How to expedite your search for a nonclinical career

Aug 27, 2018

Editor’s note: I’m excited to feature today’s guest post from John Jurica, a family physician, former hospital chief medical officer, and Certified Physician Executive. John writes about physician leadership on his blog VITAL Physician Executive and produces a podcast called Physician Nonclinical Careers, both of which are found at vitalpe.net. The podcast can also be found on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Be sure to sign up for his free newsletter, and download the free PDF for planning a career transition at the end of this post!

I was working full time as a family physician, with a fairly busy practice. But I found myself being pulled into other things. In the early years of my practice, I was asked to join the CME Committee at my hospital, and fill in at the family planning clinic. Later, I was asked to help fill some uncovered shifts at the hospital’s new occ-med clinic.

Wandering

I was later asked to provide part-time administrative support. This included developing policies and procedures, supervising a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, or doing a walk-through of a local factory for the occ-med clinic.

As the demands on my time increased, I cut back my clinical duties to make time for the administrative ones. I made these changes over several years without any specific plan.

I liked management

I really enjoyed the management work, and looked for more opportunities to do it. I pursued a master’s degree in public health, thinking it would help with my occ-med work. But it wasn’t until 13 years post-residency that I started to seriously consider a full-time career in hospital management.

The tedium of daily practice, increasing paperwork, and declining reimbursements partly fueled my desire to make the career shift. But most of it came from a passion to work in teams, participate in meaningful projects, improve quality of care, and bridge the communication gap between my physician colleagues and the hospital C-suite.

How to expedite career transition

Looking back, the process could have been a lot more intentional. I’ve since learned certain tactics that can definitely expedite your search for a new career. Most of these tactics were originally developed as a way to accelerate business growth, and are often adopted by entrepreneurs. But they certainly apply to career transition, also.

I can think of 5 simple tactics that I could have used, or used more effectively, to expedite my career pivot.

Who best to use these methods?

These tactics are best used once the following conditions have been met:

  • You’re committed to changing careers,
  • You’ve narrowed your new career to one or two fields,
  • You may have taken some first steps, but you’re frustrated by the slow progress you’re making.

Five tactics

Here are the five tactics that I’ve found to significantly expedite the process.

1.Develop a PLAN. Think about and write down your personal career-focused mission, vision, and goals. Use SMART goals when developing your PLAN. Start with the broad brush and answer these questions for yourself:

What is the mission and vision for my career? What is my ultimate goal? What steps do I need to take to get there? And what deadlines will I shoot for?

Here is what mine might have looked like if I had been more intentional:

  • My mission is to work in hospital management at the executive level.
  • My vision is to pursue a career that provides more freedom, while allowing me to express my passion in the areas of quality improvement, continuing medical education, and medication safety, that result in tangible improvements in patient outcomes.
  • I will start by joining the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee at my hospital, and by chairing the CME Committee immediately (the offer had already been made).
  • I will join the American Association for Physician Leadership, and complete at least three management courses by the end of this year.
  • I will prepare a resume, and schedule interviews for a hospital management position at least once a quarter beginning the second quarter of next year. My goal is to be hired for a management job by the end of next year.

One of the benefits of writing down your mission and vision is that it helps to make decisions about things. It will help direct you to what your next steps should be, and also to what you should say “NO” to. Be sure that sure that each decision to take on new challenges, or additional work, is aligned with the mission, vision and goals of your PLAN!

This PLAN should be written, and reviewed regularly, to be sure you’re staying on track in taking the steps that will get you to that ultimate goal.

The remaining four tactics are helpful for assuring accountability, while the final three also add guidance and advice.

2.Get an ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER. This is somebody who is also interested in pursuing a nonclinical job. You can meet weekly or biweekly and discuss your plans, your accomplishments, and your challenges. You’ll also follow-up on your commitments so that you both keep making progress.

Remember the mantra for accountability: Doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, how you said you would do it. Your partner will help you to hold yourself to the new commitments you make, and thereby expedite your search.

3.Find one or more MENTORS. A mentor is someone who’s a step or two ahead of you, has succeeded in the career that you’re pursuing, or has expertise in an area that you’re weak in. I believe that mentorships don’t have to be formal. The mentor simply needs to be willing to answer a question, help you avoid big mistakes, and point you in the right direction from time to time.

I’ve had several mentors over the years. I‘m not sure they knew they were mentors. One was a physician working s a full time chief medical officer. I occasionally called him, or cornered him during a break at a conference, and asked his advice. The other was the CEO of my hospital. I didn’t report directly to him, but would occasionally get his advice on how to advance my career.

The thing to remember is to use mentors sparingly to help focus and direct your efforts. Don’t burden them too much by trying to make them responsible for your career success.

4.Create a MASTERMIND GROUP. It’s been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. A mastermind group is like an accountability partner on steroids.

To create such a group, you’ll identify 2 to 5 colleagues who are all striving for a similar goal, and meet on a regular basis, perhaps monthly. For the first meeting or two, you’ll get to know each other, including your career goals and steps you’ve already taken.

Then each meeting will focus on one or two members, with the other members asking questions and keeping the person in the “hot-seat” accountable for plans they had previously agreed to implement. A good description of mastermind groups can be found in the book by Aaron Walker, The Mastermind Blueprint or on Wikipedia.

By getting together regularly, you’ll keep each other accountable, help each other think of new approaches to advancing your careers, and accelerate the pace of change.

Mastermind groups don’t typically cost anything to join, other than a commitment of time. But there are paid mastermind groups, facilitated by a knowledgeable expert or coach.

5.Hire a CAREER COACH. This may be the most powerful way to expedite your search for a nonclinical career. The other methods generally don’t involve any cost. But coaching is going to require a financial investment.

By working with a coach, you’re going to have access to someone who has devoted their career to helping people like you, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and defining their interests. They’ll help you clarify your goals, and work through self-limiting beliefs.

A career coach will provide practical advice about where to find jobs that might align with your career goals, vision and mission. In some cases, they might have relationships with recruiters or companies that hire physicians for nonclinical positions.

I’ve spoken with many physicians who have been delighted with the outcomes of coaching. In many cases, they consider it to be the turning point in their career journey.

Summary

Let me summarize the five tactics that will expedite your search for that new career:

  1. Develop a PLAN, complete with your career mission, vision, and goals.
  2. Get an ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER.
  3. Find one or more MENTORS.
  4. Create a MASTERMIND GROUP.
  5. Hire a CAREER COACH.

You don’t have to use all five of these tactics. But the more that you use, the more likely you’re going to quickly shift gears and find the fulfilling career that you’ve been looking for.

Developing a PLAN is the most important step to expedite your search. The other tactics add accountability. And several add expert advice and guidance. If I had developed a plan earlier and used the other tactics more effectively, I’m sure my career transition would have been much smoother and quicker.

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