Dr. Petros Grivas recently left the Cleveland Clinic for a new position at the University of Washington as Clinical Director of the Genitourinary Cancers Program and as Associate Member of the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He speaks here with PracticeUpdate about practical, career-related considerations that a person in the early stages of his or her career should think about when faced with moving to a new job. In this first part of the interview, Dr. Grivas focuses on the basic questions to raise to the new employer, the fundamentals to have in place (get everything in writing!), and the essential requirement of having a plan.
Part 1: Switching institutions
PracticeUpdate: Dr. Grivas, you recently changed institutions from the Cleveland Clinic to the University of Washington. For fellows and junior faculty members who are considering a change in scenery, what advice can you provide? What are some relevant considerations in moving from one institution to another? What are some of the challenges?
Dr. Grivas: Every time someone changes institutions, there are multiple considerations to take into account. First is what are your long-term career goals, and where do you want to go? What is your vision? What is your purpose, and what are the guiding principles that will take you to that destination?
Second, it’s very important to know the specific logistics surrounding your current institution, as well those where you are planning to go or thinking about going. And, after you have already decided to move or have already moved, what do you need to consider when you start? I think these things are interrelated to a degree; so, I will talk a little bit about both.
1. Number one, when you try to make a decision about staying in your institution or going somewhere else, the first thing that comes to mind is, especially for junior faculty, mentorship. And this is critical because, although you may be dynamic, may be a superstar, very smart, very intelligent, and hard-working, you still need mentorship to help you get through some, I would say, inner circles of a community or scientific team who can help you advance your career. So, it’s key to think about mentorship, and, in my opinion, mentorship should be formal and you should have an ideal plan about what this mentorship looks like.
2. Secondly, are resources: What resources are available to you at your current institution and your future institution? For example, clinical resources. Are you going to work with an advanced practice provider and/or a nurse? Do you have an administrative assistant? Are you going to share resources with other colleagues? How many? That is fine, but you need to have a clear plan in your mind. Because how you spend your time is very important, and time is critical if you’re going to do research. So, having a crystal-clear plan is key.
When it comes to research resources, it’s important to have a discussion with your department chair, division chief, director of the center. For example, are you just going to have a startup budget in order to tackle research projects that may need time and effort in terms of collaboration with colleagues, biological assays in the lab, so on, so forth? I think, it’s important to have these important and detailed discussions early on.
3. Number three is forming collaborations, and this is key because, as they say, “the strength of the wolf is in the pack.” Meaning that the importance of the team can’t be underestimated. It is not only one person; it’s a team, and I think it’s very important to form this team early on. Also, when you move institutions, a priority early on is to try to know who will be the potential co-players, the team members who you can partner with to do research and move the field forward.
4. Number four, I think, is communication with your colleagues. It’s very important to be out there, discuss with them openly, communicate your goals, and try to make sure that your goals are aligned with your team’s goals and your institution's goals. If your potential team’s goals are in complete opposition regarding your vision and if your goals conflict with those of the institution that you’re applying to—for example, your institution wants you to do A and you want to do the opposite of A—you know it is not going to work. So, you have to make sure early on that the “stars” and your goals are aligned.
5. Number five is find out how you will be spending your time. How much time you are going to spend in committees, administrative work, IRB, community outreach, data safety monitoring boards, etc. Some of these activities can be very useful for many reasons: the experience, recognition, visibility, citizenship, and, also, learning, because you’re going to learn much more from being in such committees. At the same time, it’s time and effort, and you have to be very careful about how you’re going to spend your time.
And then, what is the metric of your success? How you are going to be evaluated, or assessed for promotion? What are the things the institution wants from you? What is your job? What is the job description, and do these job descriptions align (or not) with your individual goals or aspirations? Grants, publications, presentations, clinical service, patient satisfaction, RVUs, teaching, administration, outreach, citizenship, all the above? Having a clear plan requires understanding your metric and on what basis you are being evaluated. It is important to ask questions and communicate well.
When you are negotiating your new position or when you start in the new institution, make sure that everything is in writing. Whatever is said, verbalized, agreed to, has to be in writing. There’s no issue about trust. It’s not about distrust or disbelief, but things happen, right? The department chairman may leave, or the division chief might go to a different job. Things might change. Economic considerations, financial issues may arise. Make sure things are written down. The Latin phrase scripta manent means, in essence, that written things stay. Make sure what your agreement is on the record.