I remember talking to my residency chairman before I walked into the EMRA ACEP Job Fair and worrying because I really didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t scared, but more like, “Who are all these people, and how am I supposed to tell in five minutes if I want to work for them or not?”

It felt like I was entering a gauntlet. I think that in my mind I was viewing it through the lens of my previous experiences with our generally grueling path. We have all really been through the wringer guys, come on. Starting in high school, your nearly singular focus has been to ace every single test put in front of you for 10-12 years so you can stay in that coveted competitive top notch. We are all the 1 percent. College applications to medical school to residency, we have lined up in our suits time and time again, putting on our best faces and hoping for that perfect educational opportunity.

So, logically, I was a bit nervous.

The job fair was really a crash course in basic economics. Supply, us. Demand, the groups. It’s the first time you realize, wow, they really have their best face on too. “Was that group just trying to sell me? Was that one too? Waiiiit a minute here? What’s the trick?” It is really one of the biggest reliefs of your career to actually feel like you are in the driver’s seat. It served to really magnify the fact that we have all accomplished something quite amazing throughout our training. Savor the fact that you truly are a specialist. Albeit you need some experience, but you are a very highly trained specialist and in high demand. I soon fell into a rhythm and really enjoyed talking to the different groups and exploring their general makeup and whatever details their representatives revealed about their inner workings. I realized that you really can glean tons of useful information from them in just 5 minutes.

ACEP is really the jumping off point for most people in their job search – I think even more so for those that may not know exactly what they want at that time. If you know you want to be in a small town in Oregon, like a colleague of mine, and you’re already set up on your interview or the contract is in the mail, ACEP clearly won’t be as beneficial.

I think ACEP served a purpose in making me realize that a lot of groups are similar in the sense of competitive compensation. But what really defined them were their inner workings. What are the metrics like at their sites? How (truly) happy are the docs that work for them? What would my day-to-day interaction with my colleagues at this job really be like? What resources would I have to enrich my career? At ACEP, you can get direct answers from the top groups back to back to back at each booth and really compare them.

What drew me to USACS in the beginning was the utter transparency of the company; they were an open book from day one. You can talk to the CEO and get a curbside straight answer from how your hair looks to what the company’s growth plan is for the next 15 years. I had conversations with EM doctors practicing within the company and generally had a sense that they were quite happy and felt well supported. Soon I realized that USACS really has your success as its priority. Each individual’s success and happiness contributes to the greater success of the company. From day one, you will have access to wealth management guidance. You receive a generous expense account to cover books, boards, etc.

I was also very impressed with the amount of vertical movement that was possible in USACS. At the outset, colleagues with vast experience surround you and there are many opportunities to move into leadership roles as your career progresses. There is a Scholars Program designed exactly for this. USACS boasts a lot of homegrown directors currently working at its numerous sites.

As you jump into the full speed ahead pace of the interview trail, first I congratulate you. Enjoy the process – as hectic as it is, it is also quite fun and rewarding. Make sure you begin to answer some of the deeper questions about what your future employer will really be like. The key is to talk to as many people as you can that make that company and culture work. Don’t be afraid to ask the burning questions. A year into my career, I am sure glad I did.