Physician December 8, 2021

How to Achieve Your Medical Career Goals

What does it take to achieve goals in your medical career? It involves more than just having a vision and working as hard as you possibly can. You’ll need to define specifically what you want to accomplish, garner support and develop a multi-step plan for achieving those goals

Then you need to take those important first steps, continually check your progress and make adjustments when necessary.

Ensure goals are clear and attainable

Assuming you have already assessed your current work situation and decided that it is time to develop goals for your physician career, the hard work begins as you set about achieving those goals.

A good place to start is by verifying that your goals are "SMART goals" that allow you to assess your progress and recognize true success in your career. The SMART acronym refers to the fundamental practices needed to achieve a set of goals. Each career goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

An example of a career goal for physicians might be, “To grow in my medical specialty to increase my salary.” It becomes a SMART goal when you make statements that fulfill these five attributes, such as:

Specific: I will increase my annual earnings by 20 percent.

Measurable: I will work with my supervisor to ensure I am meeting expectations. I will also document my progress and note any milestones throughout the year.

Achievable: I will confirm that my physician salary goal is within reason for my specialty, and can be achieved by becoming more valuable to my current organization, or in the job market.  I will talk to a physician recruiter for more insights, if needed.

Relevant: I will participate in professional development opportunities (name specific ones when possible) to build my skills and demonstrate my contribution to the organization.

Timely: I will achieve this salary increase within 18 months.

These goals and statements should be written down, and reviewed frequently.

Develop a support system

Whether you are concentrating on the next step in your career or have some long-term goals you are striving toward, it’s important to remember that success is rarely a solo endeavor. You’ll want to share your career goals with your family and loved ones, who can provide some perspective, input and encouragement.

You’ll also want to find some professional colleagues and/or a mentor who can be a good sounding board and provide more specific guidance in how to achieve your goals. If your goals are more immediate, your colleagues may even know someone with a job opening, or can point you to a physician recruiter or career consultant who has helped them in the past.

Physicians also need to engage in professional networking beyond their current workplaces, which can occur in a variety of ways. It helps to stay in touch with former classmates from med school or co-workers and supervisors at previous jobs. You can also develop contacts through your healthcare network, a medical association, professional conferences or workshops, or through professional groups on social media like Doximity.

Take the necessary steps

Once you’ve affirmed that your goals are achievable and you have shared them with your support team, you’ll need to take those first proactive steps. Feeling hesitant? Just start with the basics, and progress from there.

Let’s say your goal is to find a new physician job within the next 6 to 12 months. If that’s the case, you’ll need to:

  • Update and optimize your physician resume or curriculum vitae
  • Update your social media profiles
  • Reach out to your professional network to ask for leads
  • Talk to a physician recruiter about your options and value in the job market
  • Apply for positions that match your current and future goals
  • Prepare for job interviews and possible contract negotiation

Each goal for your medical career can be broken down into a series of steps and timelines. But don’t let the process overwhelm you. If you have trouble keeping yourself on schedule, ask a colleague or family member to help keep you accountable.

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