Residents frequently ask senior colleagues for guidance on choosing a job—especially their first out of training. Here are a few thoughts.
No one needs to be told the importance of location and type of practice; those speak for themselves. I always put stress on the reputation of the person and organization who will be the employer. Honesty, integrity, concern for the welfare of physicians and other employees are cardinal. Prospective employees sometimes think a written contract protects them. A contract can serve to clarify details. But ideally, after a contract is signed, it should go into a drawer and never be seen again. If one needs to pull it out and re-read it, something is going wrong, usually with trust. I would rather make 20% less from an employer I can trust than sign a “sweet deal” in writing with a less trustworthy party. If a contract dispute becomes adversarial, the employee is likely in for years of unpleasant proceedings, stress, and expense and, in the end, will be lucky to see 50 cents on the dollar—usually much less.
Everyone thinks about salary. Benefits too should be counted. Some benefits are more relevant to an individual than others—depending on family circumstances, for instance. And as important as money is, remember that it’s a vehicle to quality of life. Work type, hours, flexibility, call, the caliber and “fit” of associates also feed into job satisfaction.
Don’t forget commuting. The more time one spends on the road, the less time is available to read, enjoy recreation, and be with loved ones and friends. Some communities allow shorter commutes or public transportation that may allow work or leisure to and from work.
Do something you like, care about, feel good about. Work with people you respect and enjoy. These variables are hard to quantify but very, very important to leading a good life.
-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry