Expecting to or just received a new job offer? Wondering what to look for, and why you should even if you know you can’t change anything?
If you’re not sure what to consider when reviewing your new job offer, this episode is for you.

In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:

  • Key issues around variable or incentivised compensation
  • Understanding restrictive clauses, and what power you may be giving up
  • Clarifying company policy and manager discretion

Today’s episode covers four key aspects of any new job offer that needs extra attention. We’ll walk through the timing of switching jobs, how to understand your total compensation calculations and projections, and how non-compete clauses could impact additional income streams or future opportunities.

Special announcement: My course, Industry Insider, is now accredited for up to 12 AMA, PRA, Category One CME credits. My program will show you how to land an exciting and impactful role as a physician in the world of pharma, biotech, or medical devices, and a program on how to do that even if you think you’re not qualified, don’t have any connections, or concerned about a pay cut… my program will give you all the answers you need to set you on that path.

*I am not an attorney and this episode should not be considered legal advice – just food for thought, and perhaps for you to discuss with your own contract attorney!

In this Episode:

[1:30] Looking for 12 CME credits?
[5:23] Don’t get burned on the incentives
[7:00] Clauses that could limit outside activities, income streams, and your future
[10:20] What’s binding? Clarify policy vs. manager discretion
[14:00] Ask HR these questions – now’s the right time

Links and Resources:

Industry Insider – 12 CME hours – learn exactly how to land a rewarding nonclinical career without a new degree, connections on the inside, prior experience, or a pay cut

The Speaking Rx learn the business of professional public speaking to establish yourself as a thought leader you are, and get paid for your speaking expertise

The Branding Rx – 18 hours of CME, mastering digital strategies for advancing your career, building your business, and growing your professional brand



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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 94 – How to Evaluate a New Job Offer

Hey there, I’m Marjorie Stiegler and you’re listening to The Career Rx podcast, where we tackle the important things they don’t teach you in medical school. Like how to treat your career, like the business, it really is, with strategies to accelerate the kind of success that you want, because you deserve a career you love, and a career that loves you back. Are you ready? Let’s get into it.

Hey, there, welcome back, it is another episode of The Career Rx. Today we’re answering the very common question that I get from many, many students, particularly from Industry Insider. A discussion all the time for physicians, considering promotions and new job tracks is what to look for in your new job offer and how to evaluate your contract. So I’m looking at this separate from compensation, I have other episodes on considerations around total compensation packages and things like that.

But today, I’m really going to focus on the question of, you know, when you’re looking at that contract in hand, what are some of the things that are most important? Now, first and foremost, I’d say I’m not an attorney. And if you’re looking at a contract for employment, you should probably have it reviewed by an attorney, so that you can be sure you fully understand it, even if you can’t change it.

That’s one of the objections that I hear a lot of the time as well, you know, it’s like, just standard, they won’t change it anyway. So why should I have someone review it, I just think it’s important for you to understand it in its entirety.

So the first thing I recommend that you give some consideration to are the dates that you’re talking about for your start date. This is important, of course, because you want to consider if there’s any reason you should extend your last day at the job that you’re leaving.

And this could be for a number of reasons, it could be because you have an upcoming bonus that you want to qualify for that you have vesting in retirement or stock or something else that’s coming up imminently. You might just have some projects, some important projects that you’d like to see through to the end.

So project completion is another one. And of course, to honor the expected notice that your current employer has, this might be a contractual obligation, or it might just be a norm. And I know in academic and clinical medicine, it’s often considerable, I mean, it might be several months. So it’s really important to refresh yourself on what’s expected. So that you can leave on a good note without burning any bridges.

The other thing you may want to consider is do have an opportunity to take some time off entirely before you start your new job. So this will depend on a number of factors, one, of course, being how soon they want you to start, the other being how much notice you have to give.

So sort of how long you have to wait, that’s not within your control. But is it possible for you to take a week or longer just for yourself to just take a break in between this is a really great opportunity. If your finances allow it. And if you know the needs of your prior employer and your future employer sort of work out where you may be able to take a nice chunk of time off that doesn’t need to count against vacation or anything like that. And it can be a great way to kind of reset and refresh before embarking on something new.

Okay, number two, looking at that contract is really important. If there’s any variable or incentivized parts of your compensation plan, be sure that you understand how you qualify, right. So if you have some kind of a bonus, be sure you understand how it’s calculated or how it’s awarded. If you have some other kind of variable or incentivized compensation, be sure that it’s really transparent and clear.

I mean, this should be able to be written down and ideally referenced in a policy of what you need to do in order to achieve that full compensation, and on what metrics you would be evaluated. And also whether there’s any sort of restriction on the opportunity to do so. So when I think about, you know, a clinical practice, a lot of places have incentivised extra call but there’s only but so much call to go around. So it’s not as if you can count on taking all of the incentivized call, you will have colleagues who want that call as well. So just be sure that you understand it. And the same is true for other types of bonuses in non clinical work.

This is an area in which I’ve seen some people be burned in the past because they have been told you know, here is your base salary here is, you know, your potential bonus. And because they haven’t really been clear on what the requirements are to achieve that bonus, and sometimes the requirements are company performance and not just individual performance.

Some people have found that they haven’t been given that full bonus and perhaps not because they underperformed and they didn’t realize How it was calculated and how it was awarded. So they had an expectation in their finances for planning to have that full bonus amount. So again, just be sure that you understand how that works.

Alright, the third thing I think, is really important to look at in the contract. And again, I’m not an attorney, you need one of those for yourself. But there are, and there are lots of things you shouldn’t look at in your contract. But especially put an eye on any restrictive clauses that are in your contract. So this could include a non compete, non competes, I think are very important, they usually specify that if you leave a company or organization that you can’t go and do work in the exact same way for a direct competitor is it but you know how they phrase it, it could be very broad, or it could be fairly niched.

But in today’s modern world where a lot of companies, including clinical entities, span across multiple states, you’ve got to really think carefully about what the non-compete might mean for you. And whether you would be able to have the opportunity to have that personal growth to go on to another place, take another position, you know, what does that really look like? Part of that I think that’s especially important too is, each state has its own laws about how enforceable a non compete can be or how broad it can be, or how narrow, and you want to be sure that you understand what state law is governing the contract.

Because again, as many of these entities span across multiple states, it might not be the state in which you live. So I’ve had a client with that same experience just quite recently, or the non-compete seemed extraordinarily broad, it seemed like this was going to be very, very hard. If the person ever wanted to move on to a different place to do similar work and not direct competitor work, but just basically, the kind of work for which they were hired was very, very broad. And according to their state, it would be unenforceable.

According to what their attorney said, the attorney’s interpretation was that it would be too broad to be enforceable in their state. But the twist or the complexity is, you know, whether the contract states that it’s governed by laws outside of the person’s state. So anyway, again, this is the reason why it gets complicated, why you’ll want to have an attorney take a look at it if there’s anything like that.

The other thing I think is important when looking at restrictive clauses, is any outside activities. There are many, many of my students and myself, like a lot of people that I know, also do things outside of their primary position, and they earn income that way. So some examples of that, of course, might be any type of side gig that you have, it might be getting paid for professional speaking events. As you know, that’s a big thing on my radar, especially with The Speaking Rx, a great great way to establish thought leadership and have a nice additional income stream. Some people are involved in all kinds of passive income stream type of activities.

Some people sit on boards, either have nonprofits, or have other corporate entities, right, that can be quite lucrative as well. And a really great way to continue to learn more and get greater depth, I have two podcast episodes that you can check out about getting on a corporate board.

So with all these various things in mind, you know, if there’s any way other than your employed position, in which you expect to earn money, you want to be clear on whether or not there’s any limitations on your outside activities. And that could be in terms of doing, you know, locums work as well.

Right. Anything that could be perceived as a conflict of interest, you know, understanding whether there are restrictions on that. And if they understand what the policies are that govern them, right? Is it just a simple matter of having to engage with HR to establish that there’s no direct conflict of interest?

And if so, you document it, and then you’re fine to go? Or is it that you can do none? Or is it a matter of, you can do anything you want only outside of these specific business hours. So again, just to be sure that you are clear, you want to understand what you’re getting into and what kind of limitations you are agreeing to.

And then the fourth thing I’ll mention that I think is very important, particularly for contracts that are really brief, as some of them are, is to understand what is policy, and what is manager discretion. So I think this is very important because as you’re interviewing, you’re obviously meeting with the person who will be your boss among the people that you’re meeting. And if certain things are up to your boss’s discretion, you want to understand how your boss feels about that and how they will interpret it.

So for many people in industry, some of this might be outside clinical activity, because we all, you know, consider and many people like to continue a small amount of volunteer or paid clinic activity, you want to understand what the policy around that is. And if it’s up to your manager, you want to understand how they feel about it, what kind of limitations they would put on that, if any.

Just to be clear. I have a client who was recently presented with a job offer where it stated right in the contract that currently the policy is they have unlimited paid time off. So that’s right there in black and white, unlimited paid time off. What does that mean? If you were to take that to the extreme, that would mean, you never need to go into work, and you would be paid, right? And you would do nothing.

But of course, that’s not their intent, it’s subject to manager discretion to approve that time. So while there’s no formal limit on how much you can take, it’d be really important understand your future boss’s point of view on what is the norm, what’s the expectation, this is also true for flexible working arrangements, which are increasingly common, particularly with COVID, I think a lot of that is going to stick around even as we emerge from COVID. A little bit of flexibility in terms of work hours, or when you’re expected to be available.

Really, really important to get clear on that kind of thing. And especially things that are dependent upon manager discretion. Obviously, you want to understand their expectations and norms, but you have to realize those things can change. And they can change rapidly if you get a new boss. And that can happen, and in fact does happen, especially in the corporate world, with a fair amount of frequency.

So that may not be something that you can count on. You know, and I might be boss dependent, it might be something you should try to get in writing that is part of the agreement, so that you can at least show that to your future boss, for them to consider honoring. But these are all some things I’ve really, really want to pay attention to the policy and what’s manager discretion, and how is that interpreted.

This is also an excellent time to talk to the HR folks because they’ll be involved, you know, in these hiring conversations about various policy documents, and where you can find them how you can get your hands on them, obviously, keep a copy of the contract that you sign, so that you can reference it in the future when you’re thinking about other activities or potentially moving on.

But it’s a really, really great time to get all the information that you can that’s available sort of internally, that is HR type of information that a lot of people just they don’t know that it exists, and they have never asked for it. And so therefore, they’re a little bit in the dark about things like what we’ve already talked about, and how is variable compensation calculated that bonus that we talked about, what are some of the restrictive clauses?

You know, if you’re asking that question, because you’re considering moving on, you can still ask that question. But it’s nice to have the information at hand, instead of needing to find it at the time that you’re trying to consider a change, right, have that on hand. Other things like, paid time off and vacation as well as possibly severance pay, and other things like that usually are, I mean, they’re rooted in some kind of a policy.

And those policies are usually available to employees internally, but sometimes they’re not that easy to find. And at the time that you’re considering your contract, and you’re having discussions with HR anyway, it’s a really great time to try to get details on all of these things. And it’s, of course, very appropriate for you to get details on all of these things that you’re agreeing to within the contract.

So there are many, many others. And again, I’m not an attorney, none of this is legal advice, you should probably get a contract lawyer to review what you’re looking at.

But in summary, again, I recommend considering the dates, both with your prior employer and your future employer and whether you may have an opportunity for some time off in the middle there. Thinking about clarity on variable incentivize compensation, thinking about any restrictive clauses, like a non-compete or outside activities that you might be doing at the same time, and understanding what’s policy and what’s manager discretion, so that you can be sure you understand the norms and the expectations.

And if possible, if there’s something outside the scope of the contract to see if it can be put in writing, even if not in the contract, even in just an email, like a memo of understanding between you and your manager that might help you have some consistency there, even if there’s internal change and you end up with a new boss.

So I hope that’s helpful for you as you consider new and exciting opportunities that are going to be in front of you for your consideration. Again, whether you can change them or not. I don’t know that will depend. But always, always critically important to understand what you’re signing up for.

That’s it for today. Bye for now.

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