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By Nisha Mehta, MD, a physician leader whose work focuses on physician empowerment, community building, and career longevity in medicine  

We all have different definitions of success in the workplace, and it’s important to be honest with ourselves about what those are. They will be the gauge by which we derive career satisfaction, so they are of utmost importance when considering a job.

Importantly, there is no right approach, as much as we may all know the stereotypically correct answers to give at interviews. The things that drive us and give us purpose are inherently intertwined with who we are as individuals, and after years of being told what the “right” answers are, it may require some real introspection to realize what things we are truly aiming for.

Therefore, prior to embarking on the job search, take a few hours and write down the things that you value and you think will ultimately lead to job satisfaction. If applicable, discuss these goals with your family, and even ask your friends if they agree with your personal assessment. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourself, and they will be able to get to the heart of what you really want. Taking this time to challenge what you’ve been groomed to think you want is well worth it, as over time, these things will reveal themselves in the form of job turnover.

Once this is done, you should look at each job to determine if the job is compatible with the priorities you have outlined.

If you view leadership as one of your goals and indicators of success, you are going to want to pick a job where there is a pathway to promotion or ownership. A private practice that does not offer partnership options or a position in a company where the senior leadership is not composed of physicians would likely not be a good fit for you.

If you think having more vacation or more flexibility in work hours will help you achieve work-life balance and career satisfaction, you may want to look at a large practice where there are more coverage options or start a solo practice if your specialty is amenable to flexibility in this setting. In these scenarios, you will likely sacrifice some element of compensation or willingly take on inefficiencies in practice overhead in order to have the options you want.

If you decide publishing papers or teaching isn’t something that gives you career satisfaction, then academics is likely not for you, as you’ll feel frustrated having to sacrifice time in these endeavors instead of focusing on what drives you. Remember that everything you say yes to is something else that you say no to.

For some, all efforts are aimed at achieving work-life balance, whereas for others, money or prestige may be the sole factor that is considered. Not surprisingly, for most it’s not that straightforward, and the ideal career involves some balance of these factors, which is determined by the relative weight that you place on each of them. Fortunately, the breadth of options within the job market should allow you to find a position that meets your requirements as long as you cast your net wide or are open to the idea of opening your own practice. Acknowledging the benchmarks by which we personally define success and viewing each job opportunity against those will be key for ensuring longevity at the job.