Write from your position of strength, but write about the problems of others

Most physicians wishing to transition to nonclinical careers are entering fields where, regardless of their clinical skills and reputation, are relatively if not completely unknown.  

One fast way to go from being unknown to known is to publish whitepapers, articles, or monographs addressing your desired field of work. The key challenge I see my clients facing is one of, what do I write about, and where will I publish? If you’re interested in health policy, you can certainly write about policy issues that interests you, or if your passion is corporate social responsibility, you can identify and write about some significant issue that would benefit from the attention of a corporate benefactor.  

The problem with this approach is, however, very basic. If you’re not involved actively in a field of endeavor, it can be very, and I mean very, challenging to just begin writing credibly off the cuff, so to speak.  

As regular readers have seen time and time again in my articles, the great strength of physicians, one thing physicians do better than anyone, is problem solve. Therefore, why not take advantage of one of your greatest assets, your problem solving ability, and combine it with another necessary element of career transition, networking. Network with people in your desired field in order to better understand and diagnose their problems. Your diagnosis becomes the basis of your writing – it gives you a topic (or topics) and it is credible – because your writing addresses timely and important topics. Now, you’re positioning yourself as an expert.  

I’ve written about this topic under the heading of the Research Interview, but if you simply look at it as an act of networking first, coupled with in-depth questions about “industry” problems, challenges, unmet opportunities, and the like; first, the person you are networking with will certainly see the depth of your thinking and you will gain valuable information. Now you have appropriately and timely material about which to write a problem-focused article.  

Step by step, how do you implement this? First identify industry people with whom you would like to network. Second, develop three to five key questions on your broad topic area. For example, what public health issue do you believe is most important and why? Then you could add some follow up questions focused on “how would you implement, how would you pay for it… etc… Third, start making calls and explaining, from your Stump Speech (this is tying all the parts together) who you are, what you’ve done and that you’re drafting an article for publication. May you ask them a few questions. Ask away.  

The next challenge is to find a publishing site. Let me recommend LinkedIn as an excellent resource to publish timely articles. Not only can you publish, but in the course of publishing, your posts may be directed to specific people and specific industry groups you would like to associate with. These posts often lead to “likes,” to “comments” and to “forwards.” This activity can then lead to new networking opportunities with those people who interact with your post.  

Of course, if you have connections with industry publications, those are also great resources. However, I publish on LinkedIn almost weekly and I find it a great resource to connect with people as well as to gauge interest in your topics or how they are presented. LinkedIn provides the opportunity to see “likes,” indicating just that… as well as comments and forwards. Each of those provides you with a gauge of your ability to communicate, to the affinity your audience has for your topics and to actually connect and expand the dialogue with other interested parties. While it’s not a Wall Street Journal byline, it does provide very direct linkage to your career objective.