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Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians.

How to Find a Career Direction, Part Two, by William S. Frank

Here are 4 rules of thumb which will give you a bull's-eye.

Rule #1: The 80%/20% overlap. If your past career looks like a circle, your next opportunity should look like another circle, overlapping the first by 80%, with 20% new and different. The 20% makes the future fun and interesting.

Your future should honor and incorporate your past-not throw it away. You can stay in or near healthcare, which is 1/8 of the U.S. economy. With 13.5 million jobs it's the largest and fastest growing industry. You have 1, 5, 10, 20, or even 40 years of medical experience. Your past is your marketability. Don't throw it away. Right now, you're positioned to make the biggest contribution of your career.

Rule #2: Look for the "Logical Next Step." The logical next step is the one where you tell your friends your plans, and they say, "Wow, that makes perfect sense. I could really see you doing that." The illogical next step is the one where your friends say, "That's I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G. How did you come up with that?" Or they say, "I don't get it. Run that by me again." Here are two examples:

  1. The Surgical Oncologist with a health challenge who went to work for Pfizer developing breast cancer drugs. After accepting the job, he told me, "I was planning to retire in 2-3 years, but I'm afraid I can't. I love my new job so much."

  2. The Sports Medicine physician and mother of three who left clinical medicine to create life-balance programs for other female physicians. This was a perfect fit.
Rule #3: The key to success is FOCUS, described as "The Hedgehog Concept" by Jim Collins in the bestseller, Good to Great. [How 10 GOOD companies like Abbott and Walgreens became GREAT.] "The Hedgehog Concept" is three interlocking circles [a ven diagram], as follows:
  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best in the world at?
  3. What drives your economic engine? [How do you make money at it?]
Taking your career from GOOD to GREAT, you ask yourself: 1) What am I deeply passionate about? and 2) What can I be best in the world at?

Rule #4: Know Thyself. This is the most important rule of all.

In career transition 80% of your success is self-knowledge. Twenty percent of your success is knowledge about the job market.

We tend to think the opposite.

You're skeptical. You're thinking, "Hey Bill, I already know myself. I'm smart. I got straight As in medical school. I can do anything I set my mind to. What else is there to know . . . ?"

Well, tell me how different from your competitors, all the other physicians seeking non-clinical opportunities. Not how you're like them. In marketing they call that "product differentiation." How is COKE different from PEPSI?

It's not that you don't know yourself, it's that you don't know the right things about yourself—the things that make you marketable.

Think of self-discovery exercises as a career diagnosis™. You wouldn't do an angioplasty or brain surgery without a diagnosis. Why would you enter a hostile job market without a career diagnosis™.

I've worked with many candidates who had been chronically unemployed for one-to-three years. [It wasn't my fault they were unemployed. They hired me having been unemployed that long.] They were riding their horse in all directions, keeping their options open. They lacked focus and clarity. In every case, I took them back to step #1: self-knowledge. And in every case, they were re-employed in the right job quickly.

Socrates was right when he said, "Know thyself."

You get self-knowledge three ways:

  1. Thru the Birkman method: the Blood test, X-Ray, CT scan, and MRI for careers.
  2. Thru self-discovery exercises—"paper and pencil exercises," and so-called "THINK pieces." These will be discussed later in the paper.
  3. Thru informational interviewing—talking to others.
The outcome is focus and clarity, the ability to describe your goal in 2-3 sentences. We call that your "Elevator speech." For example: "I want to help commercialize ENT devices for a mid-size manufacturer in San Diego." Next.

:: Go to Part Three.  :: Return to index of articles.


"In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." —Theodore Roosevelt

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