Leaving Medicine for Consulting (I don’t love you anymore)
Francesco is a former pediatric neurosurgeon who left his clinical post in London in 2010 to join McKinsey as a consultant. In his nearly four years at McKinsey he consulted for pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, health organizations, authorities and several hospitals across Europe, the US and Middle East.
Since leaving McKinsey in 2014 Francesco has moved to Dubai, founded a healthcare consulting company, taken a director role for a large hospital group and created GulfSpecialists.com a marketplace platform helping doctors and other international healthcare professionals find the right work opportunities in the Gulf countries.
“That’s it, I quit!” Almost every doctor has at some point said they wanted to leave the medical profession. This is sometimes said out of stress or fatigue, sometimes out of a longstanding professional dissatisfaction, but in the vast majority of cases it does not translate into any concrete action, mainly because the long years of study to become a medical doctor represent a huge sunk cost that people aren’t easily willing to give away to pursue a new professional path. I am one of the few doctors who isn’t working as a doctor. I changed tracks after getting my medical degree, going through the whole residency and practicing neurosurgery for a while before changing. In this blog post I try to explain the reasons why a medical professional might want to change his/her professional track, and why one might want to become a consultant.
So why would you want to leave clinical medicine?
- I don’t love you anymore. The main reason why doctors want to leave medicine is that the passion they had at the beginning of their path has worn off, and they no longer feel excited about what they are doing. I was usually very bored of spending long hours in the surgical theatre and was not feeling inspired by operating anymore. On the other hand, I was usually very satisfied when I could interact with others, develop innovative solutions to problems on the ward, or manage the hospital’s resources. That was an early indicator that surgery was maybe not the path for me, and I was probably more fit for managerial roles. Medical practice is very demanding, and when the passion is gone some serious reflection is needed on what possibly to do instead.
- Oh, the stress! Although it is common understanding that doctors should be able to cope with the emotional stress because of the nature of their job, the medical profession actually has an extremely high rate of burnout. This can be a driver for people to leave clinical practice. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t always get better in consulting.)
- Are you in it for the money? Being a doctor will normally give a decent earning more or less across the globe, but the financial implications of being a doctor vary widely depending on which geography one is practising in. Usually, a doctor’s pay level plateaus relatively early in the career and increments very slowly until very senior positions, so some medics seeking better compensation prefer to look elsewhere.
As a result of these drivers, there is an increasing number of medical doctors who choose to leave clinical practice and start different jobs. Although consulting might not be right for everyone who wishes to leave clinical practice, I personally found some very good reasons to become a consultant.
- Keeping your options open. When I left neurosurgery I did not know what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. I felt I couldn’t commit just yet to a long-term profession, but I wanted to stay busy until I found the right career choice for me. Consulting is a very good way to postpone any long-term career decision, acquire diverse skills, increase one’s network, see what’s available out there, and it even looks good on your CV!
- In what did you graduate again? A major advantage of consulting is that you don’t need any specific educational background to apply. Repositioning yourself professionally can be quite daunting when you’ve only done medicine for the previous twelve years. Although mainly seeking people with a business background, the largest consulting firms are open to people of all educational and professional backgrounds, and value the diversity this brings to the company. That is hugely important if you are looking to move away from the only thing you ever studied or worked in. Not to mention that your medical experience is a great asset if you end up consulting in the healthcare sector, which is usually the case.
- Although saying one is a consultant doesn’t quite achieve the same effect at parties as when you “drop the brain surgery bomb” (wink wink – just kidding) consulting is widely considered as a prestigious profession to be in, especially if you are working for one of the global blue-chip consulting companies. When you’re looking for your first landing spot after medicine, going into something that can be considered at par with your previous job by the people looking at your CV is very important.
- The learning and the challenges. In my case, the moment I actually decided to leave surgery was when I realized I wasn’t learning in my job as much as I was learning in previous years studying for it. Consulting is a true goldmine of learning opportunities. The ever-changing business environment to which you are exposed, the different projects, problems and colleagues provide a wealth of opportunities to learn.
- The career growth. Going into consulting for a while AND having deep sector knowledge in the medical field can put you in a very narrow sweet spot to compete for senior positions when you decide to leave consulting for a different industry.
In the next blog post, Leaving Consulting for the Healthcare Industry (Honey, I’m back!) I will tell you more about why and how a medical doctor can transition out of consulting and back into the healthcare industry.
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