What Direction Can Your Career Take: 5 Ways to Think Big

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Aligning With Values & Purpose,Career Resilience & Fulfillment

When my physician clients first come to me for coaching, they often view their career options in one of three ways:  1) they have no idea what their options are, or 2) they have too many ideas and can’t sort them according to what’s realistic or practical, or 3) — and this is the most common — they have a “kinda sort of” idea of where they want to go, but they are aiming too low!


An Exercise to Expand Your Thinking

While the universe of physician career possiblities is pretty broad, I am more interested in your PERSONAL universe of possibilities.  Here is an exercise that will help you map out the directions your career can take.  The exercise will only take about 20 minutes, but here are the rules:

1) Be open and expansive with each Direction

2) Do not SKIP over any of the Directions assuming that it doesn’t apply to you

3) Think BIG 


Instructions: For each of the 5 Career Directions below, write down 1-3 ideas that come to mind. Try not to analyze too much (analysis DOES cause paralysis) and certainly don’t talk yourself out of including an idea. The purpose of this exercise is to OPEN yourself up to possibilities that you have not considered and to get on the table those ideas that you have been too shy or hesitant to own up to!  After you create your list, show it to a buddy, mentor or coach, and have them challenge you think even bigger, more expansively!

——— 5 Directions Your Career Can Take ———-

 Up – Advancement in current organization

 Lateral – Change of scenery, expansion

 Deeper  – Core mastery, local Yoda

 Out  – Non-clinical, non-healthcare

 Sabbatical  – Take a break

The healthcare MBA students had a lot of fun walking through this last week.  It was revealing to them how many options they had and it was empowered them to THINK BIG.

Sometimes What Holds Us Back is Our Own Small Thinking

The purpose of this exercise is not just for tactics.  When we give ourselves permission to think big and expansively, we realize that our own bias is often what holds us back from pursing a direction.  The direction was here all along, and we become “ready” not when we get the MBA, but when we allow ourselves to think big.

Another goal of this exercise is to spot those ideas that brought out a “spark” in us. It is likely that the idea that caused a tingle in you one your heart-spirit wants to pursue.  No escaping now!

And finally, a third rationale for generating this list is is to introduce you to the fact that you can potentially propose an idea to your supervisor or within your organization.  Positions are created all the time based on someone’s wil and crazy notion about what they want to do.

If there is one piece of coaching advice I can give, it’s this:  Think bigger! Aim higher! There’s genius in boldness!

I’m curious to hear what you come up with after you go through this exercise.  Email me with your list and let me know what insights you gained.

In a previous article I introduced the topic of identifying your career direction by first looking at the “Determinants” – which are the forces that guide direction once you generate the possibilities.  Here is the link to that article

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