Feeling Unfulfilled? You Might Need a New Job

Know When It’s Time to Move On: Considerations for a Job Search

January 24, 2020

By Jennifer Anne Hohman

With the start of a new year, plans for positive change are always in the air. Changing jobs is one of the most impactful ways of creating positive change in one’s PA career. Is it time for you to move on from a position that is no longer inspiring, sustainable, or financially rewarding? I’ll share some constructive and concrete ways to assess whether it’s time to search for a position that better serves your happiness, growth, and mission in medicine and how to do so with confidence.

Reasons for moving on

Have you been feeling frustrated, stressed, unhappy at work? If so, diagnosing the issues at your current job is the first step towards fixing them, and you can clarify whether a new job is in order. In some situations, improvements can be crafted from within: job crafting is the concept of redesigning your current position to be more satisfying. While job crafting is always an option, there are often situations that need to be left behind.

You are being underpaid and or overworked

Few things are more professionally demoralizing and discouraging than being paid less than you are worth, and, in my work with PA clients, I can point to compensation as a major motivator for a new job search. AAPA’s Salary Report is a great resource for gauging your compensation by specialty, state, and years of experience. If your employer is not open to adjusting your salary or key benefits after a discussion at your annual review, consider launching a job search.

Abusive or dysfunctional practice partners

PA team practice is intrinsically relational. Trying to collaborate effectively with teammates who lack emotional maturity, ethics, and basic care and consideration of others is a recipe for career unhappiness. Unlike other areas of a position that are, at least in theory, able to be negotiated (compensation, role, schedule, etc.) dysfunctional colleagues and work environments are best left behind.

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Limited role or lack of clinical growth options

A position where you are underutilized, with artificial limits placed on your clinical scope, and roles where your employer refuses to negotiate, mean it’s time to move on. On the positive side, these experiences should sharpen your understanding of the ways in which you want to practice differently in the future.

Preparation for moving on

Once you’ve decided that your position can’t be significantly improved, it’s time to think strategically as well as creatively about the job search. Use your sense of frustration as motivation for the next steps in your career journey. It’s so energizing to claim your power and determine next steps! Here are some suggestions on preparing to move on:

  • Inventory your achievements at your current job. Collect copies of performance reviews, positive patient letters, and success stories. These will be valuable to share with potential employers and will also boost your sense of professional achievement, which is great fuel for moving forward.
  • Update your professional materials. Think carefully about the experience you’ve gained at this job and update your resume and cover letters to reflect it. Refresh your professional contacts by attending some networking events. Update your LinkedIn page and put it to use (is it time for a crisp new professional photo?). Be sure to use a personal cell number and email address for correspondence with prospective employers and, to help ensure the confidentiality of your search, don’t use your work computer or phone for job search purposes. Try to be discreet about your search on social media.
  • Review your employment contract. Look for sections concerning terminating the agreement, liability coverage issues after employment ends, and its non-compete clause. Factor these into your departure plan.
  • Set up for a positive exchange when you resign. When handing in your letter of resignation, keep the meeting positive and professional. Let your employer know you’ve reviewed your contract obligations and intend to make your departure as smooth as possible for practice and patients. Your transition to a new and better position will be that much easier with bridges intact, and you’ll hopefully have a positive recommendation! Let them know that you’ve appreciated the opportunity to serve patients as part of the practice team.

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Moving on successfully

Knowing yourself is always the key to effective PA career navigation. As you undertake the exciting prospect of moving forward in your career, what are the crucial lessons gathered from the position you are leaving? I suggest identifying the top three “lessons learned” and the corresponding changes you’d seek in a new job.

In specific terms, think about how you would like your new job to look or function in the following areas (as applicable):

  • Practice/clinical content and roles
  • Employer setting/type
  • Schedule—work/life balance
  • Collegial and work culture
  • Location/community
  • Compensation/benefits

When interviewing, frame your job search and previous career experiences in positive terms to a prospective employer. Even if you are leaving a subpar position, don’t discuss what may have been a very unpleasant professional experience with them: it never enhances your candidacy. Focus on articulating in optimistic terms what you are seeking in a new job as well as lessons learned: additional clinical growth and responsibilities, a truly collegial practice team, a sustainable position where you can give your best to patients and be happy over the long term.

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Every PA’s professional journey is a complex one with peaks and valleys. From many years as a PA career advisor I can attest to the possibilities for career reinvention and regeneration, even from some truly difficult detours. If you feel stuck or unfulfilled, know that there is likely a better job out there for you.

Jennifer Anne Hohman, founder of PA Career Coach, offers individualized PA career and contract advocacy to help PAs make the most of their professional potential: reach out at [email protected].

More Resources
8 Networking Tips for PAs
Job Crafting: Make the Most of Your Current Position
How to Stay Sane During the Job Search Process


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