Medical Forum sees doctors with all manner of career needs from career choice to retirement planning, from career change to career diversification. Doubts about one’s career can emerge at odd times in even the most on track one, but doubt about one’s suitability for a career can be a significant cause for worry. If this is of a chronic or cyclical nature it can be damaging to health. Two such situations are – fundamental career mismatch and pace of work mismatch.
This most often surfaces if not at medical school then shortly after. However, some doctors feel under so much pressure to continue ( from others or themselves) that they force themselves. But at what cost? When a fundamental mismatch exists it is possible to experience ongoing and, at times, distressing career anxiety or depression. This is worsened by the fact that medicine is such a vocational degree it is hard to envisage oneself doing anything else, and others may (erroneously as it turns out) corroborate this. Career mismatch is not something someone has done wrong – it just happens. Ideally, with extensive career guidance (not just before leaving school but during the university years), this would be uncovered and alternative solutions found. However this level of career support is simply not available to medical students. Yes, there are careers departments but, with the funding of the medical school dependent on the students remaining in place, there is little if any incentive to help people look objectively at their career decision making.
Career mismatch can also appear to present later when a person’s priorities change, but in this case it is usually that the career was a good match but things have changed; whilst the career and person may be well matched still in some respects, overall they want something different now to what they wanted ten years or so earlier. There is also a possibility that career mismatch was present early on but was just not spotted or acknowledged. It is worth pointing out here that you are entitled, of course, to change your mind; your career is not an episode of Mastermind – ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.