Rediscovering Your Career Direction

“I am stuck. I cannot figure out which direction to go in.  I am a physician with only 1 year of job experience. The problem is that I am no longer passionate about this specialty. Currently, I am unemployed and quite depressed. What should I do? If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate them.

Thank you for your great career tips on the 4th leg of the 3-legged career stool and all the wonderful work that you do.”

Holding Ball To Sky

  • Is it just your current specialty for which you’ve lost your passion, or the medical profession in general?
  • Is there another specialty that appears to offer more of what you are seeking, and what would be involved in making a switch to that one?
  • What attracted you to medicine in the first place, and what has changed about that?

I believe that I have lost interest in my current specialty, but I am still interested in the medical profession. I am not sure which specialty offers more of what I am seeking, but maybe internal medicine or one of its subspecialties. It would involve re-applying for residency match program, then at least 3 years of additional residency training. Helping people and my affinity for science attracted me to medicine.

What has changed?  I don’t think I understood about time restraints in seeing patients and how procedures are more prized than problem solving.

I feel lost lost because I don’t know where to turn. Everyone expects me to be gainfully employed by now.

Don’t worry about other’s expectations – all that matters is what YOU expect or want for YOURSELF.  Many people go through changes in interests, particularly as they get deeper into a particular area.  There is no shame in that.  Many start out in entirely different careers than they will pursue a few years later.  I’m one of the lucky ones – I’m in my 3rd career, and have thoroughly enjoyed all three.  About 3/4’s of the people I started out with in the Actuarial profession had completely changed directions by the time I achieved my Fellowship 5 years later.


Focus on figuring out what looks more promising to you NOW.  Think about what you’ve learned from your current specialty, and exactly what you did and didn’t like about it, and about the way it was practiced in the particular residency program and hospital in which you were working.  Try to separate what is true generally about the specialty from how it happened to be practiced there.


Now go out and explore internal medicine and its subspecialties.  Set up meetings with other doctors and residents about those subspecialties, particularly those working in them.  Find out what they love about what they do.  Explore with them exactly what it means day to day and how that aligns with what you’ve discovered gets you excited to get up in the morning, and what you’ve discovered you want to minimize.


There is no PERFECT area – all will have plusses and minuses, but if you can find something where there are so many plusses that you don’t mind dealing with the minuses, then that’s a very promising area to explore.


Don’t worry too much about the fact that you might have to go through another residency.  If that is an investment in getting to the place you will be very happy, it’s worth it.  Just do enough exploration first that you feel strongly that this is likely to be the right direction (for now).


And don’t judge it by whether it’s your dream forever.  You will change, medicine will change, specialties will evolve, just as happens in any profession.  Just seek something that is very promising for now … in another 5 years, you can re-evaluate and make adjustments as needed.  In the meanwhile, you will be doing something you enjoy, and learning a whole lot about yourself and your options…

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