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Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians.

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

Five quick examples of self-discovery exercises

Idea #1: The 16-Square Grid.
Divide a sheet of paper into 16 squares. Any time you think of something fun or interesting as a career, write the idea in one of the empty squares. Continue the process until you've filled the grid. No idea is too silly or unrealistic. Don't judge the ideas, just record them. It's important to dream big. Carl Sandburg said, "Nothing happens unless first a dream."

If you have a dream or urge, don't kill your dream. Most important—and this is a big mistake: We take a creative idea of what we want to do, then shoot it down by saying, "I'm too old, too young, it's impractical, it will take too much time . . . etc." We take a second idea, then find fault with it. We take a third idea and discount it. Pretty soon, we're out of ideas—at a dead end, stuck.

Honor and cherish your ideas. Find reason to pursue them, not reason to disown them. In the beginning, don't try to be too practical, realistic, or logical. Of course, this is where your medical training works 100% against you!

Idea #2: Write your autobiography.
Write your life story on an index card, then on one page, and finally on five pages. Whatever you do, do not—for any reason—write your autobiography on 478 pages.

Once you have the autobiography, write the ending, or two different endings. From The 7 Habits of Highly-effective People by Stephen Covey, follow Habit #2: "Begin with the end in mind."

Idea #3: Your Likes and Dislikes
This simple exercise is just what it sounds like. You divide a sheet of paper into two columns. In the left column, you record your career satisfiers. In the right column, you write your dissatisfiers. This is a powerful exercise. I used it to create my own career. I listed 10 things I loved doing, and one of them was listening. I asked myself how I could earn money listing to others for a living, and so far, I've listened to the employees and executives of more than 300 brand-name corporations. You'll find this exercise right here.

Idea #4: Identify your "Core Competencies"
That's a new-fangled, human resources phrase to mean skills and abilities-things you can do. Beneath every physician is something much deeper. Underneath the lab coat, you're a researcher, mathematician, scientist, engineer, writer, or teacher. There are at least 50 core competencies, and competencies imply careers. For example:

  1. Communication = PR, liaison between MDs/scientists/laypeople
  2. Computers = IT in a healthcare company or Medical Informatics
  3. ###'s, Finance = VC, COO, Financial planner for other MDs
  4. Engineer-Tinkerer = Medical Prod Improvement/R&D/Commercializing New Technologies Medical Architecture
  5. Nitpicker/Finding Fault - Quality Assurance/Quality Control in Mfg., FDA
Idea #5: Write your "ideal first month on the new job"
This exercise is fully-described right here. Remember, Carl Sanburg said, "Nothing happens unless first a dream." In this exercise, one physician wrote:
  • Day One: "I go to work. I do what I do. I come home. "
  • Day Two: "I go to work. I do what I do. I come home."
As you can imagine, that wasn't much help. You need to think big, outside the box. Next.

:: Go to Part Four.  :: 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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