People often ask me why I would devote so much of my life to supporting physician careers. I often hear, “Why don’t you spend your free time going to the beach? You look pale. Get some sun already!” Through the years, I have witnessed colleagues of mine go bankrupt, one commit suicide, several quit their medical practices of thousands of patients, and some become clinically depressed despite having very lucrative medical jobs. Why should that be? After all those years of brutal training and sacrifice, shouldn’t every doctor be IN LOVE with his job? Enough is enough! I made a commitment to create a way for doctors to find better jobs and career resources. But while I love connecting physician colleagues to exciting new jobs, some employers may not see every doctor as the perfect fit for their practice. One thing in common with the happiest doctors I know is that they have all faced rejection on the road to reaching their dream jobs. So what should you do when at first you are ignored or flat out told “No” by employers?
1. Build a Cheerleeding Squad: Most doctors were not MVP of the high school basketball team or captain of the football team when they were teens. Many of us were sitting quietly in math club while the varsity football team captain was surrounded by adoring cheerleaders….forming pyramids and doing fancy acrobatics for him. Most doctors don’t ever expect to have a group of people rooting for them. But it is critically important to have a strong support system if you want to conquer career setbacks. If you don’t have a squad now….start building one. Who believes in you more than you believe in yourself? Who NEVER makes you feel bad about yourself? Who keeps showing up to be there for you? Who is generous with giving constructive advice to you? Surround yourself with those people who will boost you up when bad news comes your way.
2. Think Rationally: Do you want to work with someone who doesn’t want you? Why would you want to work with someone who doesn’t appreciate your value? You must think logically about the decision that was made by the employer. It is not healthy nor will it bring you long term happiness or growth to be in a job where the employers don’t respect you, have the desire to mentor you, or think the world of you.
3. Put Yourself Out There Socially: Get out there and start shaking hands. Go everywhere you can to find doctors–networking events, practice openings, specialty society meetings, drug rep dinners, physician job fairs, CME seminars, and doctors lounges in the hospitals. Talk to pharmaceutical reps and recruiters, post articles on facebook, twitter, and linkedin, host your own doctor parties…..get out there and make some contacts. Putting yourself out there is how opportunities open…not praying that someone will find your resume and like it. Personal connections are just as important–if not more important–than your credentials when landing more physician interviews.
4. Acquire More Skills: Find out what skills most employers in your specialty value the most and be the best at them. Whether you need to go to Italy or India for a month-long externship to practice these skills–or whether you need to work for free for someone locally who is the best of the best—just become a master and watch your value and marketability to employers increase dramatically.
5. Don’t Burn Bridges: Whatever you do, don’t retaliate! If you interview with an employer who doesn’t pick you, absolutely don’t badmouth him on social media or to your colleagues. Do not impulsively send him an angry email about how he made a mistake not picking you. No matter how upset you are…take a deep breath and restrain yourself. He may have been considering you for a position down the road.
6. Never Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: When searching for physician jobs, you cannot bank on just one opportunity. You need to diversify and line up an array of possible job opportunities, otherwise the blow will be much harder if one job doesn’t work out. I speak to doctors who are interviewing for a job and can’t stop talking about it. They obsessively visualize themselves at work there. They have already started searching for homes in the area or started booking flights for the month in which they will likely start the job. No! Don’t do it! You may not land the job, and it will sting more when you have spent hours planning your life around a position that may not work out.
7. Face the Pain and Then File it Away: Rejection is a part of life. Do not numb yourself to the pain. Face it, tackle it, and then put it away. If you don’t face the disappointment head on, you cannot move on to something even better. You must accept the fact that you are human and that rejection hurts. If you ignore the pain, it will linger, gnaw at you and then come back to haunt you at a later time. So confront it, accept it as normal, experience it fully, and then you will be ready to flush it out of your system for good.
8. Create a Better Opportunity for Yourself: If you keep facing rejection after rejection after physician job interviews, don’t take it personally. This may be a sign that you have to stop trying to please employers and start pleasing yourself. You may have a unique vision that these employers could never understand. You may not be “employee” material and are more suited for a role as “employer.” You may have a special skill set that they don’t appreciate. Create your own practice and practice medicine the way you have always dreamed of practicing. Become empowered and take the initiative to turn things around so that YOU make the hiring decisions– not the other way around.
9. Get as Much Feedback as Possible: If you can, do some research and find out who got the job you were unable to get. This will give you a lot of information about their “ideal candidate.” Find out from recruiters what may have been problematic at the interview. Find out from people who know the employer what may have turned him on or off. You may not get a straight answer. You may not get any answers….but it is worth investigating. I recently set up some interviews for some of my physician colleagues for an opportunity to be medical director of a big company. The reason one of my colleagues didn’t get the job was because the employer thought that he was “overqualified” and that if he was offered the job, he would never stick with it. You may just be too qualified for the job!
10. Consider Following Up: Focus on Your Value to “Them” not Their Value to “You”: If a month or two has passed by and your heart is still attached to this job, you can follow up with a short gracious and friendly email with an update. Don’t stalk the employer. Write a brief follow up about what you can bring to the table. “Since I last met with you, I received advanced training and certification in cosmetic injections and set up a clinic that has grown to over a hundred patients in the last few months. I would love to share my experiences with you as this is something you were interested in at our meeting during the winter. I will be in your area on Thursday if you would like to grab coffee.”
Just remember…if you are not getting rejections, then you are not putting yourself out there and striving for something better. It is impossible for any successful individual to be loved by everyone…even the President of the United States. Don’t become defined by rejection, and don’t take it personally. You are the master of your own destiny–not employers. You need to strike the right fit for your next job. If you are not a top pick for a medical practice, it’s better to find that out now then have major regrets down the road when you discover that you are not appreciated for your valuable contributions at work.
Melinda Hakim MD—Dr. Hakim is a Board-Certified Ophthalmologist in Los Angeles and a graduate of Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is the Founder of DoctorCPR.com–America’s #1 Site for Medical Jobs + Practice Resources
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