The Virtue of Courage in Career Change

The Virtue of Courage in Career Change


In the 1/5/2014 Sunday New York Times, a former physician, Joel Greenwald, writes about how his career as a physician eventually enhanced his second career as a Certified Financial Planner® . . . an opening sentence that could cause whiplash. I had to read on.

For Dr. Greenwald, becoming a physician in the first place made sense, coming from a family of physicians as he did, including his grandfather, a public health doctor; his grandmother, a cardiologist; and his father, an oncologist. He describes himself as a man satisfied with his career for a number of years, while he was aware that he did not “love it” as did his wife, also a physician. Over time, however, he found the work less and less fulfilling. In other words – my words – he evolved and changed, something people have a hard time predicting or -accepting, even though that reality is all around us. People evolve, situations change, the marketplace changes, and none of us is a prophet. We can’t predict how the choices we make will affect us.

We seem to have a cultural assumption that we are capable of making perfect career choices when we are 16 or 18 or 25. The Department of Labor Statistics demonstrates otherwise. We know now that people change jobs an average of seven times in a lifetime, which is not necessarily seven careers in a lifetime, but it does mean there will be change, and there will be development. What’s so bad about that?

I have observed over the 25 years that I have been a (very happy) career/life coach that most people who become less satisfied with their work as time goes on feel as if they have done something wrong. They are full of self-recrimination and shame: I never should have majored in English (or math or music or whatever); What’s wrong with me?; I should have known this wasn’t going to work out; I used to be happy doing this work, why not now?

The fact is, it is our nature as humans to evolve and to be changed by our experiences. We can’t bypass that process; if we try to avoid change because it is often challenging and can take a long time, we may pay the price in extreme dissatisfaction and profound disappointment at the end of life. All of our decisions and choices affect who we are, and as mature adults we can play a proactive part in managing that trajectory in order to make it a positive one. Our momentum strategy bears repeating at least at the beginning of a new year when taking positive action is a real possibility once again. The questions underlying our momentum investment strategy also apply to career and life: What’s working? What’s not working? What’s missing? What’s next? It’s much more doable to manage small pieces of the pie than it is to make a whole new pie!

Dr. Greenwald’s transition to Certified Financial Planner® was indeed challenging, but he came to the point in his life when he knew he simply could not face another thirty years in a career that had become tedious, and he mustered the courage to embark on an entirely new path. Then he faced the reality of needing to build a practice of his own, client by client, which he did. Now we get to the part where his first career began to enhance the second . . .

More than ten years into his new career, he retained his first client who was also a physician, and that led him to his unique specialty: Financial Planning for Dentists and Doctors. Now he is living his dream.

Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.

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