Dear Dr. Goodhook,

For the last decade of my life, I’ve studied and trained to become a physician. As excited as I am to finally move on to the next chapter of my life, I am procrastinating about starting my Physician job search. Why can’t I seem to focus? When do you recommend starting the search? Do you have any advice about what to tackle first?


Procrastinating M.D. in Maine

Dear Procrastinating,

Were you to rest your head on the leather arm of a psychologist’s couch, he or she would tell you that procrastination is a simple coping mechanism. In order to escape the nauseating anxiety of major tasks and decisions (such as a job search), we often busy ourselves with unnecessary, distracting drivel.

Not to worry — procrastination is as common as the cold, and just as easily remedied.

Physician Job Search: Think Atomically

Major tasks are paralyzing because they’re major in your head. Individual tasks don’t concern you — you’re consumed by the looming shadow of your search as a whole.

You no doubt spent many years studying chemistry and biology to get to the place that you are now. It’s time, young resident, to revisit that knowledge, and to think atomically.

Though the task in front of you may seem like an impossible mountain, you must reverse your attitude and equate it to a large pile of miniscule rocks. Matter is comprised of infinitely smaller parts — so is your daunting job search.

Realize Your Risk

Waiting too long to embark on your search comes with nasty consequences, no doubt. Consider the trials of those who have gone before you. Dillying and dallying about your search may cause you to…

  • Lose out on more desirable job opportunities
  • Start your job late because of unexpected state licensing requirements
  • Panic and accept a last-minute job that pays your bills but leaves you grouchy and dissatisfied
  • Work a job in a location that doesn’t meet your family’s wants or needs

Flip the coin to the other side, however, and the picture is much more rewarding. Starting your search earlier will enable you to…

  • Find a job that meets your personal and professional needs
  • Have more time to evaluate options and negotiate contracts
  • Complete your licensing application on time
    • Decide confidently and make the best decisions for you and your family

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Start Now and Start Small

Most experts — myself included — would urge you to start the job search process during your second year of residency. During your third year, you can focus on more particulars.

This is a ripe time to identify priorities. Breathe deep and slow, and think about what you want financially, professionally and spiritually. This might not seem like a step, but it is, perhaps, the most important one.

Next, create a roadmap. Quiet your mind, and don’t get carried away by storms of worry and doubt. The wise resident will create a detailed plan for the journey ahead. I’d recommend visiting the Job Search Timeline and Career Tracker, housed in the Adventures in Medicine Resource Library. These tools outline necessary steps for your search in simple, chronological order. You’d be a goon not to use them.

Finally, consider the holy grail of career search advice: Forget not your significant other or family during your journey, and make them a part of the process. After all, if they are miserable, you will be too. A sour disposition is highly contagious.

Above all, remember — it’s just a pile of rocks. Remove a rock from the pile each day and you won’t have to climb the mountain. You’ll have impressively flattened it.

–       – Dr. Goodhook

Have you procrastinated during your physician job search?

What did you do to get back on track?

What steps did you take to make the process more manageable?


Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Augusta Health supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Augusta Health is making practice purposeful.