Every graduating class of med students has that small group that have already plotted out their entire careers from start to finish. They have all their ducks in a row, so to speak, and are ready to tackle residency and whatever follows. But then life hits. Sometimes it hits really hard. All the best laid plans are suddenly in jeopardy because life does not go the way it was supposed to.
Medicine is no different than any other career path. Things change. Real life is a series of curve balls that often lead to swinging for strikes. The key to success is to not allow those curve balls to strike you out. This is where truly sound career planning advice comes into play.
Sound career planning is not about plotting every step of the journey from residency to retirement. It is about coming up with general plans that can be modified along the way. To that end, here is some helpful advice for doctors in every stage of their careers:
Have Plans A, B, and C
Sound career planning starts with some sort of plan. To say you should not have a plan because life changes is to deny the reality that plans act as a guide. So yes, doctors should have a plan in place at every career stage. But that’s not all. Doctors should also have a Plan B and Plan C.
What if your initial plan does not go off as intended? What are you going to do? Having a Plan B provides the necessary guidance if Plan A fails. Plan C gives you yet a third option should the first two plans run off the rails. Architects, engineers, and a whole host of other professionals always have multiple plans in place. Doctors should too.
Few things are worse for a doctor’s career than a lack of flexibility. Being inflexible means confining yourself to a certain way of doing things that, in the end, may not work in your favor. On the other hand, flexibility leads to a lot more doors being opened.
Whatever your career plans might be, make sure they are not etched in stone. Be willing to change things up if what you are currently doing is not working. Be willing to move if you have to; be willing to switch specialties if necessary; be willing to take a job you really don’t want in order to step to a better job in the future.
Practice Financial Responsibility
The lure of money can be a big trap for doctors. Making a six-figure income brings with it the temptation to spend early and often. Do yourself a favor: avoid this. The last thing you need is to be trapped along a specific career path because you cannot afford a new direction.
Wise doctors practice financial responsibility. They live well within their means, avoiding becoming saddled with debt that could eventually become a career prison. If you can avoid the big-money trap, you will find you have more freedom to alter your career plans should you decide you want to do so.
Get Involved in the Community
Finally, there is more to life than work. Doctors who get involved in their local communities soon discover that there is a whole world waiting outside the walls of the office. Community involvement continually offers a fresh perspective that helps keep work in its proper place. Rather than becoming a slave to medicine, the doctor is more free to practice medicine as a member of the community who wants to help make things better.