Dr. Mary Mason is the CEO and founder of Little Medical School.
As a medical school admissions committee member, I have the honor of reading and reviewing the applications and essays of outstanding pre-meds, hoping to land a coveted spot in the medical school of their dreams. Most personal statements outline a well-thought-out plan for the rest of their lives. The path to a career as a highly specialized medical professional can take years and require planning to keep on track. But is it fair to expect a 22- or 23-year-old to map out the rest of their life?
Over-planning your path can lead to missing unexpected opportunities and spontaneous decisions that could lead you to greater career satisfaction in any industry.
Here are some tips to ensure you take advantage of those great opportunities along your career path.
1. Remind yourself why you chose your dream job.
What specific duties or responsibilities appealed to you about it? Was there some event in your life that made you want to do this? Or is it something you are pursuing because it looks good on paper and makes a family member or loved one happy? Knowing these reasons is critical, especially when you struggle or are reconsidering your career choice. Sometimes it is difficult to remember why you wanted to do this in the first place, and that should be a significant red flag.
2. Don’t throw good money at bad money.
Time is money, and don’t get in the rut of feeling that you have already spent so much time and tuition that it is too late to change career paths now. Education and experiences are always well-spent. You may have gone to law school because your mother wanted you to and then realized it was not for you. If you shift into business, your knowledge of the law can undoubtedly be helpful.
3. Impulsive decisions are often regretted.
You had a bad day, your boss yelled at you, and you are ready to throw in the towel and quit the job that required six months of on-the-job training. Sleep on your decision before firing off that late-night resignation email. Things often look better after a good night’s sleep and a cup of morning coffee.
4. That being said, it is OK to make a change.
Once you take the time to give some thoughtful reflection, talk with trusted friends and confidants and research your options. Permit yourself to change your career path if that is what makes sense for you. We often worry about what others will think or that our parents will have to tell the neighbors why we are no longer pursuing the profession we set out to do. Remember, this is about you and your life’s happiness, not what you posted on Facebook or announced at the last family reunion.
5. Permit yourself to be happy in your career.
So many of us spend most of our waking hours working and promoting our careers. If you love what you do, overall life satisfaction and happiness are much higher. And don’t worry about what others think or that your parents might not have the bragging rights about your career and job they were hoping for. This is a time to be selfish and think about what makes YOU happy.
Choosing what career and fields of interest to pursue ranks up there with our most important life decisions. Some of us know what we want to do “when we grow up” when we are in kindergarten; others are still trying to figure it out in their 50s. When we allow ourselves to be open to opportunities and unexpected career paths, we have the best chance to find the dream job that aligns with our passions and does not seem like work at all.
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