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Published 3/24/2021
Lisa K. Cannada, MD, FAAOS

How to Find a Job During a Global Pandemic

Since March 2020, times have been unprecedented. COVID-19 has changed the practice of medicine—not only for patients but also for surgeons and organizations. Organizations and practices may have hiring freezes in place. Depending on one’s subspecialty in orthopaedics, opportunities vary, as practices reassessed their needs during times of elective surgery slowdowns. In addition, call schedules may have been covered by a variety of orthopaedic surgeons, including those not regularly on the call schedule. The need for young physicians to be included in the call pool may also be changing.

Yet life must go on. Residents continue to train and apply for fellowships and jobs. Medical students apply to residency. But the methods of application are different, and listings are not as abundant. This year, more than 850 orthopaedic surgeons are completing fellowships. Although some may pursue a second fellowship and others have military commitments, most are seeking employment. What is supposed to be an exciting time in one’s career is turning into a worrisome time for the majority.

This article provides some tips to maximize success and find openings for those soon to be seeking employment.

Before you begin, start with the basics. Spend time making sure your resume is up to date and accurate. Make sure it is easy to read, using an easily readable font of adequate size. Selective bolding of appropriate content can help. It goes without saying to proofread and look for errors.

Organizations and practices may also look up your social media accounts, so clean up your accounts. No future employer wants to see pictures of you on the beach with a drink in your hand or controversial or political posts. Be the professional you would hire.

When looking for a job, what are your must-haves? Thoughtfully reflect and write down this information. Do location, practice type, and practice partners matter to you? Do you want an academic position? What are your thoughts on research opportunities? Make your list so you can articulate the job type you want when asked. You should have some flexibility with your desires (e.g., location versus practice type). Considerations regarding your significant other, partner, and/or family also need to come into the equation.

With so many fellows seeking jobs, know what makes you unique or different. Do you take care of pediatric patients? Are you interested in promoting women’s health or bone health? Do you want to cover team sports and/or have a nighttime or Saturday walk-in clinic for sports injuries? Do you want to be the community total joint surgeon or a complex revision arthroplasty surgeon?

Take time to reflect on what makes you a candidate with qualifications others may not have. Are you already Board-certified? Do you have an MBA or MPH? Are you interested in quality issues? Were you in the military? Do you have extensive research and/or teaching experiences? Sell the qualities that make you attractive to a future employer.

There are sources to find a job: AAOS and specialty, state, and regional society websites; fellowship directors; and residency program mentors. Some may want a job in a specific location, so there is nothing wrong with cold calling the practices in that area. However, you must be prepared with an “elevator speech” as to who you are, what you are looking for, and your qualifications. In fact, those three talking points should be used in a letter of interest to potential employers. There are other resources for job information: your equipment representatives, alumni associations, journal websites and ads, multiple job sites, and even job recruiters. If you are interested in academic medicine, sign up to receive updated listings on the Association of American Medical Colleges website. Social media is also a potential source. You can see who is moving jobs before they even get posted. Networking and being creative in using multiple resources are necessary.

It’s also important to relax and know that more than 60 percent of fellows do not secure jobs until the winter or spring, according to information obtained in post-fellowship surveys. As previously mentioned, networking is important. It helps to start early with the job search, utilize multiple resources to discover opportunities, and keep applying. Amplify the process over time. As the end of the calendar year approaches, resignations in academic centers usually must be turned in several months in advance, which may result in more opportunities becoming available. Also, as families plan for the school year ahead, decisions on moving could be made in the spring.

Once you start discussing a job with a practice, the “new” norm often involves a Zoom interview. Prepare your questions and sharp answers to the usual anticipated questions ahead of time. It appears many are adept at Zoom meetings, so be prepared (read the article “Tips for Success During Virtual Interviews,” AAOS Now, November 2020). Be early and have a quiet room with the proper lighting and background. Don’t conduct interviews in your bedroom or kitchen. Remember to look at your camera to have eye contact so that interviewers can see your expressions clearly and hear your answers and so that it looks like you are answering them directly.

Research the current surgeons in the practice: their training, likes, research, and activities. Contemplate how you will fit in. Learn about the community. You will not be working all the time; see if the area offers activities that fit with your interests outside of work. Contact the Chamber of Commerce to get access to information about your possible “new home.”

The Zoom interview is exactly that—an interview. Remember to follow up and thank people for their time. This is also a good time to ask about the next steps and an in-person interview. With many frontline workers vaccinated, in-person interviews are becoming more common. That means you are one step closer to getting your job. Although times are different and opportunities may not seem as numerous, they do exist. Be persistent and thorough in taking advantage of multiple resources to find your job.

Lisa K. Cannada, MD, FAAOS, is a member of the AAOS Now Editorial Board, head of the AAOS Now Diversity Content Workgroup, and an orthopaedic trauma surgeon living in Jacksonville, Fla. She is affiliated with the Hughston Clinic and Novant Health.

Online resources

AAOS Career Center

The AAOS Career Center is dedicated to connecting orthopaedic surgeon members with relevant job opportunities through an online portal—powered by Health eCareers—
and to educate and empower members in their career development process.

The Career Center includes a robust set of tools and resources, including:

  • search and post jobs
  • video interview prep
  • job search tips
  • resume/CV best practices
  • fellowship listing directory
  • salary statistics
  • virtual Career Fair (May 2021)
  • and more

For more information, visit aaos.org/careercenter.

AAOS webinar addresses job searching during a pandemic

On March 22, the AAOS Board of Specialty Societies Fellowship Committee hosted a webinar titled “Finding a Job During a Global Pandemic.” Members can watch the on-demand video by logging on to learn.aaos.org and clicking the “Webinars OnDemand” catalog.