A recent edition of Endocrine News that came to my mailbox talked about a crisis in Endocrinology, where fewer trainees are entering my field of specialization.Plus, of those who did enter the field within the last several years, many are leaving the traditional academic or small private practices and moving to different versions like large multi-specialty groups, or entirely new ways to use those years of medical education such as medical-legal opinions or marketing.
During my last year of medical school we had a guest speaker visit to discuss contracts. I recall this person telling us that a large percentage of us would leave our first job within 2 years. WHAT? Some estimates put it at 65% of doctors leaving their first job within 5 years. All of us sitting there could only think one thing: after all THIS, there is a high chance we would walk away from our first paying job, you must be kidding!!!??? Ah, the innocence of the unknowing.We had no idea what was ahead in our professional lives. Since graduation, I would wager that indeed the vast majority of my classmates who signed job contracts at some point have indeed moved on from those initial jobs to others, sometimes several times, even outside of advanced training purposes. The reasons are many. Forbes magazine had a sad but interesting article discussing discontent among physicians and the myriad of some contributing reasons.
In my medical school class we had several "non-traditional students" including lawyers and pharmacy doctorates who left their previously chosen fields after years of study and practice to instead pursue medicine, starting from scratch like everyone else. A search for "academics leaving academia" will yield more results than you can imagine, including a first page full of articles and blogs written by individuals doing just that. Interested in more resources? There are tons of books also talking about leaving the ivory tower, life after academics or life after PhD.
In "the old days" it was well accepted as the norm that you took on a career path(finance, government job, teaching,medicine,law etc) and stuck with it the rest of your life. These days it does not seem necessarily the case anymore, and for careers that take an initial investment of many years of study it can be jarring to witness someone make the leap from one career path to another. What is going on here? Are we now within a generation that has such different expectations of jobs and life that the old plan of finding a career you "stuck with" is no longer the norm? And if so, is that good, bad or just different? I remember thinking in medical school how incredible it was that someone would go through law school and all the way into practice only to change her mind and come back to another intense post graduate path of study.I didn't understand it at all really, not back then. But now I do, as do many of my friends and colleagues in medicine and other career paths.
I have found this is a topic that can be quite polarizing--the early professional career crisis and where it leads, or should lead. For some people the fact is simple: after you incur that much debt of time, effort, emotional and mental investment as well as financial debt, you stick this out and find a way to make it work for you. For some others, life is simply too short and filled with other important aspects to devote a large percentage of daily time( and years upon years of a lifetime) to a job you don't enjoy.
Nope, I can't tie up this blog simply and neatly. I don't have an answer and even if I claimed to, it obviously would not be right for everyone as all circumstances are so different. I think a big career leap should not be taken lightly, but I don't think many adults would take it lightly anyway. I do think being happy with your chosen career path/job is important as we can spend the majority of our waking lives at work. But I also accept that there is no perfect job, and that there will be days with bumps in the road or snags in the carpet that make some periods of time at work less than ideal.Or outright miserable. If those periods are relatively contained and brief, then you stick it out.If not, consider moving on. But again, this is my point of view, and unlike much of Endocrinology I have no numbers to specify when I would even make those decisions myself(what? An Endo not using numbers to explain something? Unheard of!). Leave after 2 years? 3 years? 6 months? I don't know.
What I have come to appreciate is that the early career crisis can be a good thing.It does not make you "flaky" or "indecisive" as some may think. Wanting to be happy at work is not entitlement, it is a reasonable goal for all of us. While I make some of those tough decisions myself, I have learned to keep an open mind and open eyes during these years of our productive working life. That career path chosen years ago may take some turns you don't expect and off-roading(temporary or permanent) may be more fun that you thought.