When I speak with physicians about career objectives a key element of the conversation often focuses on job security. My clients are most often leaving a developed practice setting where, despite the vagaries of government actions, Medicare reimbursement, litigious patients and hostile administrators, seems a fairly stable environment. As physicians say daily, there will always be sick people. So, as physicians move into nonclinical endeavors, questions of security, “will there always be a job,” are paramount.
Unfortunately, very few jobs have real security. Frankly, today even medical practice is at least somewhat volatile. I’ve spoken with physicians who have been terminated because the practice changed in some way and they represented the lowest producer and thereby easiest to dismiss. It happens. Outside medical practice the reasons are very similar. Someone is evaluated as not making a significant or appropriate contribution to the company and they are terminated.
The difference is that in medicine physicians know clearly the expectations, reasonable volumes, and the like. Nonclinically, understanding the necessary contribution can be more of a challenge. One physician commented to me, “I did everything they asked, but I was laid off. Can you believe that, laid off?”
Yes, I could believe it. As I asked that physician, how well did he believe the organization could understand him, the value he could bring and the contribution he could actually make. They couldn’t. But he was punished for their mistake.
So, how do you find security. I have two rules for securing some level of security. But remember, market changes, competitive factors and various other issues completely outside your control can effect your security as well.
Rule One: Be One of One. If you’re the only person in the company who can do what you do, and what you do is necessary to organizational success, then you have a level of security. If you’re one of five physicians all doing essentially the same job, you’re easily replaced. Also, you’re easily compared.
Rule Two: Don’t just do what you’re asked, and don’t always do what you’re asked. First, what are you being asked to do? Are you being asked to perform tasks or to accomplish goals. Being asked to perform tasks may mean those around you don’t know what you should be doing or how you should be contributing. Being asked to accomplish goals, means you’re better understood and you are being treated as an executive manager/leader capable of knowing what tasks are necessary to attain your goals.
A comment about not doing what you’re asked to do. If those around you don’t understand your potential in the organization, they may begin to look for jobs for you to do. They may decide they will make you valuable. Consider what you’re being asked to do, and if you have to ask yourself why – why because it doesn’t’ seem to fit with why you thought you were hired or seems outside your comfortable skill set, then it’s time to have a matter of fact discussion with those making those requests about their perception of your contribution and how you can make yourself more valuable. That includes your boss.
In every case, look for ways to make unexpected contributions, look for ways to make your span of control and influence larger. In medical practice physicians don’t have to look for work – work finds them. Nonclinically, you always need to be seeking new opportunities. Grow the organization’s dependence on both your decisions and on your actions, and always, always, look for ways to grow the bottom line. Form follows finance, as a friend of mine used to say, so if you’re improving the bottom line, you’re pretty secure.
One final thought…. If you’ve not already made your career transition and you’re considering different types of opportunities, one of my favorite sayings is that “you’ll never fire yourself.” That is, most people associate employment with security and entrepreneurialism with risk. But again, as an entrepreneur there are no surprises and you really won’t fire yourself. Just some food for thought.