Don’t make these 4 common mistakes when applying to nonclinical jobs

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Do you remember applying for your first job out of residency? 

You were taking that big leap to become an attending and a “real” doctor. You had trained hard and developed a strong skill set and experience that spoke for itself. 

You may have had some butterflies in the interviews, but for the most part, the process was straightforward. 

You created a CV and knew where to look for jobs. In interviews you didn’t have to translate your skill set, and no one was questioning why you wanted this job. 

You’re a doctor after all!! 

Enter the nonclinical job-hunting landscape. 

It can feel more like bushwhacking in a jungle rather than following a tried and true path with bright arrows and a glossy map. 

Finding a nonclinical job isn’t easy and it’s common (and normal) to make some mistakes along the way. 

There’s nothing wrong with mistakes, and they can be great learning experiences, yet if possible, you don’t want them to cause you to miss out on a great opportunity. 

My goal is to help you find your best career path going forward, and make the process as straightforward as possible and even enjoyable. 

Yesssss, it can be!!

To this end, I want to share 4 common mistakes physicians make when applying for nonclinical jobs and how to avoid them!

There will also be some resources to help you make this all doable. 

Mistake # 1 Running away from your situation rather than towards something desirable. 

It’s easy when you’re unhappy in your job to just want O-U-T! The slogan from an old soap commercial comes to mind,

Calgon, Take Me Away!

You know it’s getting bad if you’re romanticizing working at Starbucks, being the Walmart greeter, or being carried away by a bunch of soap bubbles. 

If you’re wired like a lot of physicians, you have a REALLY high threshold for suffering and delayed gratification. You can keep grinding on for years, even when you’re not happy. 

By the time you decide to make a change, yesterday may not be soon enough. 

It’s easy to make the mistake of throwing darts at whatever nonclinical jobs will get you out of dodge. 

But you don’t want to trade one unhappy setting for another or boomerang back into medicine. 

Even if you’re a planner with a year or two on the horizon, you still want to make sure you’re moving towards a job that’s a good fit for YOU. 

The more clarity you can have around WHY you want to make changes and WHAT you’re wanting to be different, the more likely you’ll find a good fit for yourself. 

One of the first questions recruiters ask physicians in nonclinical job interviews is, 

“Why do you want to leave medicine?”  often followed by, 

“Why do you want this job?”

These questions readily differentiate which candidates are looking for the nearest life raft and those who’ve chartered a boat and have a plan. 

Taking the time to understand what’s not working in your current situation and exploring options for possible changes will give you the best chance of finding the right path forward. 

I’ve seen physicians at the crossroads go in a number of satisfying directions, including:

  • Finding ways to be happier in medicine
  • Adding in nonclinical side work for income and learning a new skill
  • Transitioning into a nonclinical career
  • Doing something out of the box – like opening a dessert franchise! (One of my clients just successfully launched her franchise during the pandemic and knocked it out of the park!)

What kind of situation or job would you like to move towards?

Mistake # 2 Applying with a CV when a resume would work better

A CV works great for getting clinical jobs. It likely opened doors for you right out of residency and beyond. And while a CV can work for nonclinical jobs, it’s not always the best option.

A resume is different from a CV in that it is written to showcase concisely how you are a great fit for a specific job. 

Often, I hear physicians say, “I’ve been applying online to jobs and all I hear are crickets!” 

They sound understandably discouraged, and also perplexed. 


“Why isn’t anyone getting back to me?” they wonder. 

This experience is frustrating and can also be a real confidence zapper. 

One of the problems is that when you apply for nonclinical jobs, recruiters spend only 7 seconds on your document to see if you’re a good fit. 

They don’t want to read a long CV to try and figure out how your experience matches the job. 

The resume is typically shorter than a CV (1 – 3 pages) and is written in such a way as to highlight your transferable skills and experience for a specific job.

Ideally, you incorporate keywords from the job description into the resume to make the case for how you’re a great match for the job.

What are keywords?

Keywords are words from the job description that relate to the skills and experience the company is looking for. 

Computer software called the ATS or Applicant Tracking System may be used by companies to screen for keywords to save recruiters time on reading every resume. 

If the ATS or recruiter fails to detect a good enough match with these keywords, you may not ever hear from the company. 

Can a CV work for nonclinical jobs?

For nonclinical jobs where there is a heavy emphasis on your clinical skills, such as in health insurance or utilization review, the recruiter may be able to connect the dots as to how you’re a good fit, even if you’re using your CV.  

For nonclinical jobs where the skills are more tangential to patient care, such as in certain pharma roles or medical writing, a resume will help you translate your skills and incorporate keywords to your advantage. 

A simple test you can do is to read the job description you’re applying for and then read your CV, pretending this is a stranger’s CV. Put on the hat of the hiring manager. Is it clear from your CV that you are a good fit for the job? If not, it might be time to create a resume. 

Regardless of whether you’re using a CV or a resume, you want your document to be THE BEST it can be. 

You only get one chance for the interview. 

You want them to call YOU!

If you’d like to learn about my DIY Carpe Diem Resume Kit which provides everything you need to convert your CV to a resume and includes a bonus on writing your cover letter, you can find it right here.

Mistake #3 – Not prepping in advance for the job interview 

How comfortable are you answering that squirrely question, So tell me about yourself? 

Or how about, What are your strengths and weaknesses? 

Are you ever caught off guard at the end of the interview when asked, Do you have any questions?

Interviews can be uncomfortable and tricky. But they don’t have to be. 

By preparing well in advance, you skyrocket your chances of acing the interview because most candidates either wing it or don’t know how to prepare. 

Good interview prep starts well before you ever apply for a job. You can start today!

It’s true. At least 50% of your prep can be done in advance by practicing the commonly asked questions. 

One of the keys to doing well in the interview is feeling confident. The path to confidence is preparation. 

Part of good prep involves having a collection of short (<1 min) vignettes or stories you can pull out of your back pocket to answer the behavioral type questions. 

Behavioral questions are how the interviewer assesses how you respond in a variety of situations. These questions usually start with, Tell me about a time when, or, Tell me how you handled such and such…

It can be hard to come up with relevant stories when you’re put on the spot. 

Your mind freezes up and you hardly remember where you were born or what you had for breakfast. 

Just like creating your resume, preparing for an interview is something very doable, you just need to devote some time and have a plan. 

If you’d like to read the blog on preparing for a nonclinical job interview, please click here. 

Mistake # 4 – Not being on LinkedIn 

A lot of physicians ask me, Do I need to be on LinkedIn? 

My answer is that no one has to be on LinkedIn, but….

If you’re considering a transition or actively job-hunting, LinkedIn definitely has some advantages. 

As the number one professional networking platform with over 575+ million members, LinkedIn is fast becoming the go-to place for recruiters and job seekers. 

One of my clients recently landed a great nonclinical job, and it all started on LinkedIn when she connected with a recruiter at her company of interest. 

Some of the ways you can use LinkedIn are to:

  • Have a profile – this shows you’re up with the times
  • Network with physicians in nonclinical areas
  • Apply for jobs
  • Be found by recruiters for nonclinical jobs
  • Establish your platform by posting articles, video, and other content


One of the fun things about LinkedIn is that you can put more of your personality into your profile than you can on a resume or CV. This is helpful if a recruiter is trying to distinguish you from other qualified job applicants. 

A photo of your beautiful, smiling face helps recruiters connect with you as a person

Then there is the guy with the picture of his whole family, including his baby in diapers. You don’t need to be this memorable!

Some of you are hesitant to go on LinkedIn because you worry about privacy. One thing to consider is that if you’re in practice, your professional information is already on the internet. When you create your LinkedIn profile, you have 100% control over what’s on your profile and with whom you connect.

Another example of how LinkedIn can be a great tool is by searching on your alumni network to find physicians to network with. The search can include where you went to college, medical school, residency, and any other degree programs you’ve done. 

This is one of my favorite ways to network on LinkedIn.

Imagine you want to be able to talk with a physician who has transitioned into a nonclinical area but you don’t know anyone. 

In a general search on LinkedIn, you can potentially find physicians who will do informational interviews with you, but it can be hard to get a total stranger to say YES! However, if you reach out to a physician who attended the same school or training program as you did, there’s an instant feeling of connectedness.  

That person is much more likely to want to talk to you and help you out. 

To read my blog on how to network on LinkedIn using your alumni network, click here. 

If having to do these things to find a nonclinical job seems daunting, I want to assure you that it is doable. 

You’ve done many harder things, and you don’t need to worry about anyone dying as you learn these skills. 

Here’s a recap of the resources mentioned:

Blogs:

How prepared are you for a nonclinical job interview?

Having trouble networking on LinkedIn? Try this. 

Carpe Diem Resume Kit – Everything you need to convert your CV to a resume plus a bonus on creating your cover letter. 

All the best to you on landing that great job!

Carpe Diem, 

Heather

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The coaching I have had with you has been life changing."

You helped me find the courage to seek out leadership positions and become a medical director as well as a physician advisor. I am grateful we crossed paths and am a different person because of it. You have inspired me to "believe" in spite of my inner skeptic. I consider you one of my most important mentors and am proud to also call you a friend. This says a lot given the apprehension I felt when I took a chance with our first coaching session. Even though I have already made a successful transition, I still value your ongoing mentorship and can enthusiastically attest that the value of your services is tremendous!

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“I was at a crossroads in my medical career. I asked myself, "Do I stay or do I go?" 

I met Heather at the SEAK conference. She and I revisited this question.  Did I want to quit being medicine completely? She helped me to identify my needs, wants, and my vision for my FUTURE, not just in medicine, but in life!!!

She was able to listen to my "ramblings" about becoming a stand-up comic, lounge singer and voice-over actor and translate them into action steps.  I chose to become a composite of all of these. Now I am a more confident, healthier, happier person. I credit this in its entirety to the tutelage I have received and continue to receive from Heather.  She cares. She listens. She was there for ME.  She will be there for YOU!

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Anesthesiologist
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“I am forever grateful to Heather for helping me to recognize, I am more than just my M.D." 

Heather helped me understand that I am more than just a doctor and that my experiences in clinical medicine are valuable in so many arenas.  As a result I realized that there are other ways to use my background, still be able to help people and continue to challenge myself and grow.  To that end I discovered coaching - specifically health coaching.  I am on my journey becoming a health coach and truly loving it!

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“Thank you, Heather, for helping me transform my career, my faith and my life."

What started out as an initial thirty-minute consultation call turned into an amazing four-year journey that transformed my life, personally, spiritually and professionally. 

Heather helped me to discover my passions...by doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth...

Today...my wife and I are opening our first concierge medicine clinic in a community we love. I’m actually excited to have the opportunity to practice medicine the way I believe it’s meant to be, with a focus on the doctor-patient relationship and an emphasis on faith. I know if I had not reached out to Dr. Fork, my life would not be where it is at today.

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“Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart."

She is incredibly knowledgeable about the range of careers available to physicians and provided me with advice and connections which I would not have found on my own.  From the start she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try different things.  I was laid off unexpectedly in early 2017, and Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart and making decisions based on trust, not fear.  Now I am enjoying working part-time in a clinical setting in addition to teaching and writing.

- Sue Zimmermann, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon
Devki Patel

After months of struggling to find a non-clinical career that matched my values and passion, I stumbled upon Heather's website which truly changed my life."

Heather's insightful and personalized approach to career coaching made me think outside the box since she took the time to evaluate my personality, values, interests, and preferred lifestyle.

Through her encouragement, practical advice, and professional connections, I was able to find a non-clinical position at a state Medicaid agency that aligned with my passion for population health and serving low-income communities. In addition to her coaching sessions, Heather has built a community of like-minded physicians through her blog, and I feel honored to recommend her to friends and colleagues who seek to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives.

- Devki Patel, MD

Pathologist
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Working with Heather ultimately helped me leave my job in corporate healthcare and find a path that was much more fulfilling."

My career was going reasonably well but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling I could do better; or at least find a better long-term career fit.  

I was able to find a surgery job that better aligned with my goals and professional interests.  Additionally, Heather helped me start a consulting business which has allowed me to pursue a true passion: helping medical students, residents, and attendings surgeons navigate the challenges of high-stakes standardized exams.    

If you are reading this as a “Type A” surgeon who doesn’t think coaching is for you, I would encourage you to give Heather a shot.  I’m very glad I did!

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Through our work, I learned to trust myself to make good decisions for my own future – something I hadn’t realized I was struggling with because as an emergency physician, I make life-changing decisions with patients every day. 

By feeding my creativity and interests in other realms of my professional life, I’ve found renewed compassion for my patients and myself, making every shift an opportunity to actually care for people. Thank you Heather. I really couldn’t have made these changes without your help!

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The simple truth is - Heather Fork totally helped me change my life."

I never would have had the courage to make the changes I’ve made without her unwavering support, wealth of knowledge and commitment. 

When I first started working with Heather, I was downtrodden...I’d been practicing medicine for 20+ years and yet had never quite found my place.  During the first year I worked with Heather, I left the practice I’d been working at, and recreated an entirely new professional purpose.

I’m now an executive and leadership coach, a university professor, and a Brené Brown Daring Way facilitator, and I have never looked back.  I love what I am doing more than at any other time in my professional life and I credit Heather with seeing in me what I was never able to see in myself, until now.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself, schedule your time with Heather as soon as possible- she can help you reconnect to your purpose and reinvent your life.

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I signed up for coaching with Heather and it transformed my life. She helped me get clear on what I wanted my life to look like. We reviewed my skills, values, and strengths. She instilled hope in me that change IS possible after 50 years! 

The outcome is that I have created a life I love! I practice endocrinology part-time and own a life coaching business! Coaching with Heather is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

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I remember when she said ‘do your resume before our next meeting’, I was about to push back but she gently nudged me along and I’m glad I did exactly what she wanted me to do. We also did interview prep via Zoom and I was offered a great job in UM. She has continued to follow up even after I was offered this job, helping me with pointers about negotiating. I will totally recommend the Doctors Crossing and Heather to anyone feeling stuck like me and looking for a great coach! Thank you Heather!

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