I went through several career transitions in my 13-year career.
Initially, I did nothing but temporary locum tenens work with stints ranging from one week to 9 months at a time. I did that for two years before transitioning to a full-time job as the chief of anesthesia at a place that I had worked as a locum.
When that hospital went belly up, I returned to the locums circuit until taking a “permanent” job in South Dakota. That lasted two years until a job opened up close to home in another hospital that I had once worked as a locum.
That final job turned out to be my best job in anesthesia, and I put about five and a half years in, retiring from medicine when we were comfortably beyond financially independent.
I had at least one more career transition in me, as I continue this blogging business in a location-independent manner that has been outstanding for our family.
Today’s guest post was authored by Sylvie Stacy, MD MPH of the website Look For Zebras. Dr. Stacy has also authored a new book, 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians: Fulfilling, Meaningful, and Lucrative Alternatives to Direct Patient Care. Be sure to check it out!
Sticking with one job for the long run is frequently touted as a great way to reach financial independence.
There’s a lot of truth to this.
Holding a single job long-term is often accompanied by consistent pay raises each year or every few years. Staying at a job means no financial losses associated with lapses in benefits, moving, or loss of 401k matches before they vest.
Additionally, physicians remaining loyal to an organization sometimes have the opportunity to become a partner in the company, which can be accompanied by a significant boost in income.
Nonetheless, changing jobs isn’t always a financial independence-killer. Everyone’s situation is different. For many physicians, a job change can help them reach financial independence.
6 ways you can move closer to financial independence by changing jobs
Here are a handful of ways that a transition in your career can assist you in achieving your financial goals. Not all of them will be applicable to all physicians or all situations.
Nonetheless, they are worth considering as you navigate the road to FI – especially if you want a job change but feel hesitant about it.
Changing jobs is one of the best ways to obtain a significant pay increase and job advancement.
According to Forbes, the average raise for employees staying in their job is 3 percent annually. In contrast, someone taking a new job can often expect a 10 to 20 percent salary increase.
Many physicians making a career transition do so by moving into positions of leadership at another company, which can be accompanied by a substantial salary increase.
Each job change is an opportunity to negotiate a compensation package. Employers make job offers with the expectation that the candidate will negotiate the salary.
Finding such an opportunity with your current employer is much more challenging. Many employers state that they have a standard process in place for pay increases, dissuading employees from trying to negotiate anything higher year after year.
Some employers bypass performance reviews altogether, leaving it up to the employee to identify a good time to ask for a raise. This is difficult, and leads to most employees simply settling for raises that hardly keep up with inflation.
Changing jobs means a significant salary increase without having to play games or navigate company politics.
You’ll take on new responsibilities and learn new skills.
One of the comforting things about staying at one job for a long time is that we grow used to the routine. We get really good at doing the same things repeatedly.
A job change frequently requires that you take on different responsibilities than what you’re used to. It demands that you learn new skills to add value to an organization that offers a different service or product than what you’re used to.
This is especially true for physicians transitioning to a career outside of direct patient care, such as a medical director position with a pharmaceutical company or a managed care organization.
The number of nonclinical job options for physicians that utilize our extensive medical knowledge, experience, and skill sets are more than most doctors realize. (If you’re interested in learning more about these, you may want to check out my new book – 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians.)
Stepping out of our comfort zone in a new position can be unnerving at first. But, in turn, new skills and proficiency in new responsibilities make you a more enticing candidate in future job searches and further assists you in gaining salary increases or opportunities for income generation.
A better schedule can allow you to earn income in other ways.
Tough schedules and poor work-life balance are two common factors that drive physicians to change jobs. A new job may have more regular hours, fewer nights and weekends on-call, and a lessened need to take work home with you in the evenings.
The result of this is more time and energy. Some physicians may use this to spend with family or engage in hobbies, which are terrific uses of spare time and energy. Others, however, may choose to pursue compensated work on the side.
Extra time that results from a job change can give physicians the opportunity to do consulting work, start a side gig, or grow a small business. Entrepreneurship is a valuable tool in reaching financial independence, as the income potential is limitless.
You can move to an area with a lower cost of living.
Career transitions among doctors are often accompanied by physical moves. Unless you need to stay in your current location due to family obligations or other personal reasons, it’s worth considering a broad geographic area in your job search.
The actual costs associated with moving may be a significant expense (though you should negotiate with your new employer to cover them!); however, the long-term results can push you toward financial independence. The reason for this is that differences in physician pay tend to not fully account for differences in cost of living.
For example, I practice preventive medicine in Jefferson County, AL, where the estimated average physician compensation is $215,976 and the median home price is just over $160,000.
If I were to move back to my hometown in Worcester County, MA, I could expect roughly the same salary, but face a 38% overall higher cost of living and a median home price of $281,000. (Sources: Doximity Career Navigator and Sperling’s Best Places cost of living calculator.)
Cost of living calculations take into consideration more than just housing. They include health care, transportation, food, utilities, and other living expenses.
If you’re vying for financial independence and you are open to relocating, being intentional about where you accept your next job can have big implications.
Expanding your network may reveal opportunities for income generation.
Continuing the same job means – to a large extent – continuously working with the same people, hearing the same ideas, and addressing the same priorities.
An expanded professional network goes hand-in-hand with a career transition. You’ll meet colleagues and coworkers within your new company. Starting at a new job in a different field or sector will bring about new connections through interactions with clients, customers, stakeholders, and external collaborators. It will also introduce you to experts within the field.
The benefits of forming new connections aren’t limited to simply knowing people. These professional relationships will allow you to share ideas, hear others’ new ideas, and stay updated on trends and developments in your field.
This can result in future opportunities with the potential to generate income and bring you closer to financial independence.
A job change will assist you in setting goals and finding personal fulfillment.
Every job change is a chance to evaluate where you are in your career. Career pivots are reminders to think about your professional goals and make sure that you’re heading toward them – even if it’s slowly or circuitously. They prompt you consider which aspects of your work bring you fulfillment and which cause you frustration.
We often forget to do these things when we’re carrying out the same comfortable routine year after year.
Having professional goals will help you establish financial goals, which will assist you in building wealth.
Conclusion: Career transitions are investments.
Think of a career transition as an investment. As with a financial investment, there is nothing wrong with taking a risk, but it should be a calculated risk. You should make a decision based on whether the preferred outcome is likely.
If you have a desire to work in another setting, industry, or organization, don’t suppress that desire without fully considering the financial implications of a career change.
If you’re burned out, frustrated with medicine, or have lost pleasure in your work, don’t keep muddling through your job based on the assumption that you’ll be financially independent sooner if you stick with it.
It’s very possible that a job change will be a favorable investment, both for your happiness and for your pursuit of financial independence.
Sylvie Stacy, MD, MPH is a preventive medicine physician and blogger at Look for Zebras. Her book 50 Nonclinical for Physicians: Fulfilling, Meaningful, and Lucrative Alternatives to Direct Patient Care was recently published by the American Association for Physician Leadership.