New PA Graduate Andrew reflects on the PA Job Hunt

I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew who completed an Orthopaedic Surgery elective rotation with us during his second year of PA school. My PA colleague and I were delighted to hear he secured a position in Orthopaedic Surgery (it’s a not-so-secret bias that we hope all of the students who rotate with us end up in Ortho/MSK).

He has kindly agreed to write about his experience as part of the 2016 Career Start Grant program. He successfully obtained a funded position through the Ontario Career Start Grant after graduation.

When and how did you start preparing for job process?

Early on into the program, I already had a good idea which areas of medicine would best fit my personality, skills and interests (i.e. a fast-paced working environment with opportunities for practical skills and with a lot of variety). Once it was time for the first years to choose our clinical rotation streams, I selected the one that front loaded the fields I would be interested in (in my case, emergency medicine and general surgery). This enabled me to get a feel for that field and gave me ample time to plan the rest of my elective blocks to have more time in said fields. Much like how senior medical students use their clinical rotations as an opportunity to secure residency, I used my clinical rotations as an opportunity to have an extended job interview.

“Much like how senior medical students use their clinical rotations as an opportunity to secure residency, I used my clinical rotations as an opportunity to have an extended job interview.”

After the end of my clinical rotations, I went through the motions of updating my CV and drafting cover letters for each and every position I applied to.

Andrew's Experience with the Career Start Program

  1. How many jobs did you apply to?
    I applied to about ten positions
    , of which three withdrew their positions due to funding/ departmental issues. I applied to:

    • three emergency medicine positions
    • one pediatric emergency medicine position
    • three orthopaedic surgery positions
    • one general surgery position
    • two family medicine positions
  2. How many job interviews did you receive? 
    I received six interview invites and attended three.
  3. How many job offers did you receive? 
    I received two job offers of the three interviews I attended.

Sara and Andrew graduated the same year. Here is a direct contrast between their two different journeys to obtain full time employment.

How did you make your decision about where to work?

Truthfully, I had to make a tough decision about where I wanted to work. I had completed a three week rotation at my current workplace during the tail end of my clinical rotation which I found to be very enjoyable. I knew that they were hiring and my end of rotation review was very positive and really made me feel like I would be a welcome addition to their team. I also felt quite good about my interview and was very pleasantly surprised to have received an offer shortly after.

That being said, I had also received an interview invite for another major hospital working in Pediatric emergency medicine that was also very appealing. It was a tough choice as I didn’t have the luxury of time to attend the other interview and hated the idea of that big “what if?” looming over my head. This is not uncommon as it is something that some of my peers have also struggled with. With all that’s said and done, I confidently feel I made the right decision.

What do you think made you a successful candidate at the job of your choice?

As cliché as it may sound, I have to say that having a resume, cover letter, strong interview, having completed a rotation at the job location, and strong references played their role in making me a successful candidate. My CV and cover letter was fairly solid and I owe a lot of it to some friends who helped me review and edit them. It also helped that I have worked with some excellent PAs during my clinical rotations that made excellent references. I later spoke with the administrative director of my division and she flat out told me that my references were very strong and supportive.

Andrew's tips for New Graduates applying through the Career Start Program

Clerkship: Always be on the lookout for new, potential employment opportunities as the year goes on. Ask your preceptors and allied health staff what they know about PAs. Show them how much you know and how much you are capable of. Create opportunities.

Applying: I highly recommend having others involved with reviewing and editing your applications as it can be all too easy to have tunnel vision after reading over your work a dozen times.

Interview: Research the company, read (and re-read) their job posting and be confident (or fake it ‘til you make it).

“The vast majority of my classmates did secure employment after graduation.”

The vast majority of my classmates did secure employment after graduation. For many, they are quite happy with their decision but, like any profession, there are those who are not. Regardless, PAs are a very fortunate group of health care providers who have opportunities available to us early on in our careers. The challenge, as many can attest, is to demonstrate the ability to help our attending physicians either with finance, schedule or by extending the current level of care provided.

Any overall thoughts about the Ontario Career Start Program/process?

I wouldn’t be able to comment as the process itself can vary from person to person. Some of my peers worked with their preceptors to fill out the Ontario Career Start Program application while others (like myself) only had to apply for positions once they were made available.

Andrew now works in Orthopaedic Surgery through a job he secured through the Career Start Program

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