A Medscape survey, recently written up in the UK’s Daily Mail website states that nearly half of all doctors regret their career choice. Furthermore, only 41% of the 25,000 doctors and healthcare professionals surveyed indicated that they were unsatisfied with their current occupation. High student loans, lower levels of compensation and greater government regulation and the threat of ‘reform’ have many doctors re-thinking their careers. Of course, in spite of great dissatisfaction, very few will make the move to another career path.
Why? What keeps people, not just doctors, on a career trajectory that is so unsatisfying? Here’s some of my thoughts on the subject:
1. The amount of training and experience invested in a career field often leaves people feeling trapped.
In Stephen Sample’s work, ‘The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership’, the University of Southern California president encourages readers to ‘ignore sunk costs’ when making a decision. I love this strategy, though I admit that it is hard to pull off in reality. The idea is rooted in the old axiom, “Don’t spend good money after bad.” The time, effort and money you’ve spent in the past doesn’t mean that staying on that same course is the best decision into the future.
2. The amount of effort required to ‘change course’ seems too great.
Change is hard. Physics tells us that at body at rest tends to stay at rest. NASA has taught us that it takes 90% of the fuel to get the rocket off the ground initially. Though the effort required could be great, starting with a willful decision to make a move to be happy. Leading this move yourself is way less painful that letting others or circumstances lead that move for you.
3. The hope that things will be better where we are.
This thought must be pursued with a great deal of personal integrity. An objective, heart-felt, data heavy, investigation of your current field will give you a clear picture if it really will get better. If you’re not capable of this kind of honest objectivity, asking people you trust who know more about your field than you do is in order.
4. The question ‘Is the problem me, or is it the career field I’ve chosen?’
Let me help with this question for you. The answer is ‘yes’. It is you, AND it is your career field that have left you unsatisfied. Again, more honest, objective evaluation is required at this point of conflict. If you make the changes you need to make in yourself, will your career field be satisfying?
I wrestled with these same questions when I made the transition from pastoral ministry to life/leadership coaching. My coach helped me in processing through these very same objections that led me to make a career move (one that I couldn’t be happier about). A coach is such a great ally in working through these types of obstacles to genuine life satisfaction. I’d love to talk to you about how and when you might need to make a move.
The Big Question: How satisfied are you with your career path? What are you willing to do about that?