September 27, 2021
PA Career Coach Has Tips for Navigating Change
May 11, 2021
By Jennifer Hohman
A PA career is always dynamic and defined by possibilities – and change. COVID-19 has certainly been a change accelerator. The pandemic upended PA career paths, as PAs in many specialties faced furloughs or retraining and redeployment. Even for PAs who maintained their pre-pandemic jobs and responsibilities, COVID-19 has caused many to reflect on their lives and whether their current PA career is as optimal as it could be. Whether chosen or involuntary, many PAs have pivoted. I’d like to share five suggestions for navigating these career pivots or redirects in a positive and fulfilling way.
1. Reflect on your career experience and goals.
The unique flexibility of the PA profession makes career transitions more possible, but this can bring daunting questions: Which of the many possibilities is the right one for you? Before you start navigating a new direction in your practice, ask yourself: What do you hope to achieve with a career change? It may be that you’re looking for the same type of role and specialty but at a new practice or you may be seeking a completely new specialty. Having an idea of what you want your next step to be will help you find it.
2. Inventory your accomplishments.
With an open mind, take expansive inventory of the professional accomplishments you achieved in your PA positions to date, even ones that were not an overall positive experience. What new or deepened experience have you gained? What have you learned from challenges and patient success stories? Write these down! Get together with a PA friend and have a session in which you take turns describing your achievements in detail, with pride and confidence. I suggest translating these insights into the next activity:
3. Uncover the unique qualities you bring to medical practice.
When I work with PA clients, we focus on uncovering the unique qualities they bring to medical practice, and I am always fascinated by the distinctive journeys and motivations that bring PAs to the profession.
Revisit the reasons why you became a PA. It’s a fundamental part of your professional story and will help you approach a career redirect. If you’re having trouble getting started, consider keeping a career journal where you can reflect on your reasons for becoming a PA, the themes that have guided your practice, and set new goals for yourself. These unique narratives form the core of your personal brand. Convey it in every venue: your LinkedIn page, cover letters, and the way you frame and discuss your PA career with employers.
4. Leverage the PA community.
I’m convinced that the best way to find new career and practice pathways is through the PA community. I recommend starting conversations with PAs in specialties that interest you, reaching out to potential mentors via LinkedIn, AAPA’s Huddle, and through networking events sponsored by PA organizations. The PA community represents a special source of wisdom and experience that can be found nowhere else, and can offer incredible support, information, and potential leads.
5. Revitalize your resume.
Having a resume you are proud of, one that is up to date and truly represents your skills and experience, is empowering and allows you to respond with agility when opportunities appear. All PAs, whether actively pursuing a career transition or not, should try to keep their resume up to date.
Your resume can be much more than a dry recitation of your job responsibilities. Reflect on your unique narrative (#3) when updating your resume. Think about each position in terms of the progression of your abilities, and any interesting or innovative projects or initiatives you were part of. What were the most dynamic and valuable parts of the positions you have held? How did you make a positive difference for patients and colleagues, even (especially) under challenging circumstances? Include these accomplishments in your revised resume.
6. Take the first step.
Truly, all career changes start with that first concrete step, however small, which generates positive forward momentum. I hope the suggestions in this article provide ideas and inspiration for taking that first step. Whether career redirects are chosen or not, you already have the resources your need to move ahead: your own hard work, your love of medicine and people, and your willingness to move forward into the new with a positive belief in your abilities. I’ve been honored to be part of so many PA career transitions over the years and have witnessed countless career pivots that have led to exciting and meaningful ways of being a PA.