You know the job you’d love to have, sports physio or sports physician for a team of your choice. And/or working in a private clinic where you respect the clinical leaders and they provide terrific opportunities for developing your skills through working with teams, attending conferences, ensuring continuing professional development on site including workshops. How do you get such a job? Why would the Australian Cricket Team choose you as their physio? Why would Barcelona FC choose you as the head of sports medicine & sports science?
Leading sports clinicians have shared these 5 elements:
1. Differentiate This should be on every student/trainee’s mind. We often call it ‘specialisation’ in our disciplines but that word has specific meanings (e.g. Titled Sports Physio); the concept of ‘differentiation’ is a broader one. Being a ‘sports physio’ is not enough if you want to be considered for a cricket job. You’ll need to get experience in cricket of course. Or, even as a Titled Sports Physio, you might differentiate further into shoulder injuries. Sounds simple!
2. Add value I almost bundled this in with ‘differentiation’ because ultimately the point of differentiation is to provide special value. Extending the cricket example, you’ll get the cricket job not just because you have ‘experience’ in cricket but because you are better at treating backs, shoulders, and finger injuries. By recognising this need, you might chase experience in treating shoulders and fingers by spending time with specialists in those roles – even if those clinicians are not expert in cricket. Gaining experience may not be a straightforward path but if you are clear on the goal, you know HOW your will ‘add value’, you can at least go after those skills.
3. Volunteer strategically The first job is the hardest and that is particularly the case in 2013. The Baby Boomers have the #DreamJobs and they aren’t marching away from them yet. Also, national unemployment is high the world over; youth unemployment – yes, that means new graduates — is at a record high. So, if you ever thought that after your final exams or graduation, you would be able so scan a long list of advertisements offering you and your peers full time work…. I’m sorry to be a bearer of bad news. But don’t be disheartened – you have a valuable, practical, degree in hand or coming, so please adjust to the fact that you need to volunteer and network the way many graduates have done in many disciplines for decades.
Be patient, take care of the process and the outcome will take care of itself. You‘ll often have to start with part-time opportunities. As a volunteer, if you are confident of ‘adding value’ (see above) you may have some leverage – you are bright, prepared to work hard and you have acquired some skills. And nothing is ‘below you’. Need the water bottles? That’s OK. Fetching balls? OK too. Remember that the top team clinicians will also do a bit of that where needed. It’s a team. No-one is suggesting a trainee sports physician or physio agree to serve as a bowling machine as 100% of a volunteer experience. But it is invaluable to experience a 3-day training camp where you meet the key coaches and officials, see the sport first hand, and at least watch assessment, treatment and prevention programs first hand. This will definitely provide you skills you didn’t learn about at Uni.
4. Network This word has negative connotations for some young people – who may be confusing networking with nepotism. The words are very different and carry very different implications. Networking means you try to connect with people you think are influential in the field and who may be able to guide you. If you can have an appropriate ‘mentor’ agree to guide your career that will be invaluable. But mentors are busy and you may not have things to offer the mentor (money, time at your ski chalet, a drive in your Porsche) so it makes sense to have a few different mentors – so you don’t burden ‘one mentor’ too much. Sports Medicine events such as educational programs run by your local and national sports medicine organization can be excellent networking events. In Australia, Sports Medicine Australia, (one of BJSM’s 13 member societies) runs excellent networking events for members and non-members. In the US, the AMSSM conference is terrific for sports medicine fellows; there are specific ‘networking events’ within the program. Network young, network early. In many prestigious Business Schools they start the students networking in the first weeks. In sports, now you’ll need to network just to get your volunteer opportunity!
5. Be prepared to travel – live in a different environment for a while. Finally for this short blog, remember that many folks have to travel beyond the backyard to make their dreams come true. Read biographies of your heroes on Wikipedia and see if they did everything they needed to do to become great in their birth city. Russell Crowe (@RussellCrowe) famously had to move to make his career as a Rabbitoh’s spruiker. Think of folks like Roald Bahr (@RoaldBahr, Norway) and Timothy Noakes (@ProfTimNoakes, South Africa) who may seem the archetypal home grown talents and proud ambassadors for their country; both report pivotal years away which changed their lives. Concussion expert Prof Winne Meeuwisse moved from Vancouver to Calgary for better opportunities. The list is long. To share a personal story for illustration, I moved to Canada for love (without thinking about work, I am not as strategic as I am advocating in this blog!) yet it proved to be a boon for my development as a sports physician. (This principle of moving to a fertile environment is a key message in one of my favourite books – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell but let’s not go there today.) ******************************************************************
If you feel we have missed something about how to improve your career chances, just email me (Karim.Khan@ubc.ca) your comments or a blog post and we’ll add it to the conversation. If you want to make a point in <140 characters, tweet to @BJSM_BMJ. #TopJobs Or suggest someone you’d like to hear share their thoughts on a BJSM podcast.