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5 Steps For a Smoother Career Transition

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In recent years, an increasing number of physicians have taken an interest in changing careers. A few years ago, I found myself changing jobs more than once in a very short period, first to be a hospitalist and later on to be a medical director. There were several reasons for the change, but the two main were job dissatisfaction and burnout, both of which were eroding the passion and fulfillment that previously fueled my medical career.

At the time I didn’t have a clear path for a successful change. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t spend enough time putting my clear goals in writing and I wasn't considering my personal values and priorities. I didn’t have a framework to create a plan for a successful career transition, and that led me to a bumpier transition. Making a job change can be an enjoyable and life-changing experience. However, a seamless and successful transition cannot be achieved without prior planning and a deliberate approach. Whether you’re seeking a change within the medical field or venturing into a new or alternative side gig, there are, in my opinion, five essential steps for this new journey.

Identify Personal Priorities and Set Goals

It is essential to take the time to identify your individual priorities. What truly matters inside and outside of your medical practice? Pursuing a path that aligns with your life goals will make the decision easier. I have gone through this process on my internal medicine path and have found it helpful to ask myself some questions to self-reflect:

- What aspects of my current career bring me the most fulfillment?

- What aspects of my current career leave me feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled?

- What are my long-term personal goals and aspirations outside of medicine?

- What does my ideal day look like? How do I envision a balanced and fulfilling life?

At this point, seeking feedback from close friends, peers, family, or mentors can offer valuable insights into what career path may work for you, if you are still searching for one. It was hard at first to be vulnerable and share, but once I realized that I had people around me that cared about what I was going through, it was really empowering. I received amazing feedback from them. It can also be valuable to build connections with professionals and ask them for feedback, especially if they have successfully transitioned into a new career. One thing I realized during this exercise was that while I enjoyed the leadership role I was holding, it disrupted my family time with my wife and daughters and that was at the top of my priorities. Therefore, I made the decision to leave that job and look for a more flexible schedule that better aligned my professional goal with my priorities and values.

Assess Your Skills and Find Your Knowledge Gap

Understanding one's skills and strengths is essential when exploring new career paths. If you’re not clear about your strengths, one tool I used was the Clifton Strengths inventory. This is especially important if you’re looking at a career outside of medicine. I also used a career transition coach and that experience was very useful. After figuring out your strengths, determine your weaknesses and knowledge gaps with that path you’re choosing, and address them with platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning, which offer online courses and certifications in a wide range of subjects, allowing you to conveniently acquire new skills. Finding mentors who have successfully transitioned into your desired field can provide guidance and support throughout the career change process. You can find these mentors through social media groups, podcasts, or designed courses, industry conferences, webinars, or networking events related to your desired field. When I started in telemedicine, I realized that I needed more medical licenses and also a speeding licensing process such as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, so I started working toward it before I began applying for positions.

Gain Practical Experience

You can look for opportunities to gain practical experience in your desired field. Consider volunteering or taking a part-time position to get your feet wet. I started on telemedicine during my time off but shortly after, telemedicine allowed me to cut back on my clinical shifts and have a more balanced schedule.

Develop Your Transition Plan

Developing a well-structured plan is essential for a successful career change. This will help you remain focused on your goals. And when making your goals, consider your short-term (three months to a year) and long-term (one to five years or beyond) goals. What milestones do you want to reach along the way? Make sure your goals are measurable and realistic. Break down any small tasks you need to accomplish in the following weeks. Finally, be sure to research and explore the industry or profession you’re interested in. How is the job market? What is your anticipated competition? What are the industry trends and growth opportunities? Make sure you go in with all your questions answered.

Execute the Plan

While you will have a different to-do list based on your transition destination, you will likely match a lot of these action items:

  • Update any application material: Resume, cover letter, professional profiles, etc. Embrace your new identity.
  • Network and connect: Reach out to professionals in the desired field, join online communities, and attend events. This will provide you with valuable insights and potential connections.
  • Apply for the position that aligns with your career goals and aspirations.
  • Prepare for interviews: Be prepared to discuss your motivations for a career change and how your previous experiences have prepared you for the new path.
  • Evaluate and reflect: Assess your progress regularly, celebrate your achievements, and identify areas that require adjustments. It’s also helpful to seek feedback from mentors, peers, or coaches.

My last message for you is to embrace a growth mindset. Be open to learning and adapting! Stay resilient and nimble and remember that the roadmap for a successful career transition is unique for everyone. Customize these steps to fit your specific circumstances and goals. With determination, perseverance, and a well-executed plan, you can navigate your career transition successfully and find fulfillment on a new professional path.

What career transition tips do you have? Share in the comments.

Image by GoodStudio / Shutterstock

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