Knowing your options is a critical element in making your decision about whether to change careers. Doctors often sell themselves short when they are looking at non-medical careers, because the medical career they first chose is one that requires a high level of specific education (ie a medical degree); however, not that many other jobs really require a specific degree.
‘Transferable skills’ are the catch-phrase of career-changers. For most jobs, the important abilities and attitudes for job performance are the same. These are the skills that are portable or ‘transferable’ between jobs; they include (but are not limited to):
•ability to work independently
•ability to work with a team
Fortunately, a typical doctor will have several of these attributes – making you a valuable player in many employment situations. Mention these to an employer (or bank manager) with your medical background and most will be impressed. If the career you want to change to requires specialised knowledge then you can acquire it. If it needs connections you can make them.
Career changers often find that during the period that they are considering a change they become more introspective and want to find out more about themselves, and maybe make radical changes to what they find. This is an important task that most of us have to tackle at one point or another, whether you want to label it a ‘mid-life crisis’ is your choice!
On occasions I have spoken to doctors who have no idea what they might do if they left medicine. Here is a short list of related employment options that may give you some idea of the broad scope of employment opportunities out there for doctors:
•Government e.g. Health Department
•Health-related non-government organisation (NGO) e.g. anti-smoking groups
•Research – not necessarily related to medicine
•Franchaise – pick up a Franchaise magazine at the bookstore, there are hundreds of good easy to run franchaises available
•Writing for a local paper or magazine
•Consumer health information
•Health Information analyst (commercial or government)
•Medical/Health Organisation Administration
•Health recruitment agent
•Health marketing advisor
•Medical travel coordinator – e.g. for an airline
If you are willing to re-train your horizons will obviously even be broader. There is a wealth of general career-change information on the internet and many good books on the subject. You have probably heard (or read) R. Bolle’s “What Color Is Your Parachute”; however much you might denigrate mass-production pop psychology books like this, there are often valuable concepts hidden among the pages. For example, Bolle’s describes a method of transitional career-change that indicates that the easier path to a career change is to make one step at time by either changing your occupation field first or occupation title first.
Finally, I would encourage you to talk to people who have made career changes in what ever field they work in, whether it be health, commerce, or government; there is nothing like some moral support and knowing that other people are making career changes as well.