Advice on Getting Your First PA Job
Posted by Bianca BelcherComment

Some advice on hunting for your first job as a PA:

  • Start applying early. I started in January for an August graduation. The worst that I heard was “call me back closer to graduation.” But it allowed me to get a foot in the door and make contacts under less stressful circumstances. Some hospitals have a 3+ month hiring process.
  • Make a spreadsheet. It should contain names of places/jobs/recruiters, contact information, pros/cons about the job, last date contacted, interview dates/times and references used (since you will likely use different references for different jobs). You can add more categories or subtract some based on your own needs. The important thing is that you keep track of who you spoke to and when. Did you send them a thank you card? Did you follow up with a phone call? Write it down.
  • Hand-write a thank you card if possible. If not, at least e-mail or call to follow up and say thank you.  
    • The card should say something along the lines of: “Thank you for taking the time to interview with me. I am still/I am no longer interested in the position. I think I would be a good fit because…” I dropped my cards off personally for two reasons: 1) more timely than snail mail and 2) more face time with those whom I interviewed with. I want them to remember my name and face.
  • Sign up for recruiter listservs to hear about all of the job possibilities out there. There are tons of recruiters on Twitter that post hundreds of jobs per week. You don’t need to become an avid tweeter to just receive the tweets from others. Just follow them and reap the benefits.
  • Get on LinkedIn. Network and make professional connections. In fact, connect with me. Just put in the message that you read my blog and want to connect!
  • Visit the hospital websites too. Don’t rely on career sites. Often jobs will only be posted on the hospital site and nowhere else.
  • Visit your PA state chapter’s website. As a member, you will have access to their job postings as well.
  • Check out Joblink on the American Academy of Physician Assistants website. Lots of jobs and growing everyday.
  • Visit or call the department you want to work in directly. This is probably the best piece of advice I can give. When you submit an application online through human resources, if you don’t hit all of the “keywords” your application gets weeded out. I can’t tell you how many times I called a department and spoke to a PA or department manager who said, “Oh, you’re a great candidate, we’d love to meet you!” Only to find out they never even received my application. It is kind of silly to think that someone in HR is deciding based on trivial things whether or not I’d be a good neurosurgical or vascular PA. Talk to the people who know the job and its demands.
  • Keep an updated CV or resume with you during all interviews (even if you think it is informal!)
  • Wear a suit.
  • Network, network, network. This starts well before you start applying to jobs. During your PA student career you will come into contact with dozens of PAs/MDs/etc. Get to know them all. Share your interests with them early. They may have something opening up that hasn’t been posted yet.
  • Do your salary/benefit research. You should know what PAs are making in your field in your area.
  • Please, please, please…. NEGOTIATE. Never say yes to the first offer. You’ll never know if you could have gotten a few extra $1,000 tacked onto your salary or $500 more in continuing medical education money if you don’t ask. The worst they can say is no – no big deal. They are not going to take back their offer if you negotiate in a tactful manner. Studies show that men are much better at negotiating because they are generally more objective about the process. Women tend to be more thankful for the offer so we tend to accept what is offered. This is part of the reason female PAs are still paid less than male PAs in a profession that is dominated by women!

Good luck with the process!

Bianca Belcher is Advocacy & Government Affairs Commission Student Representative for the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Read more on her blog, Physician Assistant, Finally There.

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