In my day job, I field many questions regarding career management and what factors play into your individual “position” everyday when you wake up. This is a foundational principle for this blog and for physicians. Let’s define someone’s position for our purposes.
Your position is the combination of principles and circumstances you bring with you to any situation.
Your position will play a large part in shaping how you respond in certain situations, and quite frankly, how successful you will be in many of your professional endeavors.
If there is anything I can impress upon you on this blog, it is to manage your position. Many doctors not only don’t manage their position, but they don’t even know what their position is.
That is an extremely dangerous from both a career and life perspective. If other people know more about you than you do, then they can easily manipulate you. Conversely, if you don’t know the basic elements of yourself and your situation, then you cannot leverage them to steer your ship in the direction you want to go.
The Three Elements
I define three major aspects as part of your position:
Knowing and appropriately leveraging these three aspects will give you the best chance of success in any situation, inside or outside of the hospital.
Let’s explore the three elements further so you, not someone else, can be in charge of your position.
There is a reason that the first post I wrote on this blog was entitled “The Mission is the Answer.” The mission is always the answer, whether we are talking about an organization or a person. You have to know what it is that you do and why you do it.
Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you practice medicine? What are your fundamental life beliefs? What are your religious beliefs and how do they inform your daily life?
Your personal mission is the most important part of your overall position.
Don’t worry about anything else until you figure this out. Nothing. Do not engage in negotiations over your salary or any other aspect of your life or career until you know this answer.
In addition to your ideals, your personal circumstances are included in this category. Are you married? Have kids? What types of things do you enjoy? All of these circumstances are primary to your success and should be considered carefully. A good day at home can soften a bad day at work, but a good day at work is not going to have the same effect on a bad home situation.
Doctors are like every other person on the planet. They want to be paid.
Believe it or not, you current financial position is the largest driver of your future financial position.
Who do you think is best positioned to negotiate a better salary, a financially independent physician who could afford to never work again or a debt ridden physician who has bills due every month? I hope you can see how the financially independent physician has a much higher success rate.
Having financial flexibility will also give you the independence to pursue your personal mission and professional goals independent of financial considerations. I have met physicians that have decided to join the military, open free clinics, or cut back on their patient load because, quite simply, they can.
All of them were able to do this because their personal financial position allowed them to. If your personal position leads you to what you do each day, then your financial position enables you to enjoy maximum freedom in how you do it.
Finally, its time to address your professional position. While incorporating the personal and financial aspects of your position, what do you want your career to look like?
Do you want to own your own practice in your hometown? Do you want to become the world’s leading academic rheumatologist? How about working your way up the corporate ladder of a large healthcare organization or insurance company?
Once you know the general direction, then get even more specific with your professional position. Do you want to get involved in side businesses or just focus on medicine? Do you want to provide healthcare to the masses or only focus on providing elite level care to a smaller population?
Also, consider your professional circumstances. What situation are you currently in? What relevant experience do you have? As you look around and chart your course, you will be surprised how much you can use from your current situation to chart your course.
All of these paths require very different skill sets, and I would argue that it is very difficult to do all of them at once. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change course during you career. You just have to pick one direction at a time.
I apply these three elements every day both personally and as a physician manager. I can write down something for each of these elements for all the doctors I supervise. This helps tremendously for setting individual goals and allowing each team member to contribute to the best of their ability.
You should strive to not just have your manager think about these things for you, but to consider and carefully manage them yourself.
So start thinking and get moving! Your position can be leveraged by someone else for their purposes or by you for your own. The choice is yours!