How to Tailor Your Job Application for a Specialty Transition

Identify What is Not Working Well When Considering a New Specialty

September 3, 2021

By Jennifer Hohman, PA Career Coach

Any successful career transition is rooted in self-knowledge, curiosity and a zestful movement towards what inspires you as a clinician. PAs have unique career journeys given the intrinsic openness built into the profession—navigating specialty transitions is both exciting and at times daunting.

As a career coach, I strongly believe in career changes that reflect what a PA has learned about their own particular strengths and enthusiasms, limitations and what they most enjoy about the practice of medicine. From my work with PA clients, a wish to change specialties comes after a realization that something about where they’ve been practicing does not fit—whether in terms of clinical roles, pace of work, degree of interaction with patients, or other factors. Identifying what has not been working well can really help one identify more fruitful practice avenues.

Conduct research, find mentors and advisors for a specialty transition
Gathering these self-insights is one side of the research process. The other is conducting external research: delving into a voracious new specialty study, to include the latest developments in procedures, treatments, innovations via  journals, articles and the websites of specialty organizations.

AAPA’s Huddle, the members-only online community, is a valuable resource to connect with PAs in your new specialty. When reaching out, ask about what they love, struggle with, and see as areas where PAs can make a difference in the years ahead. Networking with PAs and other providers in your field of interest both online and through in-person events is essential to opening doors in a new specialty.

Check out the Areas of Practice Guide on Career Central for information about different career specialties.

Identify transferable skills and experience
An important part of preparing for any job search is embracing all of the relevant skills, experience and personal qualities that equip you to be a successful applicant. This is especially important when preparing for a specialty transition: reflect on how your practice to date provides a foundation for working in your new field and write these transferable and highly valuable skills down. Convincing yourself of your ability to transition to a new specialty is crucial—this awareness with give you the confidence to make a compelling case for your hiring! In related skills inventory, reflect on specialty trainings, clinical rotations, and work experience prior to becoming a PA that also can be claimed and celebrated.

Fine tune your CV and resume for a new role
I encourage clients to take a flexible and dynamic approach to resume updates: this document, as well as your cover letter, is a chance to share and emphasize your unique career history and share its story in a way that an employer will appreciate. I suggest crafting a brief but compelling professional summary to start your CV. In a few sentences, sum up your most relevant skills and experience for the new specialty and share your enthusiasm about growing in a new field.

In each summary of your jobs to date, be sure to emphasize roles, responsibilities and keywords reflective of your new specialty. Think expansively about each description and make each one work for your application: avoid rote, passive voice and include accomplishments and initiatives.

If you are a relatively recent graduate, consider adding some bullets from rotations that relate to your new specialty application. Include any additional certifications, CME or specialty-related trainings in your updated draft.

Volunteer as a step towards specialty transition
Be sure to include volunteer experiences as part of any updated and fully dimensional resume. They show what you are passionate about and how you put your values into action. This is great for employers to see!  Volunteering can also open entirely new doors to contacts and firsthand experience to see if the specialty is a good one for you while gaining relevant experience.

Make a case with your cover letter
A well-crafted cover letter expresses your readiness for a new specialty. Even more than your CV, a cover letter is your opportunity to make a polished, enthusiastic pitch for being hired in a new field. Maximize its effectiveness by explaining how you are prepared to provide some of the key aspects of the job description based on your skills and experience. Use keywords from the ad to show the employer that your application is based on their particular needs. Include a brief paragraph that explains your interest in a new field in the context of your PA career journey to date and what you hope to bring to their practice or institution.

Increase your professional visibility on LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers ways to connect with peers and employers in your desired specialty—an amazing resource that makes it a valuable tool for all PAs interested in specialty transitions. You can follow employers and educational resources across the spectrum of medicine and update your personal page to express your clinical interests both through your follows and the groups you engage with.

A carefully crafted Personal Summary will maximize the impact of your page and help visitors understand your current mission in medicine and new goals on your journey. Make sure that your employment history is as engagingly written as your resume and again keyed to your career transition goals via content and keywords.

I hope this article provides inspiration and food for thought for readers considering a change of practice focus, and encouragement to make the most of changing specialties — one of the PA profession’s most unique and exciting aspects!

Jennifer Anne Hohman is founder of PA Career Coach, offering personalized career advocacy for the PA community. Contact her at [email protected].

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