For many years I have been counseling and coaching executives who want to change their careers. Sometimes they just want to change areas, from finance to commercial, from communication to HR, but often the changes are much more radical than that. I will start by describing why many executives consult me: I am a Surgeon, I practiced surgery for 14 years and for the last 13 years I am an international Headhunter. Many people are still shocked when I tell my career change story and, due to the radical change, many end up asking me to guide them. I will tell you very briefly about my career change experience .
I started medical school in Brazil earlier than my colleagues at the age of 16 and graduated as a doctor at the age of 21. At that time, I was the youngest doctor to graduate at my university in more than 100 years. I did my specialization in head and neck surgery and cranio facial surgery and at the age of 25; I was ready to enter the market. I looked so young that I grew a beard and bought glasses just to look older. By the time I was 35, I had just approved my residency program and I was leading 4 emergency services in facial trauma.Then my wife and I were blessed with the birth of triplets, two boys and a girl. My life changed completely. I wanted to spend weekends with my kids instead of doing emergency surgeries almost every weekend. That was my main motivation but also a strong desire to do something different. At the time, I made a radical decision: I will not specialize in a less demanding medical discipline but I will do something totally different. So, I made a proposal to my father, bought part of his headhunting company (AIMS do Brasil) and went on to expand our business in Brazil. The result was impressive and our company grew exponentially in Brazil. I was then invited by AIMS to take the position of VP LATAM to expand in Latin America and also expanded our presence enormously in the region. Finally I became the Executive VP Globally and responsible for the expansion in the world’s largest executive market; America. It was an incredible journey that worked very well, although at the beginning, many people said that I was crazy, that I could not do anything else after all this time as a doctor and a lot of people took a bet that I would fail. For sure, I would not have been able to do it without the support of my family, especially my wife and father, my teams and my AIMS colleagues.
The first question that comes up is: When is the best time to change careers?
There is no “best time”. When you look at what you do and if it does not satisfy you anymore, this is a strong sign. You may have many reasons to change your career, your life may gain new ground or you may have been wrong when choosing your profession and it took time to realize that it was not what you wanted or even the contact with another career can arouse the passion for another area. These reasons are very particular to each individual, but two things should always be very clear:
- You want change and all changes might cause euphoria and fear, but staying as it is will not make you happy.
- A good transition depends a lot on your efforts and a well-structured plan.
Below are the 8 key points that I consider to be critical for those who want to change their careers:
I could not do this huge career change without the absolute support of my wife. I also learned the business very quickly, but I had the best mentor possible. My father was already a very well-known headhunter in Brazil when I started. I recommend having deep conversations with the family, about the change and possible impacts during the transition. If you have this support, you will feel invincible.
Despite the professional baggage you already have, consider that in the new career you will be “starting”. There is a great possibility that your remuneration will be less and sometimes much less (it happened to me!). Therefore, a robust financial reserve is always a wise move.
The labor market usually recognizes you in the segment that you are already inserted. It may take time for the market to give you an opportunity in the new segment you want. Sometimes it is worth expressing within your company your desire, ask for support to do an MBA in the new area and discuss the next opportunity in the new scope. Persistence and focus must always exist. Do not become demotivated when you hear “no”. Somebody will give you the chance.
Ask for advice from those who have already made the change
Talk to executives who have drastically changed their careers, how they did it, what they did differently for the job market to give them a new opportunity.
Invest in training
Whenever possible, try to take an MBA and/or courses in the new area to accelerate your learning and network with people in the related field.
There is a need to communicate your decision to change clearly. Nothing is better than building a network of contacts with people from the new area of action.
Usually radical profession changes require a lot of physical and mental effort. Be alert and take care of your health to withstand the turmoil of change.
To make a radical change requires courage, determination, focus. When I made my move, I absolutely dived into the world of executive search. No surgeries, no medical practice or being a doctor part-time to maintain my skills. No. Full focus on developing myself in executive search was my key to success. I didn’t stop to listen to negative people and every negative comment worked like fuel; giving me the strength to move forward.
I hope the recommendations here will be useful to anyone who thinks about a career change. I often joke with executives I know: “if a Surgeon like me can become a successful international Headhunter, why can’t you change your career?”