Effective Career Navigation Starts With Self-Assessment

Are You Where You Want to Be?

By Jennifer Anne Hohman

PA Career Coach Jennifer Anne Hohman
PA Career Coach Jennifer Anne Hohman

One of the great, unique attributes of the PA profession is its breadth of career possibilities across the spectrum of medical, and increasingly, nonclinical practice. At the same time, the very multitude of career paths open to PAs can pose a challenge. What are the tools to help navigate those many open roads, and keep aligned with your potential and professional success?

In this article, I’d like to suggest resources for steering your career path, based on insights gleaned from many conversations over the years with PAs facing career transitions of all kinds. Career change and improvement can come about equally from a need to leave a subpar position or in response to a wish for new practice horizons. Even if your career path seems stuck or waylaid, that open road of myriad PA practice and professional possibilities is still available to be reclaimed. I’ve seen so many PAs redirect their careers along more rewarding lines once they determined to do so.

Effective career navigation entails developing a keen sense for where you currently are in key areas of job satisfaction, and retaining the flexibility and confidence to steer your practice in new and better directions if needed, or alternately, to cultivate the potential of your current position through negotiation.

PAs who I’ve spoken to have identified these essential elements for a healthy career:

  1. stimulating clinical roles and responsibilities,
  2. the opportunity to practice compassionate, patient-centered medicine,
  3. solid compensation and benefits that support work-life balance
  4. and respectful, collegial professional relationships.

I propose a self-assessment first step that entails critically evaluating your satisfaction in key areas of clinical practice/medical role, compensation and professional relationships. In response to your assessment, key navigational choices include: seeking a new position with specific improvements over your current one, negotiating changes to your existing position or obtaining a job in a new practice area that reflects your professional goals and interests more fully.


          Job Aspects   Assessments and Satisfaction Rates                Next Steps
Role and Responsibilities
Compensation and Benefits
Professional Relationships


On a scale of one to five, five being highly satisfied, how would you rate the following aspects of your current position? Based on that assessment, how might you navigate towards improvements? And, what is the nature of your strategy, based on the following:

1)  Building on strengths (In areas rated 4−5, how can you build further on those positives to build your career and develop even greater satisfaction and professional recognition?)

2)  Possibilities to improve the status quo (In areas rated 2−3, consider planning a discussion of needed contract changes during annual or semi-annual review time to catalyze improvements. Navigation tools include AAPA’s Salary Report and PA Career Coach’s Career Priorities Worksheet.

3)  Available alternatives (If your job has aspects you’ve rated as 1, or very low satisfaction, is it time to move on to a better employment option? Are you overworked and underpaid? Are you being underutilized because you are burdened with physician colleagues with rigidly restrictive concepts of delegation? Do you have a physician partner who undermines the team by being disrespectful, impaired, unavailable, or worst case, all of the above?)

In unhealthy career situations, a lively professional network, an up-to-date and polished resume, and the conviction that you deserve a healthy professional situation are powerful career navigation tools. The advice to always keep our resumes up-to-date, and our collegial network lively proves its worth at that critical point of job search and career transition!


Jennifer Anne Hohman is founder and principal of PA Career Coach, a service dedicated to helping PAs create rewarding, healthy and patient-centered careers.

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