Writing resumes and interviewing, it never occurred to me that I might face a choice in which job to accept. I figured eventually someone would offer me a position, and I would accept it! It turns out I was wrong.
Friday morning I went to an interview for a research study assistant position in internal medicine. I had managed to not sleep at all the night before, so I was quite worried about how the interview would go. I stopped by my favorite drive-through Seattle coffee cart, TNT Espresso on Broadway. My favorite barista gave me some words of encouragement for my interview, and I was off. The first half of the interview was with two research team members. The questions were mostly geared toward working culture – what I like in a supervisor, the working environment of my dream job, etc. I stumbled over some of my answers, but I generally enjoyed talking with the team members. I then met with the principal investigator. Right away, I felt at ease talking with her. I could not draw the line between where conversation ended and interview began. The interview did not involve any classic interview questions, and I realized that the PI was really interested in both what I had to offer and what I would gain through the position. I could see that all of her research ideas grew out of patient care concerns, and I also realized that she was incredibly smart and kind. She didn’t originally ask the strengths and weaknesses interview question, but when she asked me what questions she should ask me that she hadn’t, I brought up the strengths and weaknesses question because I was so used to answering it. She then, with very high accuracy, told me what she thought my strengths and weaknesses were. I filled in some gaps, and the conversation ended shortly thereafter. I wrote down the contact information for my references, and I realized to my horror that my handwriting looked terrible. The PI even commented on how small it was, much to my distress.
A few hours later, she called and offered me the position. She had spoken with my references, and she explained why she thought the position would be beneficial for me. I realized that I would not only have the chance to work on important research, but also to learn from an incredible person and scientist with an interest in my professional development. I asked for the weekend to think about it, as I knew I had another interview coming up on Monday.
The interview on Monday was for an unnamed position in global health, with responsibilities ranging from scheduling to filing receipts to editing manuscripts to tracking IRB and grant applications. The research topics were incredibly interesting, covering areas like neglected tropical diseases. I went into this interview differently, knowing that I had until the end of the day to decide whether to accept the other position. I explained that I had another offer for a full time benefited position, and I learned what the definite job responsibilities were, along with the room for growth in many ways. Again, my potential boss emphasized the importance of a team environment, what qualities made a person successful in the position, and what opportunities I could have for professional development. He put together a full time, benefited position offer (as a Program Assistant) out of an originally 50% time no-benefits position.
I was horrified – how was I supposed to choose between these two positions? The research topics were totally different and both intriguing. I was very excited about the global health ones, but I was also very impressed by the cancer, pathology, and digital technologies research in internal medicine. The benefits and pay were essentially the same, and both positions were with the University of Washington in Seattle. The job responsibilities sounded similar. I called everyone I could think of asking for advice. Global health is amazing; I was definitely hesitant to work in a different department, as I really like the UW Department of Global Health.
Ultimately, it came down to team culture and the potential opportunity to explore clinical medicine. I accepted the internal medicine position because of the small team (at least at HQ, the studies are nation-wide) and the options for professional development with the PI, including the opportunity to learn more about internal medicine. I am luckily at a career path exploration stage, so veering a little bit from global health will hopefully not have any negative consequences. This will also hopefully help me navigate the MD vs. MPH vs. PhD decision. I start in just about a week!