“You Can Plot Your Career Trajectory!”: Making Successful Career Transitions

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A realization that despite being outstanding in her work would not see her slated for specialization to become an Orthopedics Surgeon was a clear indication to Dr. Viroshini Hari Krishan that she needed to chart her own career course. A  firm believer in Goethe’s concept of boldness as mentioned above, she stepped out into the unknown with courage. Her reputation for consistent, quality work at the MOH  had preceded her and one of her  bosses  informed her of an opening at Columbia Asia Hospital. She was snapped up by Columbia Asia Hospital after a quick interview.

Today she is the Medical Director at AXA Singapore, a French insurance company. Dr. Viroshini sat down with Medic Footprints Malaysia (MFM) to talk about her pivoting experience to the field of  insurance and how doctors can make successful transitions to new careers. These are things she never knew but has learned along the way which doctors can greatly benefit from.

You can plot your career trajectory
Dr. Viroshini Hari Krishan

Consider Your Reasons for Pivoting

Are you leaving because you’re being enticed by the industry or being pushed out from your present place of work? Your reasons for leaving will determine what happens in the next phase of your life. If one is being pushed out, then the next best move is to step out in boldness and chart your own course in life. This is what Dr. Viroshini did for herself. The transitioning experience will be quite different for doctors who have been enticed to join a particular industry. 

“It takes all but two minutes to size you up to determine if you’re a fit or not for a position.”

Build Your Brand Equity

Pivoting out of clinical medicine to another field will be easier if a doctor possesses a good reputation and character.   “If you do the right thing, the right result will follow,” says Dr. Viroshini. A doctor’s  reputation and character will precede him/her to their new career. If a doctor is consistently recognised for his/her quality of work and has substance, ‘It takes all but two minutes for someone to size you up to determine if you’re a fit or not.” says Dr. Viroshini.

Dr. Viroshoini urges doctors to be consistent in their good performance and to continue building their brand equity. “If the industry speaks of you in the same impressive way, it will not be difficult for you to get offers”, notes Dr. Viroshini. But a good reputation takes time to build and is something she continues working on for herself.  Within a few years of moving to AIA Insurance, Dr. Viroshini was head-hunted for the position of Medical Director at AXA Singapore and she believes her brand equity had a lot to do with it. 

“If doctors put medicine in the middle…and begin plotting around it…you’ll realize that opportunities are abundant.”

Locate Where You Belong in the Medical Ecosystem

Doctors are able to make it in their career of choice as they have the intellect and the time to figure out what’s right for them. Having intellect and time makes up 50% of what’s needed for successful pivots.

“If doctors put medicine in the middle as medicine is your primary degree and begin plotting around it, there’ll be the pharma, insurance, government policy-makers, private policy-makers, medical devices companies etc., and you will realize that the opportunities are abundant.” says Dr. Viroshini.

In finding their niche area, doctors are advised to look for the pathway that offers  the most amount of leverage. The most amount of leverage implies a  pathway that has many branches. For example, doctors who are interested in financial services could find a role in policy-making, public health, the Asian Development Bank, WHO etc. But knowing the pathways and their branches require a great deal of research. Doctors are urged to take time to research on the pathway of interest to them.

When Dr. Viroshini realized that her inclination was towards healthcare financing and policy-making, she pivoted to the field of insurance. For her to proceed to the arena of policy-making  which involves organizations like WHO or the Asian Development Bank requires that she  complete a public health masters. Her seven years of experience in financial services via the insurance sector coupled with a public health masters will open doors for her towards policy-making which is her career goal. Dr. Viroshini is emphatic that doctors are able to plot their career trajectory!

You can plot your career trajectory
Figure Out Where You Belong Within the Medical Ecosystem

Be Bold to Ask to be Paid What You’re Worth

“There’s nothing wrong in asking for a good salary based on your education and experience. The worst that could happen is you’ll be denied the pay you’re asking for or the job offer won’t be given to you” says Dr Viroshini. She encourages minority women not to let race and gender hinder them from asking for fair pay. As a minority and female, women are often overlooked when it comes to positions. Dr. Viroshini states that  women have to create a space for themselves where they know they can excel because this space won’t be handed over to them on a platter!

As there is no national  benchmarking or median salary in Malaysia, when doctors first move into the private sector, their pay will likely be adjusted to what they earned in government service which can be disappointing. Nevertheless, doctors are encouraged to be firm within reason when negotiating their salary. If that fails, doctors are advised to look at the pay they are receiving in this way – as being paid a tuition fee to learn from the industry as they start out in their new career! A novel idea indeed!

“Time is the most precious commodity in life for people to do the things they love and to be with the people they love.”

Falling into the Trap of Peer Pressure vs. the Precious Commodity of Time

Doctors tend to work 12 and 16 hour shifts just to be able to cash in big cheques. They want to be able to drive the next big car or buy a big house. Being caught up with the materialistic expectations that come with being a doctor is a trap that many doctors fall into.  But if that life  doesn’t include a work-life balance, then all that’s left is a slavish existence.  “Time is the most precious commodity in life for people to do the things they love and to be with the people they love,” mused Dr. Viroshini. 

Don’t Have a Fixed Mindset About Getting to Your Career Destination

If doctors think that medicine is all there is, they’ll be very disappointed to find out one day that they’re being pushed out of their careers.  Dr. Viroshini cautions doctors about  putting themselves into moulds and having a sense of finality about medicine. “The moment you have a mindset that things are impermanent and that as a person you will  continue to evolve, then when life throws you a curve, you will be able to handle it,”  she adds. 

She also pointed out that there are various ways for a doctor to get to his/her  career destination. She advises doctors not to be fastidious in the way they’ll reach their career goals as there are many ways to get there. Rather, Dr. Viroshini suggests that doctors engage in some in depth research and keep an open mind about reaching that goal.

You can plot your career trajectory
A Mentoring Session

A Strong Support Network Makes a Career Change Easier

Leaving clinical  medicine to pivot to another field would require the support of one’s parents,  spouse or significant other, and good friends. Blessed with parental support, Dr. Viroshini was able to make her career switch with peace of mind and confidence. “If you don’t have such support get a mentor,” says Dr. Viroshini, as this support network is crucial when making career-altering and life-altering decisions. “It’s crucial to ask for help when help is needed.”

Dr. Viroshini is pleased that MFM has a Career Development Mentorship Program that connects doctors  looking for guidance on career transitions with experienced mentors . She has signed up to offer her contribution as an MFM mentor. Those who can afford life coaching should approach a life coach when in need of guidance, she notes.

Dr. Viroshini urges doctors who have transitioned to other fields to approach their HR departments to ascertain the different types of training available to them and if  a financial allocation is available for a mentor who’ll offer guidance. “It’s crucial to ask for help when help is needed,” she says.

“The first two years after transitioning will be the most challenging time.”

Getting to Know Yourself Under Pressure in a Different Industry

 According to Dr. Viroshini, transitioning to the corporate world is not an easy move. “The first two years will be the most challenging. You’ll miss medicine, you’ll be looking for your footing, and you’ll be wondering what you’ve signed up for” she says. Doctors will be consulted at odd hours of the day and will have little control of their time in the corporate world. While it would be the most challenging time, it would also be the most illuminating as doctors learn about themselves and their threshold for different things. “You might be pleasantly surprised by the things you learn about yourself,” notes Dr. Viroshini with a smile.

MFM sincerely hopes that this article has enlightened you and given you the confidence you need for your career move. If you’re interested in learning more about our Career Development Mentorship Program and other learning and development opportunities, please visit our learning and development page.

To find out more about non-clinical jobs for doctors in Malaysia check out our job vacancy and find inspiration from medical doctors who’ve made a career change in our case studies. Check out Medic Footprints Malaysia , and follow our MF Malaysia Instagram and Facebook pages to stay updated on our events, webinars, job vacancies and more.

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