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3 Mistakes Made by Physicians Changing Careers

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You’ve had it. You have been working yourself into the ground, going into work early, leaving late, bringing work home with you, and you are exhausted and overwhelmed. At work it feels like you have no support from the staff, and when you try to tell your leadership that you are feeling burned out, and things need to change, they pay you lip service but do nothing. Or worse, they brush you off altogether, placing the blame back on you.

You feel defeated, frustrated, and alone. It’s affecting the way you are with your children…you’re just a little more snappy and irritable. You sometimes take this frustration out on your spouse, and above all, you are beating yourself up because you feel guilty for doing this and you feel like you should be able to handle yourself better.

So, you’ve decided it’s time for a change.

It’s the last straw. The problem is, most physicians seeking to change jobs or even step out and start their own practice (become a physician entrepreneur) don’t have a clear process or structure when changing jobs.

They simply make a decision and start looking elsewhere. They may ask other people for advice, but most physicians then try to jump into action without doing a very important thing: creating a plan. The truth is, when making a job or career shift, there are three things that most physicians miss that end up landing them out of the flame and into the fire.

1. Fail to Identify the Problem

Many times, when we are in the fire, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees because we are just trying to put out (or get out of) the fire. However, when you don’t know what the problem is specifically, then you can’t solve it. This is important, because if you can’t identify specifically what’s not working at your current job, when you begin looking for jobs, you may miss the red flags that led you down the burnout path in the new job.

So, the thing that you must do is to sit down, deep dive, and discover what the root cause of the suffering is in your job (and frankly in your life as well). Sometimes we sit down and we discover that the problem is not ALL the job, but unworkability in the household as well. We have to be willing to look at both parts if we are to create solutions that will improve our experience of our career and our life.

2. Fail to Identify the Vision

The second thing we fail to do is identify the vision. We don’t sit down and distinguish what we want. Part of the reason for this is that along our life, the path has been laid before us. We’ve been told what to do to get to the next step in our profession since medical school. In that process we forget that we actually have a say. Failing to identify the vision (what you want in an ideal job, or life for that matter), leaves us simply taking “what looks good” or “what we think is reasonable or realistic” rather than having what we actually want show up for us.

If you don’t know (and never ask for) what you want, you will never get it. So, begin to explore what would be your ideal, write it down, and continue to expand it.

3. Fail to Get the Right Mentorship and Guidance

Probably one of the most important steps that most burned out physicians fail to do is to seek the proper outside support or mentorship. Why? Because we think we know better, that we don’t need help, that we can do it all by ourselves (or at least we should be able to do it all by ourselves). The problem with this faulty thinking is that you are the fish in water. And the fish in water has blind spots. So, you can only take action consistent with your very narrow view.

Furthermore, even if you ask your friends and colleagues for advice, most of them will give you their experience, not a professional objective view of how to create the system and structure you need to succeed. So, while friends and colleagues are sometimes good to bounce things off of, they are very limited in the amount of effective guidance they can give, because it’s all subjective. A mentor or coach can give more of an objective view. So, the key here is to let go of ego and pride, and seek the proper mentorship.

When you realize that it’s time to make a change in your job, it’s important to take these three foundational steps to avoid landing yourself in the same position that you are running away from. There are other important factors in making a career transition, including establishing workability in your work and life, dealing with your mindset (dealing with and eliminating negative thoughts and “stinkin’ thinking”), and creating proper structures and systems for success. The bottom line is that the Lone Ranger super-hero mindset that has gotten us this far in the past as physicians, has limited viability and eventually decays in effectiveness, ultimately resulting in physician burnout.

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