Welcome back to the PNC podcast. Today I'd like to discuss 5 simple tactics that will hasten your transition to a nonclinical career. [Note: this material was originally presented as a guest post on Look for Zebras. You can find many other useful articles and resources related to nonclinical careers there. – John]

Before we get started, I want to thank our sponsor, the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program offered by the Haslam College of Business. You’ll remember that I interviewed Dr. Kate Atchley, the Executive Director of the program, in Episode #25 of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest running and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. Unlike most other ranked programs, which typically have a duration of 18 to 24 months, this program only takes a year to complete.  And, it’s offered by the business school that was recently ranked #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA program, by Economist magazine.

More About PEMBA Students

University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations by contributing at the highest level while earning their degree. The curriculum includes a number of major assignments and a company project, both of which are structured to immediately apply to each student’s organization.

Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations and have become entrepreneurs and business owners. If you want to acquire the business and management skills needed to advance your nonclinical career, contact Dr. Atchley’s office by calling (865) 974-6526 or by going to vitalpe.net/physicianmba.

Alright, let’s get to today’s episode, in which I describe some simple tactics you can implement to help hasten your career transition.

My Story

I was working full time as a family physician, with a fairly busy practice. Other clinics and committees sought my help. In the early years of my practice, I joined the CME Committee at my hospital. And I filled in at the family planning clinic. Later, I began to cover a few shifts at the hospital’s new occ-med clinic.

simple tactics carrot

Later they asked me to provide part-time administrative support. This included developing policies and procedures, supervising a PA or NP, and doing a walk-through of a local factory.

As the demands on my time increased, I cut back my clinical duties. I made these changes over several years without any specific plan.

Management is Challenging and Fun

I really enjoyed the management work, and looked for more opportunities to do it.  Thinking it would help with my occ-med work, I pursued a master's degree in public health.  I finally started to seriously consider a full-time career in hospital management 13 years after residency.

The tedium of daily practice, increasing paperwork, and declining reimbursements partly fueled my desire to make the shift. But most of it came from a passion to work in teams, participate in projects, improve quality of care, and bridge the communication gap between my physician colleagues and the hospital C-suite.

How to Expedite Career Transition

Looking back, the process could have been a lot more intentional. I’ve since learned simple tactics that can expedite the search for a new career. Entrepreneurs developed these tactics to accelerate business growth. But they certainly apply to career transition, also.

I can think of 5 simple tactics that I could have used, or used more effectively, to expedite my career pivot.

Who Best to Use These Methods?

These tactics are best used once the following conditions have been met.

  • You're committed to changing careers;
  • You have narrowed your new career to one or two fields;
  • You’re frustrated by the slow progress you’re making.

5 Simple Tactics

Here are the five simple tactics that I’ve found to significantly expedite the process. I know they would have helped me immensely if I had used them from the beginning. And they’ll help you to pursue almost any nonclinical career or side hustle, not just the one I chose.

1. Develop a WRITTEN PLAN

Think about and write down your personal career-focused mission, vision, and goals. Use SMART goals [specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited] when developing your PLAN. Start with the broad brush and answer these questions for yourself:

  • What is the mission and vision for my career?
  • What is my ultimate goal?
  • Which steps should I take to get there?
  • Can I define deadlines to shoot for?

More Intentional Goals

Here is what mine might have looked like if I had been more intentional:

  • My mission is to work in hospital management at the executive level.
  • My vision is to pursue a career that provides more freedom, while allowing me to express my passion for quality improvement, continuing medical education, and medication safety.
  • The CME Committee will select me as it's chair later this year.
  • Next, I'll join the American Association for Physician Leadership, and complete at least three management courses this year.
  • I'll prepare a resume, and schedule interviews for a hospital management position at least once a quarter.
  • By the end of next year, a hospital will hire me for a management job.

One of the benefits of writing down your mission and vision is that it helps to make decisions about new opportunities. It will help direct you to what your next steps should be, and also to what you should say “NO” to.

You can determine if additional work is aligned with your mission, vision and goals, using your plan. Then, you can eliminate those that aren’t! I recall volunteering for several committees that took me down a rabbit hole that delayed my career transition.

Write dow the PLAN and review it regularly. By doing so, you'll stay on track to your ultimate goal.

The remaining four tactics are helpful for assuring accountability, while the final three also add guidance and advice.


Choose somebody who is also interested in pursuing a nonclinical job. You can meet weekly or biweekly and discuss your plans, your accomplishments, and your challenges. You’ll also follow-up on your commitments, so that you both keep making progress.

simple tactics accountability partner

Remember the mantra for accountability: Doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, how you said you would do it. Your partner will help you keep the commitments you make, and thereby expedite your transition.

3. Find one or more MENTORS

A mentor is someone who's a step or two ahead of you, has succeeded in the career that you’re pursuing, or has needed expertise. I believe that mentorships don't have to be formal arrangements.

The mentor simply needs to be willing to answer a question and point you in the right direction from time to time.

I’ve had several mentors over the years. I’m not even sure they knew they were mentors. One was a physician working as a full time chief medical officer. I occasionally called him, or cornered him during a break at a conference, and asked his advice.

The other was the CEO of my hospital. At the time, I didn’t report directly to him. But I would occasionally get his advice on how to advance my career.

The thing to remember is to use mentors sparingly. Don’t burden them too much by trying to make them responsible for your career success.


It’s been said that you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. A mastermind group is like an accountability partner on steroids.

To create such a group, identify 2 to 5 colleagues who are all striving for a similar goal. Meet on a regular basis, perhaps monthly. For the first meeting or two, you’ll get to know each other, including each other’s career goals and steps you’ve already taken.

mastermind group simple tactics

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Then each meeting should focus on one or two members. The other members ask questions and keep the person in the “hot-seat” accountable, and encourage new insights. A good description of mastermind groups can be found in the book by Aaron Walker, The Mastermind Blueprint or on Wikipedia.

By getting together regularly, you’ll help each other think of new approaches to advancing your careers, and accelerate the pace of change.

Mastermind groups don’t typically cost anything to join. A knowledgeable expert or coach sometimes creates a paid mastermind group. None are devoted to physician career transition, however.


This may be the most powerful way to expedite your search for a nonclinical career. The other methods generally don’t involve any cost. But coaching is going to require a financial investment.

By working with a coach, you're going to have access to someone who has devoted their career to helping you. A coach will help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and define your interests. She'll help clarify your goals, and work through self-limiting beliefs.

A career coach will provide practical advice about where to find jobs that align with your career goals, vision and mission. In some cases, they might have relationships with recruiters or companies that hire physicians for nonclinical positions.

I’ve spoken with many physicians who have been delighted with the outcomes of coaching. In many cases, they consider it to be the turning point in their career journey.


Let me summarize the five tactics that will expedite your search for that new career:

  1. Develop a PLAN, complete with your career mission, vision, and goals
  3. Find one or more MENTORS
  5. Hire a CAREER COACH

You don't have to use all five of these tactics. But the more that you use, the more likely you're going to shift gears and find the fulfilling career that you've been looking for.

Developing a PLAN is the most important step to expedite your search. The other tactics add accountability. And several add expert advice and guidance. I’m sure my career transition would have been much smoother, if I had used these simple tactics.

I want to sincerely thank the University of Tennessee, Physician Executive MBA program, again, for sponsoring the show today. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.

Thanks again for listening. I hope to see you next time on Physician NonClinical Careers.

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The opinions expressed here are mine, and my guest's, where applicable. While the information published is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed will lead to success in your career, life or business.

The opinions are my own, and my guest's, and not those of any organization(s) that I'm a member of, or affiliated with. The information presented is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as advice, such a medical, legal, tax, emotional or other types of advice.

If you take action on any information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult a professional, e.g., attorney, accountant, or career counsellor, before making any major decisions related to the subject matter of the blog and podcast.

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