My days in a typical outpatient clinic have been over for some time, but I will never forget the feeling. It felt like my hundredth patient of the day with a rotator cuff repair, and as I stood holding his arm he started telling me about his cat.
I struggled to listen to the small talk as I remembered all the notes I still hadn’t finished from earlier in the week. Worse yet, I had a week’s worth of notes to do. Did I really go to school that long for this?
This wasn’t the first time that I felt stuck with my day to day in clinic. To cope with the frustration and disappointment I felt, I let my mind wander to one of my favorite daydreams. Whenever the clinic started to feel unbearable, I would dream about going back to my lawn service business. Those summers cutting lawns were so great….
I was outside
I was physically active
When I cut the lawn, it never complained, it was never “worse” after I cut it
No one could talk to me while I worked
I didn’t have to write a justification on how I cut the lawn and why it was skilled
If I wanted a day off, I asked no one and just took it
As the dream of managing my lawn mower again faded, I was struck with the reality that I didn’t like what I was doing and couldn’t see myself doing this for the next 30 years or more. But I couldn’t see another way.
As I stood there trying to get him to relax his arm, I started to question my current situation. Is this really all there is? What IF there could be a different way? Did I HAVE to settle? I didn’t completely believe it at first, but little by little I started to think that maybe there could be something better out there.
So I started looking for jobs with LESS of what I didn’t like and MORE of what I did like. The problem was, I really wasn’t certain what I wanted. I just knew it wasn’t what I was currently doing. So a trial and error process began….and took me over a decade to find my ideal career.
What I have found over the years is that everyone is seeking the ideal career. The question is how do we go about getting it and what does it look like? So I studied people who appeared to be living their ideal career. Interestingly enough, I found that NONE of them LOVED every aspect of their job. As a matter of fact, almost all of them had something they hated about it.
It caused me to think, even lawn care had its downsides….
Sometimes it would rain for a week straight and I would have to cut 20 overgrown lawns in a day
Some little old ladies gave me cookies, others were unhappy and complained about everything I did
Sometimes the summer heat was oppressive and fall can be freezing cold
The equipment breaks and delays your whole day
If you took a day off, all that meant was that you had twice as much to do the next day.
The ideal career is not some abstract concept. It is about living the 5 ideals. These are the things we should all be working toward, these are the components that make up the ideal career… and while they are the same for everyone in concept, they will be different for everyone in action. These five ideals are: When, Where, Who, Why, and Worth.
Let’s break these down:
When - To have the flexibility, autonomy, and authority to work when you want. Being able to work when you want gives you an amazing feeling of freedom.
Where - To work where you want both geographically and type of practice setting.
Who - Who consists of two parts. You want the freedom to work with the type of patients or clients you want but also the team (co-workers) you want to work with.
Why - Having a clear greater purpose to what you are doing, and working every day to fulfill that purpose
Worth - To feel a sense of deep satisfaction about what you do, as well as be compensated in a meaningful way.
On the day when I was ranging my thousandth rotator cuff, I did not plan how to get these five ideals. Rather I decided that I would try to get them. I decided that it could be possible to create something better and something that aligned with my values and desires.
To start toward you ideal career, jot down what you would want in the each of the five ideals. Also, write down where your current job hits the mark and where it falls short.
This exercise in clarity is an important step in clarifying your dream job. If you are looking for more guidance or a deep dive, check out our What’s Next Master Class.