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5 steps to making a career change in medicine

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I commonly hear from physicians who want to make a transition in their career. They want to leave clinical medicine for a nonclinical job, or move into an administrative or leadership role, or begin freelancing for additional income. But this one roadblock seems to hold back so many of them:

I don’t know where to start.

Maybe you have an idea – or even several of them – floating around in your head. Or a strong desire to accomplish a professional goal. Or the drive to earn more and retire a bit earlier.

But you simply don’t know how to begin.

It’s so easy to let this stop us from actually pursuing ideas. Once we realize the complexity of a process or all the steps involved in carrying out a goal, we feel paralyzed and overwhelmed. Sometimes so much so that dismiss our ideas altogether.

Don’t let this happen! Career transitions and business endeavors can be an incredibly fruitful thing for many physicians. So let’s talk about how to overcome the I-don’t-know-where-to-start mental blockade.

1.Get your thoughts down on paper

Answer these questions:

Why do you want a career transition or new job?

By understanding why you want to make a change, you’ll begin the process of identifying the relevant types of positions or work opportunities that will be a good fit for you.

What are the problems with your current job?

If your current job leaves you frustrated and drained, write down exactly what it is about your role or your organization that makes you feel this way. You may discover it’s a few discrete issues, rather than a general awfulness.

And, most importantly…

What are your professional goals?

Think long-term. What are the overarching goals you have for your career? For some, this is as simple as saving enough income to retire or support your lifestyle. For others, there will be an element of improving society, helping a population of people, or leaving a legacy within your field.

Your goals are only yours. Don’t try to convince yourself you want to fix the US healthcare delivery system if you don’t actually want to.

2.Know what you want and why

It’s common here at L4Z to hear from physicians who are sick of traditional clinical medicine asking vaguely for nonclinical job leads. Yet, they haven’t identified an industry or field of interest. And they haven’t put any thought into what type of responsibilities they’d be interested in having in a new job.

If you’ve spent much time reading our other articles or looking at the opportunities in The Stampede, you know that the range of nonclinical jobs for physicians is wide.

You need to put in the effort to figure out your professional objectives or reasons for wanting a physician career change. Not only will you have an easier time identifying pertinent opportunities, but you’ll be better equipped to demonstrate your value as a candidate to potential employers – through a well-written cover letter, strong resume, or on-point interview.

3.Figure out your options

Once your thoughts are in writing and your professional goals are clarified, use these to assist you in figuring out what the best options are for you.

Spend some time investigating what type of career change would bring you a step forward in accomplishing your goals. This may mean reading about various types of nonclinical careers or learning about different health insurance or payments models in the US.

It could also mean talking to other physicians with careers in areas that interest you, hiring a career coach, or calling up a mentor.

Sure, opportunities may fall into your lap. But the more likely situation is that you’ll come across the best opportunity by thoroughly exploring your options and educating yourself in the fields or topics that interest you. And that brings us right to the next step…

4.Determine what you don’t know

One of the main reasons for the “I just don’t know where to start” mindset is a common realization we have when exploring an area that’s new to us:  there’s so much we don’t know about it. This can be overwhelming, for sure. But this feeling is easy to overcome if you’re deliberate and thoughtful about determining what you don’t know.

As you explore your career transition ideas, pay attention to concepts, words, topic areas, or processes that are new to you, but intrigue you. Read about them and ask your friends or colleagues about them. No need to go out purchasing textbooks and courses. Wikipedia may be just fine.

The key is to understand where your knowledge may be falling short as it relates to the job type you’re interested in. Then begin to address these gaps by educating yourself.

5.Come up with small, actionable steps

Finally, don’t let the sense of overwhelm cause you to forgo your ideas and goals altogether in favor or sticking with an unfulfilling job. Make the transition doable for yourself by creating action items or a to do list for each step of the process.

For example, suppose you’ve identified a goal of beginning to do chart reviews on the side. These could be your action items:

  • Research utilization review companies that hire part-time or contract physicians.
  • Connect with a physician who works in this area and arrange a phone call.
  • Read 3 to 4 articles about the utilization management industry.
  • Think about write down how your experience and background relates to work in utilization review.
  • Use the result of the action item above to update your resume.

Have you successfully transitioned your career? Describe how you did it in the comments below!

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