Is Your Personality Making A Career Change Harder?

Border

If you’re trying to make a career change, such as transitioning to a non-clinical career, the last thing you want is to make the process harder. Oh my gosh, it’s already hard enough.

Could it be that your personality might be getting in the way? Could it be that the typical physician personality actually makes it harder to change up one’s career or to leave medicine altogether?

When I started doing the Enneagram Personality Test on all of my clients, I began to see a very surprising (at first) pattern. About two-thirds of my clients were coming out as the Type 6–The Loyal Skeptic.  I had assumed that the most common physician personality might be Type 3–The Achiever or Type 1–The Perfectionist, but I was wrong.  I’ve tested hundreds of physicians, and the most common type from my sample population is Type 6–The Loyal Skeptic. And even when this is not the primary type, it is often a close second.

What characterizes the Type 6–The Loyal Skeptic? Could this be you?

Loyal Skeptics are very committed, hardworking, and dependable individuals who like to know what the plan is and in general follow the rules. They are also risk-averse, disliking uncertainty and ambiguity and instead focus on creating security in a variety of ways.  Being in an environment that is predictable and where they have control is desirable. They tend to do a fair amount of “what if” thinking about what could go wrong versus what could go right. Imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and difficulty making decisions can occur when they are under stress.

This personality type will typically try to ensure security, including having as much insurance as possible, making sure to have fully-funded retirement accounts, stocking plenty of toilet paper and batteries in the house, etc. You get the picture. They are cautious and like to be well-prepared for whatever is coming down the pike.

And, they make great doctors! In the book, The Career Within You, the top 5 skills that Type 6’s bring to their work are:

  • Critical thinking
  • Exactness
  • Identifying with others
  • Skepticism
  • Taking precautions

It is very easy to see why these skills make for excellent physicians. There are, of course, excellent physicians in all of the other types too.

I have to qualify here that these patterns are based solely on the hundreds of physicians I have tested, so this is a limited and self-selected group.  Physicians are found in all of the 9 types. It would be ideal to have a sampling in the general population and see what the overall distribution is.

Nevertheless, one can readily see why the characteristics of the Type 6 personality can present some challenges to the physician questioning his or her career direction, beyond the typical factors that make it difficult for any physician to consider changing careers. The name Loyal Skeptic speaks volumes. When you are loyal, it’s going to take A LOT to get you to think about leaving your current situation, even when you are very burned out. And when you are skeptical by nature, you are going to think long and hard before giving up the security of what you have.

Here is a fictitious example of a Type 6 physician to help illustrate the struggle.

Dr. Robin is 42 years old and has been working as a family medicine physician for 12 years in a small group practice in the Midwest. She has two kids and has been feeling increasingly burned out for the past 4 years. Dr. Robin stays up past midnight to finish her charting. Then after barely 6 hours of sleep, she pushes herself out of bed to get her kids ready for school and to review her patients for the day. She hates being unprepared. She does her best to give her all to each and every patient, but she finds that no matter how much she does, she still feels anxious about making a mistake or missing something. At home, she is tired and distracted, and she doesn’t feel like she is being a good mom or wife. Little things can set her off, and she finds she can become irritable and short-tempered; this is not how she used to be.

When Dr. Robin thinks about making changes in her career, or possibly finding a non-clinical career, all these questions and doubts flood her mind. She wonders,

What could I possibly do? 
Who would take care of my patients?
What would my colleagues think?
What if I make a mistake and end up MORE unhappy?
What if I leave medicine and then can’t go back?

This kind of thinking can spiral out of control, and before she knows it, Dr. Robin has pictured her family homeless and living in a shelter because of her decision to leave medicine.

This is, of course, a caricature, as there is no real Dr. Robin.  She does, however, represent real doctors out there, both men and women. In truth, these thoughts and feelings can be felt by all of the Enneagram types to some degree.  It is also true that the “what if” thinking and anxiety related to clinical practice can also lead physicians to consider leaving medicine and they get stuck in a catch-22; afraid to stay and afraid to go.

OK, deep breath. I am definitely not going to leave you with a problem without a way forward.

For Type Sixes, the way out of this dilemma, of desiring change but being fearful of uncertainty, is to shift the emphasis from finding security in the external world to finding security within, having confidence in your ability to figure things out.

When you look to external things, such job security, bank accounts, relationships, status, etc., as fundamentally more secure than what you have within you, you will feel less confident going into the unknown and trusting that you can figure it out. Of course, money in the bank and insurance and these kinds of things are good, but if you feel insecure within yourself, these things will never feel like enough.

Sixes are definitely able to make this mindset shift when they reflect and realize that they are handling uncertainty on a daily basis and doing quite fine.  None of us know how our children will turn out, but we still have them. None of us know how a marriage will turn out, but we still get married. We all know that one day we will die, but we keep on living. Uncertainty is just part of being human.

It is also helpful to look back at your medical training and remember that when you entered medical school, you had no idea how you would do or what you would encounter. But you figured it out as you went along. And that knowledge of successful past experience helps shift the fear of uncertainty from being an impasse to becoming something more manageable.

When you realize that you have within you the ability to figure things out, you know you can handle life, and you become much more willing to try new things and take some calculated risks.

When the inner critic fans the flames of self-doubt and you need further evidence on why you have the ability to figure things out, remind yourself that you are:

Highly intelligent
Hardworking
Dependable
Good at planning and preparing

And that you’ve figured out your life thus far!

Type  6’s can also use their abilities and cautious nature to plan carefully and thoughtfully for any type of career change. They just need to not go overboard with having to figure out all the steps in advance or requiring a guarantee of success.

I’d like to make the case that instead of being a liability for making career changes, the Type 6 personality can be an asset. Take all of the commitment that allows one to do a great job at whatever they do, add to it confidence and trust in self to make good decisions and changes, and you have a winning combination.

One of the things I love about the Enneagram personality system is that it is fluid. You are not stuck with a certain type of limiting behavior or mindset. There are 9 levels of development for each Enneagram type. As an individual lets go of limiting beliefs and behaviors, he goes up in the levels and becomes an even better version of their type. A Type 6 at level 5 can be indecisive, anxious, and negative, whereas a Type 6 at level 1 will have more trust in self, making it easier to handle uncertainty and to make changes.

The purpose of the Enneagram is not to label anyone or put them in a box. It is actually to provide a tool for self-understanding that can lead to a profound level of personal transformation and growth. At the end of the day, where you are going is important, but who you are becoming can be the most fascinating and meaningful part of the journey.

If you do not know your Enneagram type but are interested in learning more about yourself, you can click here. The test is $12, and it takes 30–40 minutes to complete.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Heather

P.S.–For my blog on burnout and recommendations for all of the Enneagram personality types, please read here.

P.S.S.–Hopefully in future blogs, I can show the potential pitfalls and the way forward for each of the Enneagram types; in the meanwhile, if you have an interest in a blog on your type, please let me know!

Latest Posts

Find what you're looking for:

Heather Fork

6 Comments

  1. John Jurica on December 17, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Very cool, Heather! As I read your description, I had to agree that Type 6 fits many of us to a “T.” I assume it’s a personality type that’s attracted to medicine, combined with the indoctrination we undergo during medical school and residency.

    And I appreciate that you’ve provided the key to overcoming this way of thinking when attempting to move forward.

    Great insight and advice!

  2. Heather E Fork on December 18, 2018 at 3:10 am

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting John! Yes, it has been interesting to see how many physicians are Type 6’s or have a lot of the Type 6 characteristics. Medicine is a natural fit. Some other career areas that Type 6’s are often seen in are the financial sector – as they tend to be very good with numbers and like being able to have concrete answers. They are also excellent engineers and investigators. But the truth is whatever they put their mind to, they usually excel at because they put in the work and be committed.

  3. Rizza Grands on March 6, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Choosing a profession relating to health or medical career is a rewarding job but, also a tough one. It is important to know where you are passionate and pursue that dream of yours! Thank you for sharing this helpful information.

    • Heather Fork on March 6, 2019 at 7:31 pm

      Hello Rizza Grands! Your words are very true. Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I am eternally grateful to Don Riso and Russ Hudson, who have contributed so much to the development of the Enneagram and its role in helping others with self-knowledge and living a life aligned with who we really are and our gifts.

  4. Christine Chen on March 21, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Heather! Ah…as you know well, I was a type 6/9 and so this really resonates with me. Great post 🙂

  5. Heather Fork on March 21, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks so much Christine! You have a great type to be a physician! And with the type 9 that adds in an extra ability to be able to see things from the other person’s perspective .. A good gift for writers like yourself as well! Heather

Leave a Comment





Doctors-Crossing-Physicians-Insider-Guide (1)

GetThe Physician's Insider Guide

15 of the most common FAQs on physician career transition

Sign up below to get the resource to jump-start your career transformation! You will also receive the latest blogs and updates from Heather.

Tim O

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

Family Medicine
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

Anesthesiologist
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
Steve

“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.

- 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

Pathologist
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
Amie

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
Untitled design

"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