“R” sent in this query:
I am no longer able to do my job due to physical limitations and need a new career that is both fulfilling and gives me the opportunity to make a decent living. Possibly in the medical field.
If you are interested in working in the medical field, but don’t yet have an exact idea of what you want to do, then I suggest doing the following:
1) Find a local expert:
Ask your family and friends who they know who works in the medical field. The actual job they do is not necessarily important (yet) – you want to find a source of first hand information on medical jobs in general, and the opportunities and possibilities near your home.
Ask for an introduction, then arrange to meet over a coffee (make sure you pay!). Have a friendly chat and get their opinion about the types of jobs available, what might be possible for you with your physical condition, what training you might need – and if this is really necessary, and what pay might be like.
Be Very Careful! You are not looking for a job yet – just getting information. Don’t come on too strong and decide half way through to ask for a job – go home and think about what you really want first. Job hunting comes later, at the right time, and with the right person.
Then ask them for a list of at least 3 names of people they know who might be able to help you further understand these potential careers – people who are currently employed in each of the careers that interests you. Now talk to each of these 3 in turn.
If none of your family or friends knows anyone in the medical field, go down to the local hospital or health clinic, and wait around the coffee shop. Be polite and ask a nurse or doctor on their break if they might be able to help you – you are thinking of a career in the medical field, and want their expert opinion. Ask “Who would be a good person to talk to?”. They may help you themselves straight away if you are lucky, or arrange another time, or give you a name or number to call.
So that’s 4 phone calls and 4 cups of coffee. It might take a couple of weeks, but you’ll have plenty to think about at the end of it. And you will have at least 4 contacts in the medical field (more if you ask for more names of potential experts who can help you) who may be helpful later when you are looking for a job. They may not know the right person to give you the job you want, but they will know who does know!
2) Have a look at NIH LifeWorks Career Finder for a list of potential medical careers and educational requirements, that might spark some ideas.
3) Go to your local library and take out at least 4 books from the medical section that look interesting to you. Skim through them and take some notes. Get ideas about what it is that you would like to be involved in. The medical field is very broad, so you’ll need to narrow down your focus to what will be most interesting for you.
4) Check out Open Courseware You can search this site for free courses related to the medical field. You will be able to learn more about the areas that interest you – all free.
5) Once you have an idea of the career that you really want, get back to your family, friends and medical contacts. You might want to get some more names if your focus has moved out of their area of expertise. Have another round of informational interview chats over coffee. Find out if you can spend a day or a few hours at their place of work, to get a good understanding of what the job is really all about.
This day will be a golden opportunity to find out if this is really what you want, and to make as many new friends as you can. Impress them with your interest. Ask lots of questions. But don’t be a pain in the ass.
6) Once you have decided that this is really what you want, the real work starts. Can you work voluntarily to get some experience? Use your new network of contacts to help you find the best way to get your foot in the door.
If you need training, can you do it on the job? Can you get a grant to pay for it? Can you get a loan? Can you study by correspondence or part time?
7) Use the yellow pages online – just google “yellow pages” and your city or state name. Search for medical and get a list of all the potential employers who might be able to give you the job you have chosen.
8) Do any of your contacts know the person at any of these places on your list that has the power to hire you? Ask them if they know anyone who works there at all, and then make another coffee appointment. Find out what the place is like to work at, and get the name of the person who can hire you.
9) Arrange a face to face meeting with this “hiring person” if at all possible. Explain why you want to work at this place – have a lot of good reasons – make sure you do your homework. Explain why you want to work in this career – show that you have a god understanding of what the job is all about, how you have worked a day at such and such a place, and read this book, and had a look at such and such a course, and spoke to so and so, etc.
Be very enthusiastic, and determined. Ask for the job. This is not the time to be shy, or expect them to guess what you want. Ask for the job, and explain why you will be good at it.
10) If nothing is immediately available, leave your resume, and call back in a couple of weeks. Keep calling every few weeks.
Do this for all the places on your list that look like the type of employer you want. Be persistent. You will have the career you want.
Let me know how you get on.