ThePhysicianCareerNetwork |ARTICLE
Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians.

How to Create A Career Blueprint™, by William S. Frank

This is the second article in a three-part series about choosing your career direction, often one of the hardest tasks in adult life. Most of us can work effectively toward our goals, if only we know what they are. The first article in the series dealt with likes and dislikes. It involved reviewing past jobs in order to predict future satisfiers. The key is to incorporate your likes into the new job, and to eliminate your dislikes. The third and final article in the series is called Picture The Ideal First Month on Your Next Job. If you complete all three exercises, you'll have a good blueprint or strategic vision for your future. Look here for instructions about how to complete this three-part exercise.

How Is A Career Like A Custom Home?

Blueprint Building an ideal career is like building a custom home, one you've designed that fits you perfectly. Almost everyone who builds a custom home is wild about the final product. They love the style, size, layout, and interior finishes. Likewise, in the perfect career you like everything involved: the kind of medical or surgical practice or academic situation, or the products or services if you're in a business—as well as colleagues, patients, fellow employees and location—whichever apply. Naturally, this is only an ideal. Few homes or careers achieve 100% perfection. But many are 95% perfect, and that's much better than a 40% fit. The first and most important step in planning your career is to create a blueprint of what the ideal looks like.

How Should I Start?
Divide a sheet of paper into five columns, create a 5-column table in Microsoft Word, or build a 5-column spreadsheet in Excel. [Download a Word template here.] Then fill in the blanks. In this example, an internist/nephrologist is considering all options, both medical and non-medical.






The Employer or Practice

Less formal environment of small organization Mammoth bureaucracy or many partners (e.g., the Cleveland or Scott and White Clinic) No more than 40 employees, including physicians Colleagues who share my avid interest in competitive tennis

The Specialty
(if medicine);
The Industry
(if not)

Hi-Tech, Internet,
or e-commerce
Manufacturing of a mundane product

Stagnant or shrinking industry

Technology product or service  

The Culture



Innovation and risk-taking are

Warm, friendly, co-operative

Sense of everyone working hard at providing the best service-shared goals

Everyone takes care everyone else

Highly political

No fun
No humor

Internal chaos

Silly bureaucratic rules

Crisis management



Room for individual initiative

Four ten-hour workdays

Practice divided into hospital and outpatient services

Take call only for your service

The People

Bright, well-educated

High intellect and motivation

Careful and precise; conservative in decisionmaking

Long periods with no patient contact

To depend on others who fail to perform

Ethical people
I can trust

People who love what they're doing, for whom it's not just a job or a business

Sense of Humor

Work Tasks
and Functions

Leadership role

Invent the rules as I go

Work with consultants

Minimal supervisory and business responsibilities

Thinking innovatively—outside the box

Detailed complex problems with no apparent solutions

To be limited to mechanical, repetitive tasks

Too narrow a job

Too many hands-on procedures

repetitive tasks

A big impact

Decisions and problems must be important and significant

A significant contribution; make a difference in people's lives

Exposure to upper management

Promotion opportunity

Delegate management and execution of details

5% Int’l Travel

Public speaking and education

The Boss







Micromanagement of my job

Gives objective feedback on a timely basis

Hands off style

Collaborative decision making

Takes on all business management, promotional and financial tasks: lets me do what I do best without having to worry about stuff I don't like and don't do well


Suburban campus Downtown or industrial park

Dense urban environment

D.C. Location within 30-minute commute
Within two-hour drive of skiing


Noble Cause

Making a difference

Profit as primary motive Ethics




20% International Weekend Travel 5% International  


Work from home
one day per week

Mentor who is respected senior in field

Work 60+ hours
per week ongoing
High degree of freedom  

The Office

Work at home two days per week      


Collegial collaborative team Bickering among staff, partners, or managers

Worry about being politically correct

Organization where I can say what I mean and not offend everybody in the room  

Fun Stuff

Country Club Membership     The fastest, thinnest wireless laptop on the market

Window view of the ocean


Calm, serene environment

Uniform, fair standards

Recognition for
a job well done

Environment supports introversion

Too many people in position to tell me how to do my job

Constant deadlines

High pressure
High stress

Quick feedback

High degree of autonomy and control over my projects

Compensation $175K base
+bonus for performance
+stock options (if employed in business)

Reduction in pay

To pay for parking

$100K base +bonus +stock

Employment Contract

One Year

Signing bonus

Sabbatical after five years

Expense account


Paid tuition

Four-week vacation


Disability Insurance

  $500K Life Insurance

Major Medical Equal to Current Policy

Three-week paid vacation

The words you see above are only examples. Don't copy them verbatim or use them as a checklist. Search your soul and invent your own phrases. You might even add some new categories down the left side of your chart. Remember, you are writing about your future life, not just your career. So include items to protect your family and personal interests. "Five hours per week for leisure reading" is a valid entry. "Limit work week to 50 hours" is also valid.

As you see, this list is fanciful, not 100% realistic. To say "I want to invent the rules as I go" is a stretch. No job gives 100% freedom to invent one's own path—not even self-employment. But it's the concept that's important. What the author is saying is that she wants more freedom rather than less. And employers vary widely in their ability to tolerate mavericks. This person may belong in a small, free-wheeling environment.

Must-haves are very important. They are absolute requirements. While you may give up some of your "wants," must-haves are essential and cannot be compromised.

Think about column five: "Things that would be FUN, but possibly frivolous." This is where your creativity should kick in. Don't let this "Career Decision Matrix" become boring, or one-dimensional. Pick some fun stuff. Go ahead, give yourself a raise, or high-speed Internet access, a screamer-of-a-laptop, a health club membership, a window view of the ocean, or frequent international travel.

It's important to make every entry specific, not vague. "WANT more time with my children" is not as useful as "WANT 2 hours per week to play softball with teenage son." "$185,000 per year" is better than "a high salary." Avoid phrases like, "I DON'T WANT a long commute." Instead, say "DON'T WANT to drive more than 30 minutes each way." Think of the Architect and the Custom Home analogy: "Lots of windows," is much less useful than "four 3x4' arched windows in the den."

You'll notice that some entries are one word, others are lengthy phrases. Be spontaneous. Write whatever comes to mind without judging or second-guessing yourself, even if some entries seem stupid, odd, or inconsistent. Attempt to turn off your self-critic. The "couldn't happen but wouldn't it be neat" thoughts are important. This is dreaming, but it's not idle. It has a purpose that can't be achieved in any other way.

This is not a 15-minute project. It's a refrigerator exercise, one you tape onto the refrigerator and revisit from time to time, over the course of several days or weeks. This process is important because it helps you focus. It's also important while interviewing, because job opportunities tend to look like apples, oranges, and bananas—very different. That's what sometimes makes choosing the best of several offers so hard. Accepting one offer and rejecting the rest can be one of the most painful experiences of a career. Because what if you choose wrong?

Use this chart to compare and contrast every potential opportunity and job offer, both inside and outside your present employer. You'll be surprised how helpful it is. If you use this grid carefully, difficult choices will be easier, and your next job offer could easily be 95% perfect.

After you compete and analyze this grid, go to last exercise in this three-part series. Return to index of articles.


"We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects."
Alexis de Tocqueville

Our Services : Our Process : Hallway Consult : Career Biopsy : Career Resources : Contact Us
+1/303/790-0505 | Copyright 1996- William S. Frank | All Rights Reserved | Web Design by DATA