The first important step as you plan your career is self-reflection. By answering some key questions about yourself and your personal priorities, your decision to move toward fellowship or a specific job may become much easier.Smiling female medical resident

  • What motivates you? As you attend courses and participate in different rotations, are there topics or certain types of patients that really grab your attention and interest? These feelings of engagement or excitement should tip you off to areas of your training that you may want to pursue further.
  • What are your geographic needs / preferences? For some coming out of training, their job search is the first time when they can choose where they want to live and work? (You are not reliant on a match or interview to determine where you will be headed the following summer). If there is a place you've always wanted to live, this may be the time to head to Hawaii or New Orleans. On the other hand, you may already have roots in Jersey or Nebraska or another place where your spouse or your family lives. The geographic location may drive your decision on where to search for a job.
  • How big a role do financial considerations play in your decision? Depending on how burdensome your student loans are or how eager you are to start making lots of money, you may want to limit your search to certain areas of the country. For example, Federal Student Loan Repayment is only offered in certain cities or regions where there is an identified community need. You may want to consider venturing to one of these places to help pay back your loans. Also, certain areas of the country tend to pay more than others – think geographic regions where there aren't a lot of medical schools or doctors nearby and they must "import" all their physicians. In these types of areas, you may be paid more than in populated metro areas (despite the difference in cost of living).
  • What type of patients do you want to treat? Some physicians love the complex challenges that oncology cases offer, others really enjoy delivering babies. Caring for nursing home patients or patients in underserved cities may be most rewarding for you. Be sure to think about what type of patients you enjoy caring for and then try to tailor your search around these preferences, too.

More on Reflection - in addition to the introspective questions and analysis, you also want to consider what will make your marketable to a fellowship program or prospective employer.

  • Think About Your Unique Skill Set – Do you speak other languages, or have you had interesting experiences, like participating in a medical mission trip? Think about your personal strengths and how you can differentiate yourself from your peers.
  • Consider Participation in Hospital Committees – Volunteering on committees will be especially helpful if you plan to teach or become an administrator. Ask your Program Director if there are opportunities for you to participate that don't conflict with your schedule.
  • Work on Research Projects / Presentations – Research and presentations will be important when applying to fellowships so that you can demonstrate your strong interest and knowledge about a specific clinical area. See whether you can participate/present at your local or regional society meeting. Ask your Chief Resident and Program Director for more guidance on publishing.
  • TAKE YOUR BOARDS! - Be sure to schedule, study hard, and pass your Boards. This is often a requirement for employment, not to mention a crucial condition for insurance companies too. Make sure you can be paid for all the work you are putting into your career!