If applying to jobs and interviewing isn’t stressful enough, there’s another task that might prove to be even more difficult: weighing offers and choosing the right job.

Your first job out of residency will set the tone for your entire physician career. Some of us get lucky, and the choice is crystal clear: we get offered our dream job, or the benefits of one job clearly outweigh another offer.

But for others (and maybe yourself), that decision is much more complicated. Weighing the pros and cons might not be easy, and it might be hard to determine what you should prioritize.

Then, there’s the stress. Choosing your first job out of residency is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your physician career, and the pressure can be tremendous. That’s especially true if you have a family — then, it’s not just about you… it’s about them, too.

If you have a tough decision in front of you, there’s bound to be one question echoing throughout your head: “What if I make the wrong decision? What if I choose the wrong job?”

There’s no “wrong” decision, of course, but there’s always a best decision. And in my opinion, there are four main things you need to consider to make that best decision:

1: Geographic Location: How Will It Impact Your Physician Career?

Where you’re at geographically influences so much of what you can do, which is why many doctors make geographic location one of their highest priorities. This consideration may have less impact on single physicians, though that’s not always the case.

When considering geographic location, the biggest question is whether or not you’re willing to move from your current area. If you are, there are several other things to consider: Do you have a preferred region? What size of community would you like to live in? What kinds of weather do you prefer? Do you want to be close to family?

While you probably did some thinking about this before you applied to jobs, you’ll have to make this consideration again if you’re choosing between two or more opportunities. Where you call “home” is very important.

2. Have You Considered Quality of Life Issues?

Quality of life ties in closely with geographic location, but it’s a bit more specific. These considerations primarily impact your work-life balance and your ability to enjoy yourself. It’s important to think about what your family values, too.

Consider access to entertainment, proximity to good schools, your daily commute and employment options for your spouse or significant other.

Take a minute to think about it, and if it helps, write down a list. Does one opportunity outweigh the other(s) when it comes to quality of life issues? Keep in mind that these things will have a significant impact on your overall morale.

3. What Role Does Compensation Play in Your Decision?

When evaluating offers, compensation is probably the first thing you’ll consider. Though it’s important, be sure to weigh it against your other priorities. Money isn’t the be-all, end-all, and it can make you very unhappy if it’s the only thing you consider.

For instance, let’s say you value time with extended family and access to urban amenities. An opportunity that pays incredibly well but places you far away from these things might not be the best long-term decision for your physician career.

4. Consider Your Work Environment and Expectations

It’s funny how many considerations you have to make about a job that don’t directly relate to the job itself (location, quality of life, etc.). But when it comes down to it, the job itself may be the most important thing to consider.

When you’re evaluating opportunities for the first job of your physician career, there are several work-related considerations to weigh. What is the practice setting? What will your schedule look like? Would it be an autonomous or collaborative position? What will your primary duties be?

There are dozens of things to consider when choosing the right job, but in my opinion, these four are the most important.

Want some helpful worksheets to make your decision easier? Visit the Adventures in Medicine Online Resource Library, and check out Stage 4: Physician Career Priorities.

Are you (or have you) been stuck with a tough decision about what job to choose? How do you think this affected your physician career?         


Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Alexian Brothers 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 Alexian Brothers is making practice purposeful.