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Steps To Surviving the First 100 Days In Your New, Non-Clinical Career

The biggest question from physicians in the process of transition to their first non-clinical role? How can I best prepare?

From my last post on docs moving on to the corporate world, we know that leaving clinical practice and making your way within the business environment has a unique, and sometimes steep, learning curve. This curve, made up of both the new career training, as well as the unspoken expectations for business skills and acumen, has been a stumbling point for many a physician who is venturing into the non-clinical world for the first time.

The importance is on being prepared for the learning curve, and doing what you need to do ahead of time, as well as during the first few weeks of your transition, to ensure that those critical first few months position you for success as you continue on your new career path.

So how do you do that? What are the steps you can take to make sure that you have the most successful “First 100 Days” on your new job as possible?

Here are some ideas:

Step 1: Get Ready - Optimize the Period on to Your Transition

One of the most important things to recognize is that your first day on a new job better not be “day one” where you’re getting up to speed on the company and your new role. It is critical that you’ve spent time preparing yourself for the transition prior to the actual change, so that when you do arrive on the job you are ready to hit the ground running and make your initial days a value-added time for all involved. It is critical that you’ve thought of, and planned for, all of the elements that will start you off in the best way possible. These should include:

  • Doing your “homework” on the company, the industry, the competitors, financials, etc.
  •  Meeting with initial management, employees, alumni, customers, etc. to lay the groundwork for strong relationships and to gather valuable input up-front
  • Preparing your family or personal support base for the intense time (and hours) ahead, in order to minimize personal disruptions and allow you to immerse yourself in your new role for the first months
  • Assessing your own knowledge, skill or experience gaps, to determine what functional expertise or specialized training you will need to succeed in your new job – particularly where it comes to the “unspoken expectations” of business skill / acumen that are a given in the non-clinical world 

Step 2: Starting Off Right

When starting a new position within a new environment, you have a unique “window of opportunity” to establish yourself and to mold peoples’ expectations of you as well as your own foundation for the work ahead. You want to ensure that you are as successful as possible as you begin this new professional phase. During those early days it is critical to establish yourself as a learner, an active listener, and someone who is prepared and organized as they enter into this new space. Things to consider as you make your way:

  • How you introduce yourself – to colleagues, team members, clients – and how you set expectations of yourself, your working style, your ability to partner
  • Spending time to learn about, understand and shape your team
  • Crafting your own “personal strategic plan” for the first three months, including your goals, milestones and your desired outcomes (see resources below)
  • Spending time to understand your new company’s culture, and your place in it
  • Establishing a productive relationship with your colleagues and boss
  • Making sure you listen more than talk, and using effective communication as questions / issues arise

Step 3: Thriving in Your New Role

Once you’ve gotten yourself well-entrenched in your new position and are feeling comfortable that the initial learning curve is behind you, you will still need to make sure you are mastering the critical success factors that drive non-clinical environments. Pay attention to how well you are:

  • Avoiding Common “New Team Member” Pitfalls - things such as talking more than listening, trying to impress by having all the answers (often before getting all the facts), stubbornly relying on what has made you successful in the past, setting unrealistic expectations of yourself, etc.
  • Being an Effective Team Player - e.g., knowing how/when to defer to others, knowing how/when to delegate, taking leadership when appropriate, being accountable, sharing credit, knowing how to utilize complimentary skills for a common goal / outcome, etc.
  • Knowing What To Do When You Don’t Have the Answer - not an easy one for physicians who are used to being required to have the answer! - this includes, avoiding the temptation to think you must have immediate answers and/or over-promising on things you may not be able to deliver, knowing how to create a process for reviewing the issue and inviting others to participate in getting the answer
  • Running Effective and Impactful Meetings - things as simple as crafting an effective agenda, keeping discussion on-track, guiding and tracking feedback, and starting and ending the meeting on time
  • Staying Accountable - knowing how to take criticism without deflecting blame, "owning" your work and any dependencies that others may have on it, delivering things on-time or appropriately escalating issues that impede progress
  • Being an Expert Facilitator and Presenter - knowing how to engage your audience and deliver impactful presentations, being able to communicate complex clinical data and information in a way that your audience understands, being able to facilitate other peoples' process to a common end
  • Delegating and Trusting Your Colleagues - being a true team player not only in words but in action, trusting others' follow-through, having a highly honed sense of collegiality
  • Being a Highly Effective Communicator - having strong interpersonal skills, being able to mediate conflict, being clear and unambiguous in your words, being highly effective in both written (i.e., email) and spoken communication

A couple of great resources for you to consider:

“The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels”  (2003)  by Michael Watkins (thanks to Dr. Arlen Meyers for the reference)

“You’re in Charge - Now What?: The 8 Point Plan”  (2007)  by Thomas J. Jeff & James M. Citrin

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