Focus your job search on the Starting Line, not the Finish Line

Once you decide to be a physician, you might say, the end is in sight.

Your educational and career pathways are mostly defined by the rigid and rigorous process of medical education and training. Your biggest choice may be your specialty and then whether or not you want to pursue fellowship training. 

Your focus is the finish line and the steps you need to cross it. Outside medical practice, the finish line is usually a distant mirage if anything is visible at all. What’s important non-clinically is getting to the Starting Line. Where to you begin, how do you begin, how do you get started. Frankly that is all that is important because unlike medical practice the Start and the Finish are not necessarily connected.  

Think about a fellow who began his career at Harvard medical school in the class of 1975… His career was set. I’m sure he saw a “finish line” in those early years. However, fate, not choice, altered a promising medical career away from clinical practice and towards a new start in research. Yet, continuing to look at “starting lines,” he began offering political articles to the New Republic. Today he is one of the most respected conservative voices in American journalism. I’m also sure his focus continues be be on what he can start rather then where he will finish. He is Charles Krauthammer.  

What we start begins creating options and opportunities. Focusing too much on where we finish creates constriction and frustration. Few finish lines stay in place. They become moving targets and when all our preparation no longer leads us to that desired finish, it is frustrating.  

But starting too, often leads to frustration and the need to start and restart again. Yet, by keeping your focus what you can begin rather then where you will finish, will keep you thinking fresh and vibrant and most likely lead to success. 


Consider the young man who began a dismal political career in defeat for a State Legislature. He refocused on a political appointment, where he succeeded, but his personal business failed. He refocused again on elected office and won but shortly afterward suffered a nervous breakdown. His life continued in a boom and bust spiral until 28 years later… ever focusing on Starting Something, he was elected the 16 President of the United States. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/failures.htm 

Focusing on beginnings, on the starting line, forces you to take positive steps to advance. Focusing on the finishing line leads to the lethargy daydreaming about where you want to end up while you accomplish little in the process, or mires you in the muck of indecision about how to start your journey.  

Of course we need and want to have goals, but trying to shape your new nonclinical career around a specific end point… exactly what job do I want, will keep you from leaping from the Starting Line when the gun for the race is fired.  

I wrote recently about the difference between using a compass to guide your journey and a road map. Road map thinking is entirely focused on the end point. It sometimes rewards you for driving past rewarding points of interest on your journey. Compass thinking allows you to alter your course and take advantage of every useful and valuable stop along the way. The same is true when you focus on the starting line rather than the finish line.  

If you want to be successful, regardless of your career direction, Start Something!