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How to Navigate a Physician Hiring Freeze

On December 5-6, I spoke at the virtual Residents’ Symposium put on annually by The Aesthetic Society. The focus of the symposium is the Business of Launching Your Practice. It’s a great meeting and free for all plastic surgery residents. One of my talks was on my thought process going into practice. This made sense as I just started as an attending in July 2020. In the talk, I went in depth into the steps I took to find my perfect job. (This is a big focus and a whole module in my course.) After this talk, one attendee asked an interesting question: Does anything change in looking for a job now that many institutions have a physician hiring freeze?

I thought this was a great question and have pretty strong feelings about the answer. I only had a few minutes to talk about it at the conference and now have had more time to mull it over. So, let’s go more in depth.

Does a physician hiring freeze change how you should look for a job?

The simple answer in my opinion is no. But it’s obviously more nuanced than that.

My recommendations when there is no pandemic and no hiring freeze

Before going further, it’s important for me to lay out what my general advice is for this seeking a job. This is especially applicable for those transitioning from training to your first job. However, it applies to anyone looking for a job or even up for contract renewal.

Again, I go way more in depth about this and include a bunch of handy templates and guides to assist in finding the perfect job in my course, Graduating to Success. Trust me, simply finding the right job and negotiating the right contract will pay for the reasonable cost of the course many times over!

graduating to success
physician hiring freeze

In simple terms, when looking for your job, most of us try to fit ourselves into the jobs that are available.

During my job search, I started out doing this. But then I realized that I had it all backwards. And I started looking for jobs that fit me.

This is how you should go about finding a job, whether it is your first, second, or twentieth.

Here are the basic steps to do this:

  • Create you ideal job in your head
  • Look for jobs using society job boards and search sites like Indeed
  • Identify potential openings through the use of cold calls and e-mails. (This is hands down the most effective strategy and a whole video in my course)
  • Create a guide to grade each job opportunity and decide which one is right for you
  • Determine your value
  • And finally, negotiate a contract commensurate for your value

But now there is a hiring freeze, does that change anything?

This is the question that I was asked in the conference.

I already shared with you that my answer is no. You should still look for a job that fits you perfectly. You should not compromise.

But why not? That is the real question and issue at hand.

Look, I completely understand that this is a scary and unprecedented time

We are dealing with a global pandemic, hospitals are overwhelmed, people are losing their loved ones.

However, worrying that this pandemic and any ensuing hiring freeze will negatively impact your ability to find the perfect job is:

A) Out of your control
B) A limiting belief

Go for it!

Why tell yourself the story that you will not find the perfect job and instead should accept just any job because of a theoretical physician hiring freeze?

Why not tell yourself that despite the external circumstances, you are still a limited and valuable commodity that deserves and can find a mutually beneficial opportunity?

Let’s do a thought experiment

Let’s follow the first thought out

Circumstances: You are looking for a job, maybe your very first one. There is a pandemic and many institutions have implemented hiring freezes.

You therefore think that you will not be able to find your perfect or even a good job. You feel upset and ultimately resigned to this. Thus, you don’t try to find your perfect job and instead just look for a job. You take one of the first opportunities that arise and hope for the best.

Now for the second thought

Circumstances: You are looking for a job, maybe your very first one. There is a pandemic and many institutions have implemented hiring freezes.

You think that you have valuable skills and expertise that can help patients and a hospital system in need. You realize your value is not tied to the next month(s) or even year but to your whole career, which is what you are bringing to the negotiating table. Negotiating creatively is not a worry to you, but an exciting opportunity.

So, your actions follow your thoughts and you go looking for the perfect job. You turn over every stone, you follow an untraditional approach like I did. And you find the perfect job.

Notice that the circumstances are exactly the same. But, the second thought puts the locus of control back within yourself. Actions and results follow.

It’s classic CTFAR thinking. Circumstances lead to Thoughts lead to Feelings lead to Actions lead to Results.

Your thoughts can and will bring about different actions and results

Nothing should alter your thoughts and actions in looking for a job. Thus, your results will not change either and you will find your perfect job.

physician hiring freeze
The sky truly is the limit. Biggie was right.

But what should we actually do?

Now that we have navigated the philosophical argument, let’s get into some actionable advice for this unique time to be searching for jobs as a doctor.

Put another way, the philosophy and strategies don’t change despite the fact that the exact scenarios we face may change.

If you don’t know if a potential employer has a hiring freeze,

  • Express your interest and why you would be a good fit
  • Don’t assume that they have or will have a hiring freeze

If a potential employer does have a hiring freeze,

  • Express your interest and why you would be a good fit
  • They very well may be in need of a physician just like you
  • They may not realize they need someone like you, so it’s your job to show them why
  • Offer to meet with them virtually just to chat and tactfully show what skills you can bring them

If a potential employer tells you they would love to hire you, but there is a hiring freeze,

  • Express understanding as well as your continued interest
  • Make sure they understand your desire to have a long career with them and the value that offers
  • Ask if there are any creative arrangements that can be made
    • Perhaps a one year contract with reduced terms
    • Maybe a “fellowship” can be arranged with lower compensation but written agreement for full employment in a certain time period
    • Is there a research opportunity for a limited time after which full employment can be negotiated?
    • Many, many others

If a potential employer says there is just simply no way they can hire you right now,

  • Express gratitude for their interest and tell them you would love to work with them when the freeze is lifted
  • Can you get creative with a bridge opportunity?
  • Do a fellowship?
  • Work in a side gig leveraging your knowledge and expertise outside of clinical medicine. Full list of such opportunities here.

Put simply, a physician hiring freeze should not alter your thoughts or actions in looking for a job

In fact, both my wife and I were hired for our first jobs during the pandemic.

My wife is not a physician but works as a professor as a public university. That university actually had a “hiring freeze” when they hired her. A creative arrangement was accommodated.

Never limit yourself!

Learn more about contract negotiation here.
Find a physician side gig to make passive money.
Become a real estate investor to increase your income streams.

What do you think? How did you look for a job? Would it change in a pandemic? Anything that I missed? Do you think I am way off the mark? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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