The time when a pathology fellow launches a job hunt is the time when he or she needs to be very transparent and completely honest.
“I tell pathology fellows preparing to interview for a job that this is a situation where they could be working with a group of people for the rest of their lives, and they should approach it with seriousness,” says Henry Rinder, MD, PhD, FASCP. “Trainees have to be very open and honest about goals for their personal and professional career, the way they view work-life balance and so on.”
That advice flows into the second part of what he tells them. “We want them to have expectations that fit with the expectations of the employer,” he says. “We hope that whoever is interviewing the fellows is equally transparent. The initial discussions have to be frank.”
Dr. Rinder also encourages fellows to research the pathologists and lab professionals who may interview them. “You may be going to a practice where the youngest person is 25 years older than you,” he says. “You are coming from a residency and fellowship that is very different training from what theirs was like, and their practice may be very different. You need to get them to explain to you their workflow, how they approach diagnostics and what technology they’re using.”
One of the things that Melissa Upton, MD, FASCP, reminds her trainees is that they are almost never going to be asked to do something that is very limited in scope. “I encourage them to be open to a job that is more than what their fellowship training is in,” she says. “I remind them that they have been broadly trained, and they need to say during an interview, ‘I’m not as strong in lung pathology as I am in gastrointestinal/liver, but I am willing to become skilled in that area.’ They need to be willing to step outside of their comfort zone when interviewing for a job.”
Both caution trainees not to be too focused on the location of where their first job will be. It’s more important to look at the quality of the job. “People who were very happy in their first job were where members of the group were willing to mentor them, the work was interesting and the group was successful,” Dr. Upton says. “You want good mentors, engaged clinical colleagues and opportunities for personal growth.”
Dr. Upton says that if location is critical, she encourages trainees to start talking to the practice groups in those areas early in their fellowships. “If you connect with pathology and practice groups early, you get on their radar early and can learn about the skill sets they are seeking,” she says.
During that first job search there can be other stressors such as buying a first house or having children. There are a lot of compromises being made, and being willing to embrace them is a good thing to consider. Don’t rule things out because you never know where it will lead, adds Dr. Rinder. “You could find a career could launch you and sustain you in a way that makes work-life balance better,” he says.