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Giving and Assessing Recommendations on New Jobs in Radiology


Whether you are extolling the benefits of a new radiology gig to a friend or sizing up a potential opportunity based on a colleague’s recommendation, taking the time to make a prudent, objective assessment is usually the best course of action.

One of the gems from an old joke book that graced my shelves for many years is from the mid-1900s with a looming Iron Curtain. A couple of friends in east Germany are trying to figure out where they might go for better times. One suggests Russia, but the other says they have no way of knowing whether it is any better. The first friend says I will go first and write you a letter about how things are.

The other friend says that’s no good because anything negative won’t make it past the censors. After a bit of thought, the first friend says he will write in black ink if he’s telling the truth, but if he writes in green ink, it shouldn’t be trusted. They make their goodbyes and the first friend heads off.

Weeks later, the guy who stayed behind receives a letter. He immediately smiles when he sees black ink, and goes on to read: “Dear comrade, you should come and join me immediately. We needn’t have hesitated. Everything is wonderful here. You can get anything you want. (It is) a good place to live, (with) rewarding work (and) plenty of food. The only thing you can’t get is green ink.”

The joke has stayed with me for decades and it has come to mind a few times in my radiology career. If you have read this blog much, you know that I have held more than a couple of jobs. Happily, each time I have switched, it has been my decision, and I have always “traded up.”

I get along well with people and make friends easily, so I have had good relationships with other rads staying at the jobs I left. They knew the reasons behind my departures and agreed with them to varying degrees. Sometimes, they felt even more strongly than I, whether or not they jumped ship themselves.

When you get out of a bad situation but have a pal who is still in it, there is a drive to help them escape too, especially if you have found yourself a better place and you think the friend would benefit from joining you there. Each move from jobs gone bad to superior spots has put me in this situation.

However, I am wary of being moonstruck. Prematurely telling a friend that everything is wonderful in a new gig does nobody any favors if you (or the friend in question) are liable to subsequently realize that things are not so wonderful. At the very least, you might wind up looking foolish. Worse, your pal who changed jobs on your say so might resent you, or even suspect that you suckered him in for a “finder’s fee” or other personal gain.

Still, erstwhile colleagues might be curious, and eagerly ask after your new digs. Alternately, being enthused about the new gig, you might want to share your good fortune. Early on, I liberally apply my “green ink,” emphasizing that I have only been in the new place for X amount of time. If I can, I recollect how I had felt at similarly early junctures in previous jobs and try to compare against those.

I don’t know that there’s any particular time interval or indication that tells me when I can safely switch to black ink. My longest job lasted seven years, for instance, while my shortest job was one year. There is a lot of variability in how long honeymoon periods can last, and how much time can pass before the “other shoe drops,” revealing an ugly side of a job that had previously seemed pretty.

There are a couple of methods I have come to use for differentiating black and green ink situations. One is subjective. Having changed jobs a few times, I know what it feels like to be in my unrealistically happy early phase of a new situation. If I have that sense, I am very much on guard against appraising anything, and any communications I have will underscore that.

As time moves along, the bloom comes off the rose, and I am more likely to correctly size things up. A good sign of this is that I start noticing imperfections and dissatisfactions. The hardware/software isn’t that wonderful, the workflow could be better, some personalities on the team are abrasive, etc. If I can see that my description of the job contains negatives as well as positives, it is more reliably a black ink affair.

The other method is objective. Strip away the sentiments, like how friendly the other rads and ancillary staff are and focus on brass tacks. Compare number of hours worked (and the quality of those hours, for instance daytime M-F versus nights and weekends), volume of cases, case mix, etc.How does the paycheck compare with elsewhere? Income per hour is a nice common denominator if it can be determined.

This stuff works in reverse as well. If a colleague left your job and is now elsewhere, telling you how much better he or she has it, you might want to know whether the appraisal is in green or black ink. You could, perhaps, ask bluntly about it but some people don’t react well to the implication that they aren’t able to soberly size things up. It can be more diplomatic to consider how long they’ve been there, or to ask after some numbers so you can make objective comparisons yourself.

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