Green Shoots

April 17, 2015

The signs of an uptick in the radiology job market?

Spring is finally here. Notwithstanding the calendar’s input, in my neck of the woods, it rarely feels that way around the third week of March. Lengthening daylight, diminishing frequency of ice and snow, and temperatures climbing back from the abyss make things a little more real, but the most striking transition is when dormant vegetation starts coming back to life…beginning with little patches of green emerging from soon-to-be flowerbeds.

“Green shoots” has also been used to reference early signs of recovery from an economic downturn. Depending on who (if anyone) you trust as a source for news or prognostication for such things, you may or may not believe the larger economic world has gone past such a stage and is in full-bloom recovery. I daresay few of us in health care, specifically radiology, would express such a sunny outlook for our sector.

That said, I heard some chatter from executive types a couple years back that health care generally lags behind the rest of the economy in this regard. I’m sure a curious individual could look up reasons for this, but the effect is that, after everyone else has hit bottom, those of us in health care are still plummeting. And, presumably, when everyone else is back on the upswing, we might have to wait awhile longer before we join in.

Whether or not related to such a long-awaited uptick in our little pocket of the economic world, I was pleasantly surprised to receive not one, but two, job recruitment inquiries out of the blue this past week. It’s hard not to take this as some kind of positive indicator, since the last time I was thus approached was well over a year ago, maybe even 2-3. Yes, my n=1 and the plural of anecdote isn’t evidence, but the last time I checked I was a run-of-the-mill rad, so it seems probable that if I’m getting cold-called, others are, too.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"34287","attributes":{"alt":"Eric Postal, MD","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_7134868186807","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3648","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"float: right;","title":"Eric Postal, MD","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Green shoots these may be, but not yet mighty oaks. There’s every chance that the first jobs becoming available are the ones that other rads were most eager to ditch for greener pastures. To rads looking for a change, I’d suggest caution against trading the devil you know for a new one that you don’t, willing to make promises that won’t be kept. At least with your current gig, whatever disappointments you have are now known entities. Further, if things are indeed starting to improve, other new job opportunities will be coming out of the woodwork; grabbing desperately at the first batch you see might not land you the best situation.

Meanwhile, on the employer side of the equation, it might be a good time to reassess how you’re treating your team. Yes, things have been tough, and you might have had every reason to demand longer hours, cut pay and benefits, etc. It might be tempting to keep the purse strings tight for awhile longer, in case an upturn isn’t quite here yet…or to reap an extra month or three of better budgetary/profit margins. Doing that, however, runs the risk of making you as popular as some airlines have been for maintaining fees, surcharges, etc. which were instituted years ago in the name of soaring fuel-costs…even now that those costs have long since come down.

A forward thinking senior partner (or others in similar leadership positions) might well stay one step ahead of the competition in this regard. It might be of little use to wait for the other guys to start offering superior employment terms before you improve your own (or, even more weakly, give lip service to maybe improving sometime in the nebulous future). Rads who have seen increasingly lean years may have little remaining patience to stick around for more of the same. Worse, the rads you would most want to retain (for their skillsets, work ethic, etc.) are likely best positioned to compete for desirable new jobs as they appear…act too late, and you may be fighting to retain the bottom half of your radiological barrel.