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Updated: Jan 27, 2019

A Strategic Approach

This was recently posted on a forum on medical doctors in the UK's National Health Service, who enquired about transitioning careers. I provided a few tips based on my own experience:

Just wanted to share a few things I wish I had known before the transition that might help a few people. Here goes:


1.Clarify YOUR reason

Escapism is not a powerful enough reason - the transition process itself will likely be more painful than what you're doing now. Don't let your mind fool you into believing that the grass is greener on the other side. Go on holiday. Clear your head. And then decide.

2. Expect resistance

From colleagues, from friends and possibly even from bosses. If you're not comfortable with people poo-pooing on your dreams, then keep them to yourself (I kept quiet until I had my plans firmly in place). You'll have to let go of wanting people to pat you on the back. They won't - many will spit on it. Painful, but you get used to it ;)

3. Solidify your [true] support network

Talk one on one with those you think you trust. If their criticism isn't constructive (e.g. management consulting is tough - have you spoken to enough people/how can I help you make it happen), don't involve them in your plans ever again. They won't be around when sh** hits the fan (and it will).

4. Make sure the numbers add up

Bills, money running out etc. Basic, but crucial.

5. Find a mentor or coach (or many)

I had several informal ones and one professionally trained coach. When you're anxious/panicking and talking crazy, a mentor or coach will steer you back in the right direction.

6. Update your LinkedIn account

No, it's not showing off. It's signalling (of the market value of your skillsets) and recruiters DO use it to make decisions. In fact, a good friend of mine got headhunted directly off of it.

7. Consider the impact on loved ones/dependents

My wife quit her job so that we could both travel to the US. She was able to work at Yale's gym, shadow at Yale-New Haven Hospital and get back into her personal training (she's an OT who happens to be multitalented). Make sure whoever is coming with you also gains from the experience, otherwise all you'll have is a new job and a ton of resentment from those you love. Don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

8. Anticipate psychological, emotional and physical discomfort (see below)

Goes without saying.

“Consider the impact on loved ones.”


9. Expect pain (a lot of it), doubt, confusion and occasional regret

More than when you all you had to do was jump NHS hoops (see below).

10. Talk to people who work outside of medicine/avoid the echo chamber like the plague

Yes, it's pretty crappy currently. But I have known barristers who can't find jobs. Investment bankers who have been laid off and had to go back to living with their mums. Yale students majoring in economics who found a job after 80+ applications. My American compatriots get 14 days unpaid vacation (so most of them give it back).

Perspective is a beautiful thing when the pain you'll invariably feel will make you want to play the victim card.

11. Become comfortable with the above

If your reason is strong enough, you will be able to.

12. Find an anchor - faith, relationships, family etc

Otherwise you'll quit.

"Find an anchor - faith, relationships, family etc...otherwise you'll quit"


13. Be patient enough with yourself to absorb and process the psychological shock (e.g nostalgia)

14. Integrate the lessons from above


15. Keep moving forward

This is just the beginning - the real work has just begun

16. Spread the love

Share your insights. :)


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