70: Giving Advice On The Internet
(+ I'm in Amsterdam - let's grab coffee!)
I’m in Amsterdam this week for blockchain conferences (DevConnect + ETH-Amsterdam), so if you’re around and want to meet up, let me know!
Now, on to the email:
I had a call with an internet friend this week. He's at a career crossroads and wanted to ask for some advice. (one of the career paths is full-time doctoring).
We've messaged each other occasionally over the last few years, so I had a rough idea of his current situation - but not with great nuance.
He messaged me one afternoon that he wanted to chat. I looked at my schedule, and the only time I really had to chat was around 11pm as I walked from the tube station to my house - so we agreed to talk then.
When the call came around, I was feeling pretty knackered and my brain wasn't really firing on all cylinders.
The call revolved around a lot of the common dilemmas doctors considering alternatives seem to face; how far should I progress through training before I take time out? what should I have in place before I step out? what combinations of medicine + [other option] is right for me?
As I was sharing my thoughts, I could very clearly see my personal bias coming through. I am somebody who stepped off the medical career ladder in 2019, and absolutely love the situation I'm now in. A part of me wishes I'd had the initiative to craft a strong exit opportunity earlier, but I also acknowledge that progressing to the point that I did has also been extremely helpful.
I found myself making suggestions that lean towards the ‘leave medicine’ path; encouraging him to be proactive about setting up alternatives and not to be afraid to step off the medical career ladder.
Maybe this was good advice, but maybe it wasn't.
For many, doubling down on their medical career makes complete sense. It's not for me to say what's right for them.
So as I realised my advice leaning towards being prescriptive, I pulled back. I asked myself whether there's a more generally true advice I could give, and came up with the following:
Talk to as many people as possible currently doing the careers you're considering.
I remembered that this is something I did, back in 2017 when I was questioning my career. I had just read the book 'Do you feel you wasted all that training' by Michael McLaughlin, and the conversations I had played a huge role in me eventually moving out of full-time medicine.
If you talk to a lot of people, everybody can give their own take - and then you can take this together to make the best decision for you. Because ultimately, you're the best one to make the decision.
And if the people you talk to are doing the career right now, they'll give better advice. It will be based on the reality that they are currently experiencing - not a fond memory or a blanket-negative past experience.
Decisions around careers have a big impact on your life, but are often made based on a proportionally small number of data points.
(I've spoken to several doctors, for example, who report ending up in a specialty mostly because they met one great senior doctor during training who inspired them to consider that path.)
This potential impact weighs on my mind whenever people ask me questions about their career. Maybe they'll ignore or forget what I say (which is completely fine), but there's a chance that what I say ends up having a more-than-negligible impact on somebody's career path (and therefore their life).
And sometimes I'll be dishing out that advice at 11pm on Tuesday evening, without deep insight into someone's personal circumstance, preferences and skills.
So what’s the takeaway here?
I think it’s that if you’re not fully satisfied by your current career or life circumstance, talking to lots of people doing alternatives is never a waste of time.
And that I’m very happy (and humbled) to answer any questions you have - but make sure you ask other people for their thoughts too :)
👋 Hi, I'm Chris Lovejoy.
I'm a medical doctor 🩺 -> machine learning engineer 👨💻 -> start-up founder 💡
I also throw in my favourite things from the internet, and the occasional joke (humour is work-in-progress).