Leaving medicine is often the desired option for many burnt-out, worn-out clinicians. But whilst some have gone on to leave medicine entirely, others have chosen to make changes to their medical career. For instance, going less than full-time in a training post. Or working abroad in another country. Or possibly changing specialties and many other pathways …
Certainly, since the pandemic, the strikes, the disillusionment, many doctors have concluded that they want to leave medicine. And there has been a huge exodus. Understandably, the ongoing challenges and struggles in the NHS have been overwhelming and sadly, there seems no imminent relent from it. For this reason, medics are questioning their future. Therefore, this has led to a massive interest in the exploration of roles beyond medicine.
Why leaving medicine might be the best decision you made!
There is a cliché saying that ‘life is short’. But it really is! And critically, even if that means leaving medicine! So why waste years in a role that makes you feel unhappy? And why not consider other professions that exist in the wider world?
Undoubtedly, fear of leaving medicine can be a daunting prospect. Because of this, many feel they may be unemployable in other roles. However, this decision often gets made without fully exploring all the potential options. And, of course, knowing where to start to begin exploring! Furthermore, often doctors just don’t know how to sell their multitude of transferable skills. And importantly, these are often skills which are highly sought by other employers. But it’s learning how to demonstrate these skills whilst adding value to an employer. Having a medical degree alone is no longer enough in a competitive world.
It may even be exciting to leave medicine!
However, instead of fearing change, why not try and perceive that differently? Do you know that fear and excitement are felt the same way in our bodies? So what if we change our perceptions and turn fear into excitement? In doing so, we can be open to new ideas, new ways of working and opportunities that may arise. And importantly, a chance to explore other roles that could bring increased career fulfilment.
There is a vast world out there offering alternative career options for experienced doctors. It’s about being open, flexible and embracing change. Fundamentally, that’s not an easy concept for most doctors coming through a rigid, highly structured NHS system. Understandably, it can challenge everything you’ve ever known about a particular way of working. But the end goal may lead to an exciting career that utilises your medical skills in a way which is much more sustainable.
So, if you’re seriously considering leaving medicine, here’s a few tips that may help you to navigate that journey.
Know your strengths
It’s most likely that medicine is all you’ve ever known as a career. Most doctors have had a very focused and targeted career plan that meant leaving school with the high grades required and straight into university before starting on a full-on medical career. And many don’t take any time out after education and starting work.
But at that age, it’s doubtful that you really had time to think deeply about your strengths, values and passions. except much beyond the fact that you would have had an aptitude for the sciences combined with the notion that you wanted to make a difference to peoples’ lives.
And even then, that’s not always the case. as it may also have been a career which you were ‘expected’ to pursue or that you just felt it was an appropriate career path with your skill set.
But now something has changed. Likely, you’ve reached the stage where you’re feeling burnt-out and disillusioned with the NHS. and the notion of spending the rest of your career working in it no longer appeals. Or there may still be a desire to work as doctor but not as you currently are and you know that something has to change.
But changing careers can be confusing, overwhelming and leaves many feeling they don’t know how to go about it. So taking time to examine what you want from your life and your career going forward is the best place to start.
Consider your strengths, values, passions and of course, the things you absolutely DON’T want to do in a job!
Develop your networking skills
Consider that up to 80% of jobs are filled through networking. That’s a lot of jobs! And it often surprises many people since you are most likely to be used to a single method of job-seeking through job adverts.
When people thinking about networking, they often think that means standing in a room full of strangers and having to strike up engaging conversation! But it isn’t that …
Start with people you may know in your own network. If, for example, you’re curious about the pharmaceutical industry, think of someone you may know or someone that person may know who works in the industry who you could speak to.
Ask to have a brief chat, or coffee with that person and ask them direct questions about their role, the industry, how they got into it … especially if they’ve left medicine to do so. After that conversation, ask them for anyone else they might be able to connect you with to talk to.
LinkedIn is a well-used, professional platform that will get you seen and meeting others. If you don’t have a profile yet, it’s worth creating one so that you can maximise opportunities for networking.
Networking isn’t about asking people for a job! It’s making connections and building on those relationships. Over time, that may lead to a job opening.
And like everything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So, start connecting and get talking!
Do your research
When we feel completely disillusioned with our career, it’s easy to believe that the grass is greener. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
Just because you’ve had a thought to leave medicine, it doesn’t mean you should make a drastic decision. A very important part of career change is the research that you need to do in exploring other careers. Networking is a great place to start.
But the internet is a valuable tool for exploring other roles and industries. Look at job sites, go to networking events and talk to people who’ve made a career change. In addition, speak to recruitment agencies and try to build up an accurate picture of roles you may be interested in.
Make notes of your findings and analyse them to compare and contrast other careers and industries. How does that match against your current role and future prospects? Also consider what changes you might be able to make to your current position.
As medicine is such a tunnel-vision career, leaving often feels very daunting. In contrast, other professions are more fluid where people find it easier to re-invent themselves. However, don’t let this put you off. So once you’ve ascertained your transferable skills, consider how they can be applied to other roles. Of course, you need to always keep in mind the organisation and the job role.
Fundamentally, if you know that you want to leave medicine, then you are probably making the right decision. But remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For example, even if you reduced your clinical role by 20%, this extra day could allow you to test and try out that career you’ve been dreaming about. Or maybe creating your own health app, starting a lifestyle medicine coaching business, or another exciting venture …
Consider how you would sell yourself
So, this may sound a little harsh. However, it’s very helpful to take an objective view of yourself and think about what you can actually offer an employer or to clients.
Gaining this clarity is key because if you’re not clear about what you’re offering to others, then others won’t know where you fit in or what you could bring to a role.
For example, let’s say that you use LinkedIn as a key marketing tool. Make sure that you include a professional photo and write a clear description of yourself. A good starting point is to look at others’ profiles and distinguish those which you think are clear about their motives and what industry they are in or seeking.
If example, you state on your profile that you are a ‘Medical doctor seeking opportunities outside of medicine’. That’s hugely overwhelming for anyone else to understand what type of roles you’re seeking. Therefore, how can they help you?
YOU decide what you want people to know about you because that’s what they’ll remember about you. In summary, others can help you more to move forward if they understand you better. If you’re too vague, they can’t because they’re unclear as to what it is you are trying to pursue.
The key takeaway here is ‘clarity.’
Developing confidence to make the change
It can take a huge amount of guts and courage to walk away from a secure, regular income with added benefits that the NHS offers. That’s already one important factor to consider.
For many though, leaving a medical career is more than that. Having a ‘doctor’ title brings with it a strong sense of identity and walking away from that into the unknown can feel daunting.
But the key reason that often keeps doctors from avoiding change is the sense that they aren’t skilled enough to do something else. Well …how wrong you are!
You have developed a multitude of skills in your role that are highly valuable in another environment. Some of those will include skills you have developed in clinical skills, leadership, teamworking, communication, problem-solving, analysing/interpreting, decision-making … to name a few.
These skills are hugely transferable – you are a skilled and intelligent professional and you can absolutely use these skills in a different profession. It’s just about adapting them to an alternative role and environment.
And career change doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing thing. You might feel happier trying out your skills in another area whilst you’re still working. For example, maybe you want to consider lifestyle coaching as a career option. Possibly you could study a course and start to build up clients in the evenings/weekends.
Most likely you’ll recognise that your communication skills with patients may well overlap with the coaching skills you learn. The point being, you already have the foundations to be great at something else – it’s just recognising how you can do that.
Of course, you may decide to have coaching yourself to help you to acknowledge and develop these skills. and talk through how you can re-invent yourself in another career.
VIP Coaching Day