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Proactive Career Planning for Health Professionals


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by Sharon Hull in Career Planning
August 7, 2012


I am writing this post as a welcome to the Class of 2012-2013 at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Family Medicine Faculty Development Fellowship.  I will be meeting this year’s class in a few days, and leading them through a year-long exploration of what I call Proactive Career Planning©. This post is an introduction to that concept, a discussion of some key concepts that are relevant to health professionals as they think about their careers, and some resource links that may serve as guideposts for this process.

What Is Proactive Career Planning?©

This concept began for me when one of my earliest professional mentors, Dr. David Brewer, met me on the first day of medical school.  He asked me (and many others, it turns out), the classic “reporter’s questions,” based on the old “who, what, where, when, why and how” items all journalists are trained to ask.  For Dave, these questions were tweaked to fit the situation, tailored for the anxious, overachieving brand-new medical students he faced.  Here is what he asked me:

        1. Who are you?
        2. What is important to you?
        3. Why is it important to you?
        4. Where do you want to go?
        5. When do you want to get there?
        6. How do you get there?
I have returned to these questions often during my non-linear career path, and they have always served me well.  They continue to serve me even today.  From these questions arise the path I have described as Proactive Career Planning.  It consists of six steps:
        1. Know yourself – answer Dave’s five questions
        2. Decide whether there is anything you want to change about your current career or work life
        3. Develop a change strategy (knowing that even “no change” requires a strategy)
        4. Implement your strategy
        5. Anticipate “curve balls”
        6. Continually reassess your progress
The idea that one’s career is a living, breathing thing, under your own control, is a new way of thinking about this process.  Understanding that you always have a choice, and that there are tools and strategies that help you plan proactively and respond to the unexpected in ways that ultimately serve you and those you care about well, is reassuring to many. The idea that we can explore this together, and learn from each other’s journeys, is a new approach to career planning that holds a great deal of potential for fun, support and great outcomes.  Join me as we launch the process.

Suggested Readings:

For those who are interested, I recommend a reading from David Brooks of the New York Times, in an op-ed he wrote a few years ago entitled, “The Summoned Self.”  I will also offer, for those who are interested, the following links to other posts:
Finally, I will link to another recent blog post I wrote from a few weeks ago about a book I read recently titled, “Turning Pro,” by Steven Pressfield.  The book’s applicability to career self-reflection and planning is tremendous and I would highly recommend it as well.
Looking forward to meeting everyone, and for those of you reading this post who are not part of the fellowship, please feel free to contribute to the online discussion here.






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Sharon Hull, MD, ACC

President and CEO at Metta Solutions, LLC
Hi, and welcome to Metta Solutions.I am a physician and a professional executive coach .  I help people thrive by coaching them to manage change, grow their careers, develop as leaders and integrate personal and professional goals. My passion is working with self-reflective individuals and organizations to help them achieve their goals.  Subscribe to the Metta Solutions Community here.
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