven’t been made. It’s good to think and plan ahead, but the reality is, if you don’t have an offer, you can’t make a decision.


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