My Biggest Pearl From 2014 – Can You Guess?

Photo by Gemteck

Photo by Gemteck

The biggest, shiniest, most powerful pearl I can share with you from 2014 is if you want to succeed in your career transition, you must network! Not once, not twice, but on a regular basis. Think flossing. It’s been said a thousand times over, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And for good reason. Knowing the right person can make the seas part. The right person can connect you with a key contact, share invaluable advice, open locked doors, and most importantly, instill hope and possibility.

One of my clients who recently found a great new position describes his own experience:

“I was so naive when I started my job search. I found an ad for a job I wanted and carefully crafted the ‘perfect’ cover letter and sent in my CV. Thinking that I would certainly get a call for an interview, I confidently waited and waited…and waited. Over the next four months I repeated this process about 20 times. It was so humbling to send in my CV and get no response. I eventually got one interview opportunity for a job I really didn’t want.

“During the same period, however, I sent emails to about half a dozen people that I already knew – asking them if they knew of any openings. This resulted in five additional interview opportunities and, ultimately, three job offers. The interesting thing is that all five of these jobs were filled without any advertisements. I’ve never really been a ‘networking’ person, but the few people I know really came through for me. Even though I’ve found the job I wanted, I will definitely continue to keep up with and grow my network.”

Another one of my clients wrote the following after attending the American Association of Physician Leaders conference,

“Wow, the power of networking!  Not even ‘networking,’ just talking. I approached someone at a break to follow up on a question he asked in the seminar. Ten minutes later, I had learned some valuable tidbits on administration and he was asking me to send him my resume. I still don’t know where I’m going, but I have some more ideas on how to get there – not my ideas, mind you, but more of a confidence in ideas that didn’t appeal to me before. Networking is one. Why it didn’t resonate with me before is baffling and a bit embarrassing. I’m sure Heather has told me to network at least 138 times. I know it works in patient care – I tell the residents all of the time to communicate and keep good relationships with consulting docs because it facilitates good care. I think I’ve now realized that there is a big difference between networking and schmoozing. I’ve had a chance to observe some people who are very good at it. I’m also getting over the fear of approaching people I don’t know. Its more than just gathering business cards, obviously, but just talking to the person sitting next to me at breakfast was a big step and very difficult for me. Another skill to learn.  In reality, it amounts to maintaining friendships and forming new ones.  Why should that not be appealing? Career aside, it is a good formula for life, too.”

A big “Thank you” to my two fantastic clients for sharing their words of wisdom. Their stories are not unusual. As physicians, we like to be self-sufficient and rather not have to reach out to others for help. We have operated under the model where when we proudly fire off our CV, we will be wanted! It can be insulting and frustrating to be met with profound silence. You start to wonder if there’s some big black hole out there slurping up your CVs.

As the above stories illustrate however, when we need to change our tack, we can. And to good effect. Anyone, even self-proclaimed introverts, can become good networkers. In a prior blog, Help For the Shy Networker, I offer tips for those who break out in a sweat at the thought of networking. Technology has given introverts a great boost here. With all of our social media options, much of our networking is possible through the Internet and phone. Yes, you can network in your pajamas!

Networking is not only invaluable for the job search; it’s incredibly useful for learning about non-clinical careers. As you many have noticed, no central site exists to research and apply for non-clinical careers. Learning about the different areas such as Pharma, Informatics, Public Health, Consulting, etc., requires considerable detective work. One of the most useful strategies for finding out how to make these transitions is to talk to people in these fields. You’ll want to hear their stories firsthand and ask a lot of questions.

You may have a brother-in-law, or neighbor, or friend who knows someone who knows someone at Roche or the FDA or McKinsey. These are great connections to pursue. But don’t worry. Even if your contact list (Rolodex for us old-timers) is woefully sparse, and your social circle no bigger than a Hula Hoop, LinkedIn is here to save you. In my next blog, I am going to address how you can use this fabulous professional networking site to aid in your career success. In preparation, if you’re not familiar with LinkedIn, take a few minutes to check out the site and consider starting your profile. It’s free, and it could open the door to a shiny new career. For some guidance on setting up your profile, wikihow walks you through the process here. 











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  1. Laura Marusinec on January 25, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I agree completely!
    I got my first freelance writing job from LinkedIn (I wasn’t even really looking yet), and my second I found on the AMWA website…
    I attended the 2014 AMWA conference and made many great connections and have learned a lot from networking there and on LinkedIn. I’m even helping others find their direction through networking…

    • Heather Fork on January 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Laura, thank you very much for your comment. Congratulations on starting your own freelance medical writing business! You obviously really understand the power of networking and it’s serving you well. I like that you mention giving back by helping others too. You make a very important point. I wish you continued success with your writing career. Happy networking! 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!

- Tim Owolabi, MD

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Lynette Charity

“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!

- Lynette Charity, MD

Gail Miller

“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!

- Gail Miller, MD

OB/Gyn physician

“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 doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth... 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.

- Steve Lapke, MD

Papillion, NE
Sue Zimmermann

“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

Jay Macregor

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!

- Jay MacGregor, MD

Colorectal Surgeon

“I gained the confidence in myself to develop an action plan that blended the best parts of my experiences and interests into a cohesive career." 

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!

- Liz McMurtry, DO

Emergency Medicine Physician

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.

- Amie Langbein, DO

Family Physician
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"After 30 years in academic medicine, I wanted a career change but had no idea where to start. Medicine was all I knew."

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. 

- Karen Barnard, MBBCh, MPH

Endocrinologist and Life Coach