July 1 is upon us, and I find myself perusing all the #TipsForNewDocs posts on social media. There is great advice for our incoming interns to help them start off residency strong. Yet, I rarely see #TipsForNewFaculty posts. The transition from trainee to faculty is often just as large of a jump, if not larger, than from student to intern. Suddenly, the buck stops with you. You turn to ask the attending a question, and uncomfortably recognize you ARE the attending.
Added to this are the increased number of notes you actually have to write, once everyone else has finished their part. The administrative duties you’ve not truly had to manage before. The research. The teaching. It can be daunting.
As a faculty member less than 5 years out from fellowship, here are some of my #TopTipsForNewFaculty:
- Ask Questions – The truth is, faculty ask each other questions and for advice all the time. If you have a tough case and want to run it by another faculty member, do it. But, do not ask them what to do. Come with a plan and ask for feedback. For this situation, I am planning on X – do you have other suggestions or ideas I am not considering?
- Accept and Acknowledge That You Do Not Know Everything – None of us do. It is impossible. Trying to keep up a pretense that you do know it all is exhausting, stressful, and futile. When you don’t know, own it and say it. It’s better to be honest, you have a chance to learn, and it normalizes this for any trainees working with you.
- Share Your Failures – It is so easy to try and hide our failures, to make it look easy for students, residents, and fellows. But, as faculty, we know that our careers are filled with failures and mistakes. By sharing your stories, everyone benefits from understanding no one is perfect, failure and mistakes are inevitable. Just be sure you learn from them!
- Find a Mentor, or Two – Mentors are incredibly valuable as you start your career. In fact, most of us have more than one. The old dogma is true, even in medicine, it takes a village. However, do not expect your mentor(s) to do the heavy lifting. Come to your meetings with a plan – What questions do you have? What help do you need? Even better, email an agenda with this information in advance of the meeting so your mentor can be prepared also.
- Keep a File of Accomplishments for Promotion – Save every teaching review, lecture invite, committee member invitation, and more in a file to help build your CV and future promotion packets. Better yet, keep the file and continuously update your CV. You never know when a great opportunity will arise and require you to send your CV. Constant updating = always being prepared when opportunity knocks.
- Save Every Thank You Note – Medicine can be hard. There are times when we all tend to feel we are not good enough at our jobs, in one avenue or another. Keeping a file with all of the thank yous, positive messages, and even meaningful successes (eg, publication, acceptance into a program, invitations) can remind you of the value you bring to medicine on those darker days.
- Find the Joy – No job is ever perfect. Find what brings you the most joy each day and strive to do more of that. Save the focus on imperfections for your next research or quality improvement project.
- Time Management & Boundaries – These may be the two most critical pieces of success I can give. Medicine will invade every and all corners of your life, if you let it. There will be many opportunities, and you need to be willing to say ‘no’ to some. Know your career goals and promotion criteria and always take time to consider each opportunity before you say yes. Plan your priorities each day (be reasonable on what you can actually get done) and be as focused and efficient as possible. When you are not on call, set boundaries for when you will not work, or even respond to emails. Together, this is what it takes to have time for critical self-care, like exercise, adequate sleep, and quality time with family and friends. Also, please do schedule in the lunches and coffee breaks with colleagues – they add to the richness of your career, provide a needed respite from your computer, and often are the birth place of many friendships and mentorship relationships.
Finally, be yourself! Enjoy the new role, have fun, and experiment with what works best for you as a new faculty member.