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Introduction

As we look forward to welcoming the new year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your professional achievements in 2022. Whether you’re a med student or have been in the workforce for many years, everything you’ve learned and experienced this year will not only add to your value in the industry, but it will also serve you for many years as you progress professionally.

Have you thought about where you would like to take your career in 2023? If not, now is a good time to start planning. Defining your career path will help you identify future opportunities, a timeline to achieve them and what you should be doing to attain those opportunities. Never underestimate the value of a career plan – it helps you stay focused on your goals so you can feel a sense of accomplishment in both your career and personal life. Working through a list can be much more satisfying than winging it.

In last month’s article we discussed what a career plan is, why you need one and who can assist you in developing and implementing your plan. This month, we go deeper into how you can create your career plan following nine career planning tips that I’ve gathered from working with many doctors at every stage of their career. These useful tips will help you start, or revise, your 2023 career plan.

Start early and review your plan regularly

Do you have a plan for 2023? (Ours is at the bottom of this article.) It can be as simple as using a spreadsheet to document what you want to achieve and complete each month. This can be your working calendar and checklist. Include things like training, workshops, and other education. Do your research on the dates they’ve been scheduled, and don’t forget to make a note to follow up with your manager on whether your organisation can fund the training.

Include regular reviews of your plan to check off completed items. Factor in reviews of upcoming events to make sure they are still aligned with your goals at that point in time. Things can change for many reasons so your career plan should be flexible and adaptable. Regularly reviewing your plan will keep it current and keep you on track (even if that track deviates occasionally).

Know what you really want

Think about what excites you – is it research, working with patients, volunteering, leading teams on projects? If you want to try something new or move away from a toxic environment, identifying what make you happy will help you see other paths your career can take. If you’re not sure what you really want yet, then think of specific tasks or activities that you enjoy. Once you list them, you’ll be able to identify which roles include those activities and in which clinical or nonclinical fields.

Add these as requirements to your short-term goals list. Then get feedback on your list from someone you trust. Sometimes getting an objective viewpoint can provide the clarity you need to know what you really want.

Be prepared for unexpected twists and turns

Now that you have your short-term professional goals documented, make sure your CV is up to date. Opportunities can arise out of the blue and you want to be prepared. While you can plan ahead for a number of years, the truth is that the medical industry, both clinical and nonclinical, is constantly changing. There will be opportunities that just don’t exist today and can’t be planned for. Stay alert to industry developments and be prepared for any unexpected and interesting deviations to your career plan.

If a unique opportunity arises – grab it!

Do your research

As you plan your career, you will need to understand the landscape that you want to work in. For example, prevocational trainees should be aware of college requirements, while senior medical staff will need an understanding of what’s entailed (including requirements) for any job they’re aiming for. Know the prerequisites for the roles in your plan. Do your research so you are in the best position to apply for those roles, without delay, when the opportunity presents.

Balance professional and personal priorities

Whether you’re planning a clinical or nonclinical career path, you’ll need to factor in time to spend on your personal life, including if you have a family. Work/personal life balance is something you need to continually work on – it doesn’t just happen.

When working on your career plan, add in time for family events (birthdays, weddings etc), overseas travel, hobbies or sports. Adding personal activities and events means you can accommodate them alongside your professional priorities.

When working out the balance between your professional and personal lives, think about where you want to work and live, how much time to spend away from home, how many hours you really want to work each week, and whether that means working parttime, fulltime or casual.

Balancing your priorities is especially important to avoid burnout and overwhelm.

Know your level of ambition

Are you the type of person who is content to stay in your current role? Or do you aspire to one day move into an executive or other senior role? There is no right or wrong with either of these scenarios. It is your decision to make. However, to ensure your career plan is realistic with appropriate goals, you do need to know yourself, where your interests lie and how ambitious you are.  These factors will influence the goals you set for your career path.

Have a Plan B

If you don’t get into a particular role or training program, think about what else you can plan to do. For example, you may choose to extend the timeline for achieving the goal that requires the training to be completed, or you may decide to look for alternative options.

When aiming for something that is highly competitive, having a Plan B can be helpful to keep your career moving forward. So, if you miss out on a training program in 2023, what else can you do to build your skills while waiting to register for the next available training program? Or are there similar programs that you can apply for instead?

Plan for transitions ahead of time

With any career path, there will be a time when you will have to hand over to someone else. Whether it’s during rotations, moving up to the next level in your field, progressing from fellow to consultant or consultant to executive, including transitions in your career plan will ensure you’re prepared well in advance to execute it seamlessly and efficiently.

Factor in handover time for logistics, connections, requirements, documentation, and responsibilities. Having systems in place will make transitions easier.

Build confidence in yourself

Do you feel that you have what it takes to successfully apply for a role? You may be confident in your current role but not about trying something new. Or you have been unsuccessful when applying for roles and your confidence has taken a hit. Don’t let this stop you from seeing the bigger picture. Make sure you list all the roles you want to aim for. The key is to not give up on yourself. If you don’t try, then you can’t succeed.

As I’ve worked with many doctors who have lacked confidence, I will be focusing on this in more detail in next month’s January article.

Conclusion

If you want to make real progress in your career next year, start planning now. Use these nine tips as a guide to get started on creating a roadmap for your success. If you need help getting clarity on what you really want to achieve and develop a strong career plan, contact me. I’m here to help you create a balance between work and personal life, while achieving your professional goals. Make 2023 your best year yet!

And here’s our plan for some of the events already on the Standout Medical Careers 2023 events calendar.

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