The biggest mistake physicians make in career transition is not imagining the possibilities broad, bright, and inspiring. Whether fresh out of residency or haggard from a decade or two in industrialized medicine, when it’s time to think nonclinical it’s time to dig deep.
You’ve gotta reach inside to reawaken the inner child that you’ve been hushing in the corner as you built up discipline, practiced delay of gratification, and developed professional physician ways. You’ve accomplished that piece. Celebrate it! Now it’s time for wide open, dreamy-eyed idealism.
This sounds ridiculously irresponsible. It is- if you go about it without a plan. In the age of the internet the best plan is to Google first. Yep. Search and ye shall find. But only if you are certain of what it is you want to find.
In order to be efficient, to make the most productive use of your time, and to reach your ideal non-clinical situation fastest begin by dreaming wildly. What do you want your ideal day to look like?
Don’t fall for the usual trap of starting from a place of frustration. You can tell you’re doing that when you start listing the stuff you don’t want:
- Less hours at the hospital
- Less tired
- Less paperwork
- No arguing with insurance providers
- Less interruptions of my time with family
Instead start surfing the net for stories of inspiration. What have other doctors done after they quit clinical medicine? Beyond the obvious. Look for the meaningful. Sure jumping over to a biotech firm, joining a healthcare startup, medical writing, public speaking, and even management consulting or joining venture capital firms are some frequent paths transitioning docs choose.
Most of us have forgotten how to freely imagine. Cultural conditioning whispers:
“You’re too old to start that.”
“You’ve got bills to pay and that won’t make enough money to maintain your lifestyle.”
“Can you even imagine how much hard work it’s gonna take to work up from the bottom in another career?”
Again, Google to the rescue.
First step: I looked at all of the stories about doctors who had made successful transitions that I could get my hands on. I studied their thoughts, feelings, actions, and mistakes.
Second step: I looked at at what people who made changes from other careers had done. I looked for the same stuff but with an eye on perspectives from outside of medicine. The more mistakes I could see coming from different points of view the more confident I felt.
Third step: I got a coach. You need someone to keep you on track and to catch you shrinking your vision in moments of temporary defeat.
Read a ton of success stories. Notice the ones that set your spirit on fire. Notice which principles inspire you. Find communities who share those principles. You’ll learn fastest from like minded people. Your curiosity and passion will drive you in pursuit of a career that matches and expresses your core identity.
If you’d like to read a collection of revealing stories from inspiring physicians who have transitioned from clinical medicine then visit Thinking About Quitting Medicine.
Dr. Mani Saint-Victor, MD, The Dropout Doctor