Every person who has ever started a business and needed funding, whether from their local bank or from the high-pressure world of venture capital or private equity is always asked the same question, “what’s your exit strategy.”
Interestingly, no financial institution has likely ever asked a physician that question when approached for a startup loan for a new practice. For physicians, their exit strategy is assumed… retirement, disability or death.
However, more and more physicians today are finding it’s time to exit early, but without a strategy. So let’s talk about the strategy of exiting and of getting your ducks in a row to make transitioning from clinical practice to a nonclinical job or business as orderly and positive as possible.
First, it matters whether you own your own practice or you’re an employee. Being a practice owner is easier. You have more control over your schedule. You can arrange your schedule to allow business hours on the phone, for meetings and for travel to conferences for networking and education. You can tell your staff you’re adding some career interests rather than leaving practice – which you never want to announce until you actually lock the door. And you may be able to add nonclinical career activities at a proportionate rate to ratcheting back on practice.
If you work for someone else, then your efforts during business hours and taking additional time off will need to be much more structured and planned. You will just need to be more orderly and exercise more discipline in your efforts.
Regardless of your status, draft an exit strategy based on how soon you wish to be in a nonclinical career, start at your target end point and work backwards. If you’ve read other third_Evolution articles or blog posts, you’ll know why you can’t just call a recruiter and send off your CV. You should be planning a networking strategy that is based on meeting a variety of people who will actually help you refine your career focus and introduce you to important people who can help you find or create the right job or business opportunity.
Your strategy should include timing milestones, people you want or need to meet, people you already know who may be knowledgeable of your objective or may know other people who may be knowledgeable of your objective. One of my adages is, “you never know who the people you know, know.” You should also plan on attending meetings and conferences that address your career focus.
What your draft strategy will show you is that it will take more time, longer, than you expect, and that it will require more effort, meeting and attending, than you expect. When you actually start writing down and enumerating meetings and activities, you will undoubtedly determine additional steps that will be helpful – perhaps publishing some material on LinkedIn, or becoming active on someone else’s blog, or seeking out opportunities to speak at events rather than just attending.
Here is your strategy development checklist – it’s about six degrees of separation.
- Industries of interest. Do you think you want to work in pharma, media, finance? Whatever your choice or choices, identify starting points.
- Look for people in those industries to speak with. They may be people you know or they may be the friends of your friends. Regardless meet and learn from them.
- Attend programs and events. Look for conferences, seminars and other evets where people from your target industries gather. Go, listen, learn.
- Identify where your needs cross. From meetings and conversations, identify and list where your interests, skills and knowledge intersect with the needs in your target industry.
- Draft your stump speech and other marketing and presentation materials to highlight and illustrate your value to that industry.
- Network, Network, Network.
As you can see all this takes time, so plan accordingly, but plan.
Lastly, if you've already made the move to a nonclinical career, you'll need to read about your Career LifeCycle.