Career Planning, COVID-19, Workplace

8 Tips to Finding a Job During a Global Pandemic

The job hunt for a graduating resident and fellow, or the physician seeking a new opportunity, is rife with uncertainty and anxiety at any time.

Now a pandemic has introduced us to unprecedented numbers of hiring freezes, suspended bonuses, and scaled-back continuing medical education (CME) funds and stipends. Lower patient volumes mean less need for the emergency physician. The unclear future of COVID, and fear of a significant second wave, give both hiring groups and individual physicians pause. Those who are near retirement or perhaps planning relocations or career changes now instead prefer the safety of continued employment in the face of turbulent times.

What does a job search look like in these conditions?

8 Job Search Tips

1. Pay extra attention to your curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter.
With anticipated tighter competition this year, these materials are under a special spotlight as any employer's first impression of you. Do not be shy – distribute these to trusted colleagues and mentors widely for feedback and polishing. Tailor your cover letter to each specific institution, particularly your top 2-3 choices. Highlight any connections to the institution or area, such as family or your partner's job or even a strong commitment to the city in your cover letter.

2. Don't fear the cold email.
Many positions are not posted online or otherwise publicly accessible. Compose a brief, concise email to the department chair to express your interest, and attach a cover letter and CV. The email should state your current position and institution, your qualifying training and interests, and your intention to apply for an available position and request for an interview. Include a statement that indicates you intend to follow up with the recipient, as you understand them to be busy individuals.

3. Cast a wide net.
While there may be 1-2 frontrunner institutions, consider as many institutions as could potentially fit your needs, such as geography, proximity to family, partner-related needs, etc. It may be helpful to frame your consideration of such places as "comfortable for the next 1-3 years" instead of "lifelong." As most, if not all, communication and interviewing will be virtual, this is likely to be a cost-effective process even with 15-20 (or more) identified potential employers.

4. Flex connections.
Make sure your colleagues know of your desire to gain employment at any given institution. In a market that promises to be tighter than usual, allow your contacts to help you get a foot in the door.

5. Be persistent.
The typical hiring timeline in academic EM usually sees interviewing and hiring from early fall to winter for a July start date. In a pandemic-stricken market, hiring freezes and possibly related and intentional delays in retirement or job changes mean fewer positions available in the fall and winter. As the pandemic hopefully begins to resolve, so too may this relative stalemate, especially as patient volume rises in its wake. While it is impossible to make such a prediction definitively, it is reasonable to follow up your cold emails to check in on a regular basis. Where there was once no opening, there may be one 4-7 months later, at which point employers are unlikely to remember your previous single email.

6. Prepare an elevator pitch.
A brief summary statement of who you are, how you're qualified, and what you want will be key in communicating with potential employers, both in writing and over phone or video calls.

7. Talk compensation, not money.
While it is important that you seek a fair and reasonable monetary compensation, compared to similar jobs in your region, consider that this piece of your negotiations may be a particularly sensitive point in a climate of budget freezes and cuts. Instead, consider negotiating terms of buy-down, number of night and total shifts per month, ability to internally and externally moonlight, CME funds, and formal titles. These can add incredible value to your position without causing friction with potentially finance-wary employers.

8. Be honest.
It is tempting in such a stressful process to attempt to inflate your interest in an employer with exaggerations of family ties or professional experiences. Do be mindful that it is a small world and word travels! A genuine show of enthusiasm and demonstration of fit between you and the employer should suffice.

Don't forget that your EMRA and ACEP membership comes with an inside track on jobs, through the connection. This is more than a simple job-listing site:

  • Enter your CV so employers can see you before the job is posted
  • Enter your search parameters and set up notifications
  • Take advantage of career insight materials that are kept up to date and tailored to emergency medicine

Need tips on contract negotiation, practice models, and more? We've got you covered.

Related Articles

How Do You Know If You’re Ready To Moonlight?

Clues and questions that can lead you on the right path to this sometimes intimidating next step.

Health Policy Journal Club: Show Me the Money

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly lowered ED patient volumes, resulting in decreased hours for emergency physicians and a difficult job market. Could the current fee-for-service reimbursement model