By Shayne Foley
At this point, it’s well-established that the PA profession is one of the top career choices available. Many PAs feel a high level of personal and professional satisfaction thanks to the profession’s high compensation, potential for career-mobility, and purpose-driven work. Although this is reassuring, PAs experience varying degrees of satisfaction, and unfortunately, not every PA has found their dream job.
Some lucky PAs stumble upon their ideal job at the start of their careers, however, most of us need to actively search for, or even cultivate, our dream job. This is great news though, as it means we have more control over our state of happiness than we might sometimes think. Here’s what can you do to start working toward landing your dream job.
NARROWING IT DOWN
PAs have so many specialties and work settings to choose from. The plethora of options that are available to PAs means that a dream job exists in one shape or form for just about all of us. However, happiness is highly individualized. What makes one PA happy may be miserable for another. For example, doing shift work may appeal to those looking for variety, but may feel like a nightmare situation to others who prefer the predictability of a schedule.
The highest levels of satisfaction will come when you find the optimal combination of career variables that align with your passions, values, and morals. Here are some of the career variables that will help you determine what your dream job looks like:
- Work-life balance
- Compensation (money and benefits)
- Patient population
- Location (home and work)
- Hours (shifts, call, administrative time, etc.)
- Workplace support (office manager, coworkers, administration)
- Work logistics (commute time, EMR used, job demands, etc.)
As you read this list, ask yourself, “What is my dream scenario?” for each of these variables. Be as honest with yourself as possible and answer these questions as if anything is possible.
If you are struggling to come up with your answers, then use your current job as your basis, by answering these three questions:
- Overall, do I see my current job as sustainable? Why or why not?
- What aspects of this job are most appealing?
- What aspects of this job are the most frustrating?
Your answers to these questions should begin to reveal what you see as most valuable and meaningful to you. In fact, using your battle-tested experiences as your guidance should allow you to step away from romanticizing ideals and be more realistic with what you actually want and need.
Once you’ve taken the time to create your wish list, it can serve as your guide to action.
With your career “wish list” in hand, you will need to take action if you want to turn your dream into your reality. With your dream job as your destination and your current job serving as your starting point, you can then set course for your ideal career. But remember, finding your dream job doesn’t always mean finding a different job, as you may be able to cultivate a more optimal situation with your current employer.
The timeline from action to actualization will be highly variable, depending on your starting points and end goals. While some may just need some financial tweaks to make their fulfilling jobs more sustainable, others may need a complete career overhaul.
Here are some simple scenarios, using general terms of “happiness” for job satisfaction, and “money” for financial health, that may describe your current situation. See which one you may recognize as describing you:
- “I am happiness AND money rich.”
- “I am happiness rich and money poor.”
- “I am happiness poor and money rich.”
- “I am happiness AND money poor.”
In scenario one, you’re in the sweet spot and may already be in your dream job. Congratulations! Staying the course may be your best action plan.
In scenario two, your job is fulfilling, but you need to improve your financial acumen. You will benefit from budgeting, self-education, and possibly professional financial advisement.
In scenario three, you are not fulfilled, but your bank account is fully filled. You need to recognize that a high salary does not equal career satisfaction, and consider an overhaul of your current job, or look for something that is different and more fulfilling.
In scenario four, you are suffering from career sepsis, and need a complete overhaul. This is not sustainable, and you should urgently consider a new job, along with a financial makeover.
If you’re going to maximize your career satisfaction as a PA, and possibly find your dream job, you’ll need to be proactive about it. However you find yourself during your career, you’ll benefit from routine “check-ups,” which will be opportunities to either reset your course towards your dream job, or be grateful that you’re already there. Once you make it to the professional promise-land, you’ll be more likely to have a sustainable and fulfilling career.
Shayne Foley is a certified and full-time PA with 10 years of practice under his belt. Shayne has worked in internal medicine, urgent care and currently family medicine. He is involved in PA education as an adjunct faculty member, preceptor and mentor. In an effort to expand his impact on the profession, he co founded The PA Blueprint, LLC, whose mission is to provide career education to current and future PAs. They have worked with 30 PA programs around the country, and their work has been featured on AAPA’s Career Central, as well as multiple PA-related podcasts and blogs. Shayne has established himself as an important contributor to the PA profession through his teaching, writing, and online presence, and is passionate about moving the profession forward.