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EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: Getting those requisite 1-2 years of experience

Getting job experience

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re graduating soon and looking for jobs, reading through postings that sound great, only to scroll down further and find the dreaded “1-2 years experience required”. I remember this being disappointing and frustrating. I was only eligible to apply for about 50% or more of job offers.

During our PA Blueprint presentations, we get a lot of questions about how to navigate this hurdle, so let us answer some of the most frequently asked questions here:

QUESTION: Should I still apply if I’m a new grad but the job posting says that experience is required?

ANSWER: While there is no harm in doing so, your application may not even get past the Application Tracking System (ATS), which is used by employers to screen for qualified candidates. If it does make it through you will likely be placed on the bottom of the pile. So, the odds of making it through the application gauntlet and getting an interview are quite low. It’s easy to apply to jobs online, so the effort on your part shouldn’t be a deterrent. So, go ahead and apply if you would like to, but have very low expectations that you will be considered.

*If you have someone to name drop or have a connection to the employer, such as you rotated within that organization, worked there in another capacity, got your medical care there, etc., then that may get you another look despite not meeting their applicant requirements.

QUESTION: How do I sell myself as a new graduate?

ANSWER: For one, just own where you are in your career and focus on your potential. If an employer is willing to consider a new grad in the first place, they should know what that means, such as the need to train you. With your application, do whatever it takes to make yourself stand out from the crowd: name drop, emphasize your previous patient care experience, and focus on nailing your interview. Once you’re in an interview, make sure you tell them that you are adaptable, learn quickly, have unique clinical skills and even tell them how many patients per day that you saw during your rotations (example: I frequently cited my seeing 17 pediatric patients in one day during that clinical rotation).

QUESTIONS: What tips do you have for new grads who keep hitting the “1-2 years of experience required” brick wall?

ANSWER: First of all, remind yourself that you’re just looking for your first, and not your forever job.

Second, make a list of what aspects of a job are most important to you: specialty, location, compensation, benefits, etc. Rank them according to your priority, adjusting your job search filter, recognizing that you’re likely to have only 1-2 of these top priorities met. For example, if you want to stay in Nashville because your spouse has their job there, then prioritize location, and note that you may not also command the specialty that you most desire. Just remember that once you get those 1-2 years of clinical experience, then you will be able to apply for jobs that check more of your priority boxes.

As we like to say: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough for now.”

Third, don’t be afraid to expand your job search and try something outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you’re unsure which specialty sounds like the best fit, so consider those that are APP-heavy, such as primary care and urgent care. Or, expand your search area, keeping in mind that in may be a great experience to start somewhere new, if even for just 1-2 years.

Certain employers have a hard time with recruitment and retention. These organizations will be more apt to hire a new grad, offer better compensation (including benefits such as loan repayment + relocation assistance), and be accustomed to being a stepping stone for many. In these first few years of your career, you will likely be heavily-focused on growing in your new role as PA-C, so these types of transient positions may give you better training and put you in a better financial position when you decide to move on. Don’t be afraid to look rural or for jobs working with underserved or vulnerable populations.

Given that we don’t specialize as PAs, our freedom to choose our specialty throughout our careers makes us the envy of our fellow clinicians. So, as you navigate your first or subsequent job searches, keep in mind that it is a widely-accepted practice to change jobs multiple times throughout a career. And with each year of experience earned, it’ll become easier and easier to find a job that checks all of the boxes for you.

DISCLAIMERS: 1) The views expressed here are our own and do not necessarily represent the views of our employers. 2) We don’t know what we don’t know, so feel free to message us if you don’t agree with something that you read. 3) We do have affiliate agreements with companies, so by clicking on our links and making any purchases, we may earn some money on those generated sales.

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