The best career opportunities for doctors take effort to find. And it takes some legwork to be in a position that you’re a contender to be selected for these opportunities. It gets easier with time, though. Opportunities beget more opportunities.
I refer to opportunities in a very general sense. These aren’t just potential employment positions. They’re anything that enhances your professional life or has the potential to increase your income directly or indirectly. Invitations to speak at a conference, nominations to serve on a board, the chance to meet with a potential new client, and so on.
In the field of medicine, we put in a huge amount of work up front – med school, residency, fellowship, boards – before we’re eligible for our first real doctor job. But what most physicians don’t take advantage of is that the barriers to entry for subsequent opportunities are a whole lot easier to overcome. Most doctors simply settle for that initial job type and then feel that they’re stuck with it.
The worst opportunities in medicine are easy to come by and easy to get hired for. But they easily burn you out, overwork you, eat away at your social life, and drown you with frustration. But when you do some groundwork, you can set yourself up to stumble across a seemingly endless stream of rewarding opportunities.
Unfortunately, many physicians accept jobs that may appear good on the surface but are really just the low-hanging fruit of what’s available out there. They either are unaware that there are other options for doctors, or they lack the understanding of how to seek out these opportunities.
1. Use the power of connections
We’ve all heard this time and time again: Use your network!
The stereotypical way to grow your network is to attend receptions and meetings in your field. Suit, name badge, and all. I love a good cocktail reception, but if the point of the shindig is to do some networking – count me out!
Great news. There are much more laid-back, introvert-friendly ways to network and use the power of your connections.
Informal, low-stress approaches to networking
Keep in touch with former colleagues and coworkers. Set a reminder in your calendar every few days to send an email or a text to someone who’s mentored you or that you enjoyed working with.
If you see a profile on LinkedIn that jives with you, request to connect with that person. You can grow your network without actually talking to people in real life.
When you’re waiting for a presentation or session to begin, start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Rest assured that the convo will have to end as soon as the speaker takes the stage.
You can use your connections to help you stumble across opportunities.
2. Let the Internet do some legwork
Automation tools that work with apps and the web have blown up in popularity. Calendar meeting reminders are one of the earliest and most common forms of this. More recently, we stopped having to “check” our email if we choose not to. Instead, we can get push notifications. And RSS feeds allow us to stay up-to-date with new content from many sources in a single portal.
These types of tools can be equally useful for supporting your professional life.
Opportunities for medical professionals appear in many forms across the web. Not just job ads, but conference notifications, announcements that cause you to take an action, reports that change the way you do something, etc. Whenever you can, apply features and settings that limit the amount of busywork you need to do to keep up to speed. Here are a few examples.
Set up Google alerts about topics that interest you. Use terms like job, call for speakers, or RFP, etc as they fit with your own goals.
Mainstream and medical news
Keep informed about current events in and out of medicine by automating the headlines and articles that come to you. Try these to get you started:
- TheSkimm for a brief, daily overview of news
- JAMA for alerts about new articles in of JAMA’s publications
- New York Times’ Well section to keep abreast of health topics that are generating a buzz
This prevents you from getting lost in the Internet sea of viral news and unproductive reads.
Saved searches for freelancers and job seekers
Many career websites such as Indeed and Linkedin allow you to save your job searches. So if you’re on the lookout for opportunities of a certain type, avoid repeatedly returning to these sites and punching the same terms into the toolbar. Save your search and get notified by email as soon as a new posting matches your criteria.
Apps that automate repetitive tasks
Use a service that’s designed to automate tasks using multiple websites and/or apps. For example, if you always save a certain type of email attachment to a Dropbox folder, you can have a program do this for you using a series of rules and criteria. Zapier is one such tool with a limited free subscription.
3. Spend time with the right people
You’ve certainly heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” There’s another one in the business world – “you are who you associate with.”
Spend time with the right people and allow yourself to learn from them. Be open to their ideas, suggestions, and connections. There’s a bunch of potential gains from doing this:
- Be inspired by their successes in areas that you haven’t yet found success
- Avoid failures by learning from their mistakes
- Share your worries in order to find out how they are coping with the same challenges
- Communicate your ideas and endeavors in order to receive feedback and improvements
- Be prompted to think about something differently than you have before
All of these things open you up to new opportunities.
Spending time with the right people doesn’t mean only physically spending time with them. You’re spending time with people when you watch a video, listen to the radio, or read your Facebook feed. If you don’t feel like socializing, you can give your professional life a boost by:
- Scrolling through a social media feed of connections that you’ve thoughtfully curated
- Reading an informative article in your niche
- Listening to a podcast with interviews of successful individuals
When you spend time with the right people, their success rubs off on you. Their support motivates you.
4. Develop a mission and a business mindset
You need to have a mission and professional goals whether or not you own a business. Even if you’re searching for full-time employment, a mission for your career helps you choose the most fitting positions to apply to, ask the right questions during the interview process, negotiate terms that fit your needs, and decide if the job is right for you.
Moreover, living your professional life with a business-owner mindset brings about opportunities by making you better at marketing yourself. I don’t mean giving a sales pitch to everyone you meet. Rather, having clarity as to why you’re doing the work that you do will help your connections be more advantageous to you.
This also prevents you from seeking and accepting opportunities that end up being unrewarding, time sinks, or dead ends. You can avoid “mission creep” by formulating a well-defined objective for each aspect of your professional life.
You can even develop mini-missions for each type of professional activity or interest that you have, if this helps to keep you focused. For instance, have you ever attended a medical conference and, at the end, wondered where the last 3-4 days of your life went? Avoid this by developing a mission for your time at the conference. You’ll come away with a new opportunity or two.