doctors work space with keyboard

Today we’re talking about how to get ahead in your career, and how to make a career change for doctors. So, if you want to switch your career or make a bold professional move in a different direction, we’ll be talking about exactly that.


In This Episode of The Career Rx We’ll Discuss:

  • How to make a career change for doctors, plus actionable steps you can take to get that job promotion or find an alternative career.
  • Who you should communicate your goals to and why.
  • How to reframe your thoughts about your current position and career aspirations.
  • The importance of nailing your personal and professional brand.
  • How to obtain the rights skills and experience to make a career change.
  • ‘The #1 skill that separates those who succeed from those who fail.





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TRANSCRIPT AND SHOW NOTES (How to Make a Career Change for Doctors)


You know how important it is to take ownership of your career progress, success, professional fulfillment and to make plans for what you want to achieve – instead of letting things happen by luck.

There’s a huge interest these days in leadership careers for physicians, non-clinical careers for physicians and even non-medical careers.

Many physicians want a refresh – something new and different to do. And if you know me, I’ve done a few different things over the years, including academics, entrepreneurship and healthcare industry.

People are therefore always asking how I made these leaps. So, how exactly do doctors make a career change?

Like every episode, today, I’m answering a question from a listener.

Kristen asks…

“Can you do an episode on how to set yourself up to make a career leap? I always hear that I should do my research, I should network, keep my CV updated, make a one, five and ten year plan, etc. But I don’t get enough specific suggestions about how exactly to position myself for what my plans would be.”

Well, Kristen, this is a great question and you’re exactly right on. We do get a lot of cliché advice about making a plan, but how do you actually execute that plan and make that plan come true? That is, that’s what you’re asking and that’s what we’ll talk about today.

The good news is you can take steps to become an opportunity magnet. This is so good things find you, rather than you having to be on the hunt for that next opportunity and being worried that you will miss it.

In answer to your question, I’m going to outline six extremely practical tips for advancing your career in any direction.

These are 100% actionable. They are clear and actually quite simple. They absolutely work if you put in the time to do them and do them well.


How to Make a Career Change for Doctors – 6 Actionable Tips

Woman doctor working on a laptop

If you’ve been wondering how to make a career change for doctors these tips will help you get ahead in your career and also open up new opportunities to find an alternative career in medicine or even a non-clinical job.


1. Choose a Concrete Goal & Tell Everyone You Know

This goal could be a specific position or job title, it could be an institution or organization that you want to work for. It might even be a different industry.

Choose a specific goal. Then tell everyone you know to keep you accountable. (This step is most important).

Tell your family, neighbors, your friends, colleagues. Tell your boss, your boss’s boss.

Everyone has long term career goals. This is totally normal and expected.

  • Describe your goal in longer-term objectives, if that’s more comfortable for you, particularly around your current work colleagues
  • Articulate what it is that you want, and tell everybody. You never know who is going to be connected or who might be in a position to recommend you to somebody or send opportunities your way.

If you share your career goals, you’ll be increasing your chances of having opportunities be available to you.

Many people worry their boss won’t be supportive of their career growth and development. And unfortunately, if you’re doing a great job, your boss has an incentive to keep you right where you are. Doing a great job for them, so that they don’t have to replace you.

However… Your boss should be supportive of your long term career growth and development.

If this is not the case, you may not be the right place. If you feel that sharing your career goals to your bosses could jeopardize you, you may already be held back in your position.

Now, I don’t recommend you paint your current job in a negative light, but you do want your bosses to be well aware of your ultimate career ambitions.


2. Reframe Your Current Perspective

If you want to leave your current position because there’s something that you don’t like, I want you to do this… shift how you’re thinking about your role into how you want to grow.

  • What are the new experiences you want to have?
  • Is there something new you’d like to learn?
  • Consider the passions you’d like to follow.

It’s always best if your career moves are based on something positive. Something you can gain or how you could contribute to a new role. Stay positive rather than focusing on something you want to escape from.

Think about your growth opportunities.

By the way, if you’re unhappy in your career, think about the values that link to what’s working for you in your current career and what isn’t. Otherwise, you may end up making a career move and find yourself having the same problems that are showing up slightly differently.

This is a core part of our curriculum at the TransforMD Retreat for Women Physicians.

We may not be able to have this live as we planned in January 2021 because of COVID, but if you’re interested, please stay tuned because I do think we’ll be planning a virtual event.


3. Work on Your Professional and Personal Brand

Fine-tune your brand and personal elevator pitch.

This is going to be a concise statement about who you are professionally.


A personal elevator pitch should include your:

  • Experience
  • Credentials
  • Motivations and passions
  • Perspective on what you want to do next

You’ll want to give this some careful thought because you’re going to be saying your elevator pitch to everyone!

Articulate your pitch in a language that will resonate with the person who would eventually be able to hire you or recommend you. Speak about your transferable skills, experience, interests and what you’ll bring to the table that will help that person.

If you’re considering a career change instead of a vertical path, help others help you get there by connecting the dots for them.

Don’t make them guess how your life experience could fit a need. Help them understand exactly how you are the perfect candidate for an opportunity. They need a qualified person, so articulate how you can succeed in that role and communicate your unique attributes.

In order for them to say, ‘yes, this is the person I want’, you’ve got to use language that clicks with them and helps them recognize that you have what they want.

We discuss this in great depth in the webinar series The Industry Insider.

The Industry Insider Webinar Series with Marjorie Stiegler MD, Learn More

This is how to identify those transferable skills that matter to the role you want and you may not know that today, so that’s a little bit of homework you would need to do…

  • Figure out your desirable skills
  • What are the capabilities people are looking for in a candidate?
  • Be deliberate about articulating your skills.


Professional Branding Resources:


How you talk about yourself professionally is such a critical skill to master.

It’s really so important if you’re thinking about a career change where somebody needs to understand how you would fit in that role or organization. So you’ve got to really nail that professional brand message and that personal elevator pitch.


4. Grow Your Capabilities

Now, this does not have to be huge. I don’t mean you need to get a new degree or complete an extensive training program. However, if you want to change your career path, or get a great promotion you’ll need to figure out what the core skills and capabilities are that you don’t yet have.

Look at the skills that would be expected in any given role and find some small ways to increase your exposure or at the very least your understanding of those core skills and capabilities. This is basically getting the ‘prior experience’ that you don’t have yet.


Places you can look to grow your skills in order to make a career change:

  • Online courses
  • Connect with a mentor
  • Professional societies you can join



I’m a member of the following networks…


Healthcare Business Women’s Association

This is an incredible network, but they also have webinars, local chapters and all kinds of educational activities to really broaden your horizons.

This network has given me tons of new ways of thinking about career possibilities in healthcare and understanding different career paths. It’s also helped me discover topics where it would benefit me professionally to learn more.


National Speakers Association

I have access to their internal professional speaking network.

This is something that you have to qualify to join. Unlike the Healthcare Business Women’s Association, which you can just join as a dues-paying member, you have to earn membership to the National Speakers Association to be a professional level member.

You qualify based on paid professional presentations that you’ve given within a given year – a number of presentations and a minimum threshold of earnings. Once you’re in that door, it’s an incredible access to a network of other professional speakers, as well as their journal, and insider website with educational material, webinars, events, and much more.

Professional membership serves as a third-party validation to demonstrate a higher level of professional skill. Plus, it has helped me tremendously to continue growing and developing my capabilities as a speaker, so I am actually acquiring deeper skills and expertise in this area all the time.

Whatever it is that you want to go, whatever you need for the eventual role you want, there is going to be something equivalent to HBA or NSA – something to help grow your capabilities, business acumen, or whatever else it is that you would need in that new role. Something to serve as an external validation of your skill.

Growing your skills and capabilities links back to tip three, which is to truly understand what skills are needed and knowing what things in your professional brand or elevator pitch might be missing.

As you figure out what the required skills are for your career change or promotion make sure you are deliberate about growing those capabilities.

Even if you don’t have extensive education or a degree out, if you have some way to demonstrate that you are familiar with the content and that you have a good working knowledge of it, that is often sufficient.

So, just be sure that you’re growing your skill sets to deliberately fill in those gaps.


5. Give Your Activities and Projects a Name

Think about the things you spend time on at work and give them actual names or titles.

You may need to run this by your boss and they’ll likely be in favor of it because in the same way it benefits you it benefits them by being able to demonstrate various successes. It’s always more impressive or has more credibility if an activity has a name, whether it be a program or a pilot project or a group or a committee – you get the idea.

This has to be something that you could list on a resume or LinkedIn profile.

I’m not referring to your job title, but about specific activities and accomplishments that take up a fair amount of your time.

They could be something new you’re pioneering or something that’s recurring that you’re responsible for. The point here is to make things tangible.


How do you describe activities?

You could be the lead of a workstream (a project leader), or simply just name the activity. You really don’t need to overthink this or make it too complicated.


Take the idea of Journal Club. If you’re in healthcare, you already know what I mean. No description needed. Of course, journal clubs have different formats in different places, but you know what ‘journal club’ is without an explanation.

By naming it Journal Club, it is immediately tangible. Not only does it sound important, but it is immediately tangible. Rather than saying something like, every now and then we get together and we pick something to read, that’s recently been published and we talk about it.

Think about the activities that you’re doing and whether or not there is an official name for the activity or a more official way of describing your involvement in it.

If you’re struggling with this, I also recommend you consider whether some of these activities are worthwhile. Maybe you should be doing some different things. Maybe you should not be doing things if you can’t describe them in a way that’s tangible, that demonstrates some value.

By giving formal names to activities you spend time on, they become much more concrete.

Again, these activities are something you can list on a cover letter, resume, or a LinkedIn profile that communicates to people that you have the foundational knowledge and skills that are needed for that next role.


6. Dedicate Time for Networking

Make networking a regular part of your work. Think about where you can dedicate and commit, and what cadence you can commit to. Then make sure that you are having informational interviews or mentoring conversations on a regular basis.

For example, I try to do this for at least 15 to 30 minutes once a week.

I meet with people who are senior to me, who are more junior to me, who are lateral to me, who are in my same discipline and domain and who are in other ones.

Really try very hard to focus on networking. Don’t fall into the easy trap of not having time for this.

Consistency in networking is the #1 thing that separates those who succeed in career advancement and those who don’t. It’s not a sprint, or a one-and-done. It’s the consistency over time, so make the time.

Career development is obviously extremely important, but it’s also part of your job.

I would like to suggest (and maybe not everybody agrees), but I believe it’s not only what matters to you personally, but it is part of your job to continue to develop and grow professionally. There are benefits to your institution, even where you are right now.

You will be more effective in your job right now if you are living these six tips. You’ll make yourself look better, make your boss look better and make your department look better.

If you really are thinking about making a major career change, you’ll want to invest some of your personal time, you’ll need energy and you’ll need to put yourself out there. But it’s really important to network on a regular basis.


Your network is bigger than you think it is.

So if you’re hearing me say I’m meeting with somebody once a week, you may be thinking, who would I even begin to meet?

Pop on over to episode 19 – where I give a four-part framework to help you create new career opportunities by networking the right way that is self-sustaining.

You really only need to have one or two effective people in your network in order to really grow.

However, you’ve got to dedicate the time and you have to make this part of your regular efforts. Not everybody is going to be able to meet with you and respond to you, but some will and connect with you for 15 or 30 minutes. They may become a regular mentor and even a sponsor.

This is the foundation and the groundwork that you’ve got to do in advance. Right before there’s that opportunity and before you want to submit a job application.

Again, we tackle how to do this effectively in The Industry Insider Webinar – doing this work before there’s a specific job you want.


How To Make a Career Change for Doctors – Final Thoughts

Whether your focus is a promotion or you’re looking to make a major career change you now have six highly actionable, concrete tips for career navigation and advancement.

They are not complicated, but they are so often overlooked.

We get caught up in day to day demands with things that feel urgent and take up our time. So, if you don’t make time for what’s really important, then you will not have time to do this.

You’ve simply got to make these tips a priority for your career growth.

No one cares more about your career and your professional satisfaction than you do, so you really need to own this.

Look at how you can work on these six tips consistently and how you can approach the way you think about your career and your career growth a little bit differently.

Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Career Rx!

Please be sure to subscribe and leave me a review on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or whatever podcast player you’re using to listen today. Also, be sure to send me your questions so I can answer them and give you a shout out on a future episode.

Bye for now,



How to Make a Career Change for Doctors: Related Resources


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