Today we have a special guest, Dr. Sylvie Stacy, founder of Look For Zebras and author of the newly released, 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians. Look For Zebras is a website that offers information about nonclinical jobs and job listings as well as a weekly newsletter.
Read on to learn more about Dr. Stacy and her new book!
Q: Can you tell us a little about where your career has taken you so far?
My first job after my Preventative Medicine residency was as Corporate Medical Director for a correctional healthcare provider. This was partly clinical, though the majority of my time was spent on administrative responsibilities, including clinical oversight of the company’s contracted facilities, utilization management, policy development, provider education, and some clinical informatics. Since then, I’ve moved to a similar organization, but in a role in which I have more of a focus on utilization management. I’ve done medical writing on a freelance or part-time basis since residency. I continue to do part-time contracted clinical work, as well.
Q: How did you get the idea for Look For Zebras?
Through my own pursuit of fulfillment in my career, I’ve realized that there is a huge amount of opportunity for physicians both within and outside of patient care. Medical training only touches on the breadth of ways in which we can use our medical degrees.
I started Look for Zebras to arm other medical professionals with the knowledge needed to be proactive in their careers.
Medical students are often told, “When you hear hoof beats, look for horses, not for zebras,” meaning you shouldn’t chase rare diagnoses in your workups.
But the opposite is true of our careers in medicine. “Hoof beats” in our careers can be opportunities for jobs, side gigs, networking, or any other professional activity. The “zebras” are those rare opportunities that are a perfect fit for our interests, that will help us achieve our professional goals, and that compensate well.
Q: What type of content do you find your readers like the most?
The two most popular topics are non-clinical careers and anything about ways to earn more income.
I’ve seen so much interest in information on non-clinical careers that I recently published the book 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians. It describes 50 different jobs across ten sectors in which physicians can use their medical experience and knowledge outside of a conventional patient care setting.
Q: What have you learned about physicians in transition as creator of Look For Zebras?
I’ve learned that there’s a general lack of awareness of all the unconventional jobs that physicians are a great fit for. I completely understand why this is. There is a dearth of accessible, quality information about nonclinical careers. And it’s not a topic that we’re taught in medical training.
Additionally, I’ve learned that, while many physicians realize they want to make a transition, many don’t immediately see how their experience is fitting for various nonclinical jobs.
Both of these are what motivated me to write the book.
Q: Do you have one or two pearls of wisdom for physicians considering leaving medicine?
Spend time doing two things. First, if you haven’t already, think about your long-term career goals and what truly makes you happy. It’s probably not just a high salary!
Second, educate yourself about the options. It’s not enough to submit a generic resume to the first nonclinical job posting you come across that looks interesting. Be selective in what you apply for and be able to articulate why it’s a great position for you.
Q: What do you think is one of the bigger misconceptions about nonclinical jobs?
The main myths about nonclinical medicine that I repeatedly come across are:
- We have a moral or ethical obligation to spend our entire careers treating patients.
- You need to have a ton of experience to land a good nonclinical job.
- Nonclinical physicians are responsible for the physician shortage our health care system is facing.
I go into detail about why these (and others) are misconceptions in my book because, if you believe any of these, it will interfere with having a successful transition.
Q: Besides the blog and the book, what other services do you offer physicians?
I released the book at the same time as an online quiz: What nonclinical career is right for you? It asks readers a series of questions about their preferences and situations to identify a nonclinical job that may suit them well.
One issue that many physicians face when considering nonclinical jobs is picking a specific job area to pursue. Even though the book goes into a lot of detail, I didn’t want readers to feel overwhelmed by the number of options. The results of the quiz can give readers a place to start.
Other Look for Zebras resources include a job board of nonclinical and otherwise unconventional jobs, a weekly newsletter of opportunities – The Stampede, and a few free downloads such as a resume template and contract review checklist.
Q: What are the most fun and the most challenging parts of producing Look For Zebras?
As I work to grow readership, it’s fun to see an article really take off and see the site’s visitor numbers and email list subscribers grow.
One of the main challenges is that having a successful job board requires interests from a completely separate group of people – that is, employers and recruiters. It’s not easy to appeal to two different audiences as once. This is an aspect I’m working hard at.
Q: What is the most common question physicians ask you about nonclinical careers?
They ask how and where to find jobs and consulting work. Many of them have an atypical factor that somehow makes their pursuit of a fulfilling career challenging. For example, they’re an international medical grad and haven’t been able to land a residency, or they’ve taken years off from practicing medicine to raise a kid, they’ve lost their license.
Everyone’s situation is unique and, while readers find the Look for Zebras blog helpful, they really want individualized information, as well. I’m thinking hard about ways that Look for Zebras can offer more personal services to readers.
Q: Where can people find your book?
Get your hot-off-the-press copy of 50 Nonclinical Careers for Physicians right here!
We’ve needed a book like this for a long time and Sylvie Stacy did a fantastic job. Run, don’t walk, to get your copy.