When Should You Start Looking for a Pathology Job?

by | Mar 12, 2017 | Residents | 1 comment

When Should You Start Looking for a Pathology Job?

A friend of mine who is finishing his pathology training asked me a question that really got me thinking: When do I start looking for a pathology job?  With the length of pathology training becoming widely variable in recent years, it makes sense why timing can be tricky for when you start to look for a job.  It can take a lot of effort to find a job so you might be hoping to put it off until later or you might be wondering if you’re already late in the game and need to catch up before your training ends.

Length of pathology training is widely variable

Here are several ways that the timing of training has become so variable: Some residents are AP/CP, CP only, or AP only.  On top of that you add 1, 2 or even 3 fellowships (Crazy)!  Some residents are on an AP/NP track, which has it’s own unique twist.  Then add that some fellowships are 1 year while others are now 2 years long.  You may fit into one of these categories and still not know when you’ll be finished because you’re not sure how many fellowships you really want to do.  This means you may be looking at anywhere from 3 years to 7 years of post-graduate pathology training.

No matter which scenario you fit into, here are a 5 tips to help you find the sweet spot for timing, in earnest, the daunting task of find that first job:

5 tips for when you should start looking for a pathology job

  1. Start Now! Just Kidding.  But seriously, if you include networking as a part of your job search then absolutely start right now!  Rich Cornell from Sante Consulting recently gave a talk at the CAP Residents Forum and showed that greater than 80% of pathology jobs were discovered through personal (direct or indirect) networking.  Great places to network are CAP and USCAP annual meetings.  You can also network at state pathology societies, even if you aren’t from that state.  The Texas, California, and Florida state pathology societies are particularly active places with pathologists from all over the country who attend.  You can also add to the list the state pathology society where you are training at, or the state where you want to practice one day.  You future employer may not be at these meetings but these are the pathologists who will think of you when an employer asks them for recommendations on who to hire.
  2. Limited Geographically? Start at the beginning of residency:  If for what ever reason (e.i personal preference, spouse considerations) you have a very specific geographical area you want to work at, the sooner you’ll want to start.  I grew up in a very small town in Central California.  Within the first few weeks of starting pathology residency, I called the only pathology lab in town and let them know I was training to be a pathologist.  I asked them to keep me in mind if they were thinking about hiring.  You might think that was way too early but don’t speak too soon.  Four and a half years later in the middle of my fellowship, guess who I got a completely blind phone call from?  Yep, the director of the lab called and asked me if I would be interested in a job in their lab.  I was truly honored and amazed they remembered me!  If you or a significant other need to work at a specific location, call and e-mail the labs in that area right away!  Let them know your plans, even if you don’t know what subspecialty you will be doing.  The lab may even have a future subspecialty need you could fill which changes which fellowship you choose.
  3. Notify your residency/fellowship directors, chairs, and other prominent pathologists right after you start your primary subspecialty*: Your directors are a great resource for finding a job.  Lots of private practice and academic pathologists call them frequently asking if anyone they’ve trained is looking for a job.  If you’ve specifically talked to your directors and chairs in a broad sense the type of job you’re looking for, you will be on the top of their mind when then field those phone calls.  
  4. Browse Pathology Outlines weekly about 3 months after starting your primary subspecialty: Pathology Outlines comes in at a distant but solid second when it comes to finding the right job, after networking.
  5. Cold call and e-mail labs about 6 months after starting your primary subspecialty: A word of advice I receive from an awesome colleague of mine was to send an introductory e-mail to labs without including your CV.  End your e-mail with an invitation to reply if they would like to see your CV.  This leaves them with a task of responding to your e-mail, letting you know whether they are hiring or not.  If you attach the CV from the beginning, someone may browse through it  and then not response if you don’t fit what they’re looking for.  If that happens, you won’t know whether they received an e-mail or not.  If they respond, you’ll know whether it’s the right e-mail address and whether to cross the lab off the list if their response is no.  I tried both cold calling and e-mailing and I’d say I was more successful with e-mailing because I was able to reach out directly to pathologists and didn’t have to go through laboratory staff.  I have a feeling two of my cold calls with front staff never made it back to the pathologist.

*What is a primary and secondary subspecialty?

The fellowship that sets you apart in the marketplace (i.e dermatopathology, hematopathology, etc.) is your primary subspecialty.  Your secondary subspecialty is usually a second year of training that you either did out of necessity because you either didn’t get into the one you wanted on the first try or because you want to expand your skill set by adding more experience in a second area.  The secondary subspecialty may come before or after your primary subspecialty.  Either way, you should be looking for a job during your primary subspecialty training for a couple reasons.  It’s not until you have officially started your fellowship that you can reasonably expect to finish training in that subspecialty.  Anything can happen in the 2 long years between when you accepted the fellowship and when you start. 3 months into training you can confidently call employers and tell them you will be trained as a fill-in-the-blank-ologist within 6 to 9 months.  Even in the scenario where your primary fellowship is first and you’ve added a secondary fellowship afterwards, you can start looking for a job during your primary training.  Many residents I talk to are doing more fellowships because they think they are more likely to get a job.  I strongly disagree!  What’s more likely to happen, and I have personally seen this several times, is that during do your primary training, you’ll find a job and cancel your secondary training all together.  More and more residents are dropping their 2nd and 3rd fellowships, especially if the fellowship is a secondary subspecialty, in favor of getting a job.

Residents are dropping their 2nd and 3rd fellowships, especially if the fellowship is a secondary subspecialty, in favor of getting a job.

Big Picture: Key date is when you start your primary subspecialty

Timing is important when you start looking for a job.  The day you start your primary fellowship is when your job search turns from general networking to more specific job search.  Make an effort as soon as possible to reach out and get to know the pathology community through annual meetings, twitter (#pathologists), and local pathology societies.  Once you start your primary subspecialty you can switch gears from networking to job searching.

What is your “pathspective?” When do you think is the best time to start looking for a job?  Is timing important in your job search? Did you find this helpful?  If you have any questions or comments, let me know in the comment section below.