Once you enter the resident phase of your graduate study, it’s time to start thinking about getting a job. You’re almost done with your training and ready to enter the workforce, so now is a good time to begin planning if you want to have a job waiting for you upon completion of your residency.

Of course, it’s not quite as easy as filling out an application and getting hired. Hunting for jobs, even as a highly educated individual, can be stressful and frustrating. Here are a few helpful tips for medical residents interested in starting the job hunt.

Start Early
Believe it or not, your job search should actually begin as early as 18 months prior to completing your residency if you want the best shot at finding an available position or fellowship. You should probably apply for both if you’re not exactly sure what you want to pursue so far in advance of completing your residency.

The idea is to enter into negotiations early to ensure that you have the inside track on opportunities that interest you most. Obviously you can only accept one position, but applying late could leave you with few options and put you out of the running for certain opportunities entirely.

Consider Your Career Path
Where you start your career could have an impact on its progression, as well as where you end up in 5, 10, or 20 years. You need to think not only about finding a job in the short-term, but also planning a career path that will lead toward achieving future goals.

No one has a crystal ball, so chances are even a solid plan could see changes over time. But having an idea of where you ultimately want your career to go can help you to figure out where to start in terms of landing your first job.

Consider Strengths and Interests
It’s tempting to accept the first job opportunity that comes your way, especially if you’re in a competitive job market. However, it’s a good idea to take the time to carefully consider what you’re looking for.

Knowing your strengths and interests is a good start. It will help you to find professional opportunities that are most likely to offer job fulfillment, as well as move you along your career path. You also need to research organizations, facilities, and practices before you take any job to make sure you’re a good fit.

Take Advantage of Recruiters
Even if you’re top of the class, there’s no guarantee that hospitals and medical practices will be banging down your door to offer you jobs. You need to be proactive if you want the best opportunity to find job offers that appeal to you.

During your residency, recruiters are likely to visit your facilities in search of suitable applicants for the clients they represent. Their services cost you nothing, so why wouldn’t you take advantage?

As a busy medical student, you might not have time to reach out to a long list of medical staffing offices in search of available positions. Recruiters can help to do the hard work for you and deliver job opportunities.

When recruiters show up, make a point to sign up for information and even attend seminars if they’re offered. You should also talk to several recruiters in order to find one that works hard to pair residents and hospitals or private practices that match each other’s preferences.