Since the age of 12, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. There were no physicians in my family so I had to figure out how to reach my goal on my own.
I was excited when I got my acceptance to medical school. My plan was to go straight from college to medical school to residency and then primary care practice. I had it all figured out…or so I thought.
Life had other plans for me. I deferred my acceptance for a year and delivered a healthy baby boy after a high-risk pregnancy. When my marriage fell apart with my then husband, I found myself a single mother, starting a residency program in another city without any family locally.
Things ultimately fell into place and my godmother received a job offer that allowed her to transfer to the area where I was to start my residency in only a few weeks.
After 20+ years in academics developing medical education programs, mentoring medical students and trainees, delivering clinical care to children, adolescents and young adults in inpatient and outpatient settings and serving as a subject matter expert in pediatric integrative medicine and childhood obesity, I made the decision to retire from clinical practice and pursue a nonclinical career.
As I look back over the first half of my career that I once described as “traditional”, I now realize it was anything but traditional. I was given amazing opportunities to advance my career within and outside of my academic center and for that I am grateful.
The problem was I was not directing the course of my career. If my career were a car, I recognized the car was mine, and initially I was a passenger allowing others to drive my car wherever they wanted me to go.
At some point, I moved into the driver’s seat, but I was still taking directions from others. Looking over my shoulder always asking where are we going next? Without realizing it, I had become a glorified Uber driver (not that there is anything wrong with being an Uber driver).
Now don’t get me wrong, we went to some pretty amazing places. But, they weren’t necessarily the places I would have chosen to go. Although I was driving, I was passively managing my career.
Finally, I had an epiphany and acknowledged that not only was this my car, but I could decide where I wanted to go. I wanted to actively manage my own career. So, I chose not to ask for directions anymore and to start to chart my own course.
And you know what happened? I didn’t know where I wanted to go.
I had lost touch with who I was and what I wanted at this stage of my life and career. All of my aspirations were based on the younger 20-something year old version of myself. But, I had grown. My life had changed. I was no longer that young woman seeking to please everyone else while sacrificing my basic needs.
I set an intention to get to know who I was now. What did I want? Where did I see myself in the next 5 years? 10 years?
The clarity I gained during the process of introspection and intention setting was invaluable. I got crystal clear on what was working and what wasn’t working. I got in touch with what was missing. And with that high level of clarity and elevated self-confidence, I took control of my professional development and reimagined my career path.
In 2021, I will celebrate 5 years in a nonclinical career that I love. I have a clear vision of where I want to be by age 60 (which is no longer so far away) and my goals each year are designed to take me there.
If you feel stuck on the path and believe you don’t have any choice in how you experience your career, I’m here to tell you that a different path is possible.
Whether you are in a clinical or nonclinical career, this platform will serve as a place for you to learn how to own and embrace your career. My intention is to share insights, strategies and guidance informed by my own experience to remind you of your power to choose again.
You did it when you made the decision to pursue a medical career. And you do it every day when you choose to show up for work…to make an impact on the lives of others…and to serve. But, many physicians are doing this unconsciously. I want you to do this consciously.
So, if you’re not happy in your current position, don’t let 2021 end feeling the same way.
Pause and reflect on where you are. Ask yourself, what’s working? What’s not working as well as you would like? What’s missing?
And then set goals to make meaningful changes. There are many of us who have and will continue to do so.
So how about you? What are your 2021 career goals?
Are you in the passenger seat of your career or are you in the driver’s seat charting your own course?
Let me know in the comments. And if you’d like to connect about your personal career situation, send me a note at Michelle@drmichellebailey.com. I’d love to hear from you.
The Physician Career Path Reimagined
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