During medical school, my head was buried in the books while I was studying pharmacology and pathophysiology. In residency, my body remained in the hospital for most of my waking hours while I was caring for patients. And, during fellowship, my hands were busy learning how to perform endoscopic procedures.
All the while, my friends working in other industries were tapping into a different kind of skill set. They learned how to handle promotions, terminations, relocations and networking, all before I had completed my training. I felt like a novice in comparison to their real-world experience. These friends guided me with invaluable advice during my transition after fellowship.
Here are some of the more important things I learned from them:
1. Find out what your employer values before you sign a contract. The hiring of a new employee often results in a loss of profit for healthcare employers in the first 6 to 12 months of that employee’s hire. What will your employer expect of you in years 1, 2, and 3? Understanding your employer’s expectations for the business will help set the ground work for that first year because you know what you should be working towards.
2. Know some business lingo. This is especially important in private practice. For example, overhead percentage = expenses/revenue x 100. A good business owner will know this number immediately. If the overhead percentage is too high, it may be a red flag. Why does this matter? As an employee, you have to generate enough not only to match your income and benefits, but also meet overhead expenses and profit for the employer.
3. Financial literacy is a must. Make sure to give benefits appropriate weight when considering a job’s total compensation. Compare these two scenarios: W2 employee with an above average salary, mediocre health insurance and no retirement plan vs. W2 employee with an average salary, a 401K/403b retirement plan, and health insurance without a high deductible.
4. Follow-up with potential employers. Once you land that interview, what you do afterwards matters. This is not the time to play hard to get or fear appearing too eager. Make sure to follow-up after a job interview and express your interest. Employers will be naturally inclined to hire a person who is enthusiastic about joining.
5. Know your worth. What is your time worth and are you filling it with the people and duties you enjoy? While no job is perfect, I am very aware of the pay gap for female physicians. The art of negotiation comes with practice, a lot of practice. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
6. Keep in touch with your mentors. No matter where you go, it is important to maintain a professional network. If an email address is difficult to find, sites like LinkedIn have helped to maintain these connections. Clinical questions come up on the job and there may no longer be plentiful experts available at your disposal.
7. Evolution of you happens. Expect to evolve professionally and remember your first job might not be your last. Salary is usually a significant factor in negotiating the first contract, especially when considering years of unpaid debt and other financial obligations. However, recognize that your needs and wants may change over time and other factors besides salary may become an unexpected priority.
Samantha Nazareth is a gastroenterologist.
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