Before any physician should seriously consider a career change into a non-clinical field, he or she must take a long, honest look at the variables that go along with the decision. Often, there will be issues that must be addressed before a physician makes the career leap. If you are considering entering the non-clinical arena, ask yourself the following:
Do I have the support of my spouse/significant other?
Physicians who have the full and unequivocal support of their spouses are more likely to successfully transition to a non-clinical career. Encourage your spouse to open up to elicit his or her true level of support. Spouses may very well be concerned with:
- Loss or reduction in income,
- Change in status/prestige in the community,
- Explanations which will have to be provided to friends and family, and
- The perception that a major career change reflects poorly on the spouse and their marriage.
If you meet spousal resistance, unhappiness, or hostility, you’ll be best served by working to obtain full support, if possible, before proceeding with their career transition.
How willing are my family and I to relocate?
You will, after discussions with your family, want to decide if you all are ready, willing, and able to relocate to facilitate your career change. Spouses, children, and other family members can either encourage a transition or do everything in their power to make sure that the relocation does not happen. The relocation decision should include:
- Decision of how far they are willing to move,
- The type of location the family will support: rural, urban, big city, small town, etc., and
- The best time for the relocation (e.g., summertime when the school year is complete).
The physician who encourages his/her family to be actively involved in the relocation process and search is more likely to obtain full familial support.
Why am I unhappy?
You will want to look inward and decide if:
- You are unhappy, and this unhappiness is spilling over into your clinical practice or
- Your clinical practice is the root cause of your unhappiness.
This self-determination can be difficult and may be facilitated by friends, family, therapists, or others. Once you can say with confidence and assurance that your clinical practice is the root of your unhappiness, you’ll be ready to start your career transition process.
What don’t I like about my clinical practice?
Move on from your general unhappiness to specific items that you don’t like about your clinical practice/job. Listing the specific items will force you to come to grips with what precisely is making you unhappy. A completed “don’t like” list will start to crystallize your thinking, forcing you to analyze everything from compensation and call to lifestyle. An accurate, honest, detailed, in-depth list will help you move toward your career goals. In addition, the list will help you avoid taking a new position which has “don’t like” components.
How is my clinical practice/job affecting my family life?
Go beyond the “I am never home” superficial analysis to include family responsibilities, trust, empathy, and beyond. Engage your spouse and family, and encourage them to provide their take on how “their family life” is affected by your work. The compilation of each and every family member’s input can and often does provide dramatic and powerful evidence of the need to make a career transition. In addition, getting the spouse and children verbalize their family’s dysfunction will help them see the need for a career transition.
What is holding me back from leaving clinical medicine?
Make a list of reasons for not proceeding with a career transition. The list should be divided into:
- Excuses: reasons that are not substantial and
- Specific, difficult issues that need to be dealt with before you can and should proceed.
As you diagnose the “excuses” that are not legitimately holding you back and you resolve the difficult issues, you’re making progress on your career transition. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not necessary to wait until each and every issue is resolved before proceeding with the transition.
Whom have I told that I am considering leaving clinical medicine?
The quickest way to determine where you are on the career transition continuum is to reflect on whom, if anyone, you have told about your unhappiness, thoughts, desires, and plans. Telling your spouse/significant other is where most physicians start. Physicians who then tell friends, parents, colleagues, and eventually employers, move closer to the end of the continuum. Physicians who tell more and more people about their career plans, move closer and closer to making a final transition decision.
What are my skills and abilities?
As you make the transition into business or another non-clinical position, you’ll need to accurately and honestly analyze your current skills and abilities. The ability to diagnose where you are strong and where you are weak will help you:
- Make decisions about viable career options,
- Obtain needed training or education, and
- Prepare for and excel at future non-clinical interviews.
Ruthlessly and honestly critique your skills and abilities in the following areas. Rate yourself (and, if possible, obtain input from trusted others), on a 1-10 level, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
____ Ability to Deal w/ Complex Situations
____ Ability to Motivate People
____ Ability to Multi-Task
____ Ability to Prioritize
____ Ability to Work Independently
____ Analytical Abilities
____ Attention to Detail
____ Calm under Fire
____ Commitment to Job
____ Communication Skills
____ Computer Literacy
____ Computer Skills
____ Deal Successfully with Adversity
____ Deal Well with Stress/Pressure
____ Driven by Excellence
____ Excellent Interpersonal Skills
____ Excellent Judgment
____ Excellent Presentation Skills
____ Excellent Project Management Skills
____ Excellent Written Skills
____ Good Active Listener
____ Handle Fast Paced Work Environment
____ Hard Worker
____ High Level of Integrity and Honesty
____ Leadership Skills
____ Love New Challenges
____ Manage Functional Groups
____ Management Experience
____ Meet or Exceed Time Deadlines
____ Negotiation Skills
____ Passion for Learning
____ Provide Leadership
____ Provide Solutions
____ Public Speaking
____ Quick Study
____ Record of Success
____ Team Player
____ Tenacity and perseverance
____ Work in Matrixed Environment
____ Works Well as Part of a Team
____ Works Well in Time-Sensitive Environment
Once you’ve honestly and accurately rated your skills and abilities, select the crucial areas in which you are weak and actively work to improve them. For example: If you are not a good public speaker, this could hamper your career options. You will want to obtain additional training and experience. The same can be done in areas such as negotiation skills, etc. Burnishing your skills and abilities can be done contemporaneously with other career transition decisions to reduce the length of your transition process.
Leaving all other considerations aside, which five jobs might I enjoy? Many physicians considering career changes are attempting to recapture the enthusiasm they had in medical school and their first years of practice. Physicians who identify and pursue their passions are moving toward career satisfaction and are not simply running away from clinical medicine.
If you can talk sincerely about your passion at a non-clinical interview, you’ll have a distinct advantage over the physician who is perceived as being “burned out.”
What help do I need in my career transition?
Identify, what help, if any, you feel you need in the transition process. This may include administrative help, or help from an accountant or lawyer, or ideas from—or even a brief partnership with—a mentor. Reach out to friends and colleagues for help as well, and ask them for contacts in a new city if you are planning to move.
Once you accurately complete and utilize a career personal inventory, you’ll feel ready to take the non-clinical career leap. And you’ll be best positioned to make that successful career transition.
Steven Babitsky, Esq., and James J. Mangraviti Jr., Esq., teach at the annual SEAK Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference. For a free copy of the book, Do You Feel Like You Wasted All That Training? Questions from Doctors Considering a Career Change, e-mail Steven or visit the website.