For the past seven years, I have studied human motivation and careers. Part of those six years was spent traveling the country interviewing people who love their work. After 95,000 miles and 145 interviews, I have been able to learn from people of diverse backgrounds, ages and careers.
When I was asked to write this section, the first person that came to my mind was Dr. Hillary Beberman, a family medicine physician. Her journey to becoming a doctor was not a simple one. She left a well-established career as a financial journal writer to follow her passion in medicine. Although she enjoyed her writing job, something was missing. “The pay was great and I was exposed to some great things, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I asked, ‘Is this what I want to be doing for 50 years? Am I helping people?’ I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t know if being a financial journalist let me feel like I was doing that,” she told me.
The change hit her immediately. “In medical school I was very interested in the subject, and it was the goal I really wanted.”
Life did not stop during medical school and residency. Beberman lost her younger sister to cancer, got married between her second and third years, and had a baby during one residency. “Being a resident is brutal, and I didn’t know if this was for me,” she says. “There were times I was ready to quit. I couldn’t take it. I missed my newborn son. I said, ‘What am I doing, this is crazy.’”
But she pushed herself. “I almost quit, but this was my goal. I knew the pain was temporary, and in 20 years I’d look back and ask, ‘Why did I quit?’ Now I can say I’m so happy doing what I’m doing.”
There are many factors that go into loving your work. Yet you just don’t snap your fingers and have the job you love. The career equation is not that simple, but it can be solved. Here are two lessons from my book that have helped me, and others, on the career road.
Lesson 1: Find out who you are
In order to love your job, you need to understand yourself. That is easier said than done, but many times, we don’t put in the time and effort to know who we are. And that leads to us not being happy with the choices we make.
Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s VP of Human Resources, said, “Believe it or not, most people don’t take time to sit and think about what they want to do. We’re very much programmed to take a job to have a job. A paycheck to have a paycheck.”
The advice is to take the time and put in the effort to analyze who you are and how that ties in to your job goals.
Here are a few important questions to ask during your self-actualization process:
- When it comes to work, what do I naturally enjoy doing?
- What am I naturally good at?
- What energizes me?
- What stresses me?
- What motivates me?
- What annoys me?
Once you have the answers to those questions, the next step is to examine the big picture of your work environment. The answers to these questions will help shape your environmental choices:
- Do I want to go solo, or be part of a small or big group?
- Do I want a rural location, the suburbs or the city?
- What type of patients do I want to work with: wealthy, middle class or those in financial need?
- Do I want to see a high volume of patients in shorter bursts? Or work with a smaller number of patients for a longer duration?
- What type of physician-patient culture do I want to be a part of?
- What type of peer culture do I want to be a part of?
The more data points you can have, the better educated your decisions will be. Learn from the experiences of others. Find a physician more experienced than you. Buy him or her coffee or lunch, explain your goals, and ask for their career advice. Their stories and input will be of great benefit.
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