Boy, did I ever screw up some things when I was leaving patient care. I really had no idea what I was doing, and there was no resource for non-clinical PTs to help me along my path.
I felt extremely alone and quite foolish for having pursued a degree that didn’t seem to make me happy.
I did make some good moves along the way, obviously, or I wouldn’t have wound up successfully leaving patient care 😉 Those moves are for another article. This article is going to cover all my dastardly mistakes so that you (hopefully) can be spared the frustrations I felt while leaving patient care.
Mistake #1: Not paying enough attention to resumes and cover letters
I usually pride myself on writing a pretty solid resume and cover letter. As a writing enthusiast and grammar nerd, I shoot for accuracy and clarity in all written communication.
But I definitely screwed up a few things when I was creating my non-clinical resumes and cover letters.
Cover letter mistakes:
- I wasn’t answering the question: Why the heck was I leaving patient care?
It’s the elephant in the room. You need to address it in a confident, clear way. Say something like, “I’m applying to the account manager role because I am ready for a change. As much as I have enjoyed patient care, and have honed my interpersonal and time-management skills, I am seeking a new challenge in a professional setting, where I can leverage my business acumen in an analytical role.”
- My cover letters were too long.
You really don’t need to discuss your extensive work with early intervention pediatric patients in an underserved community in Southwest Texas. You’ll be best served using that valuable cover letter space to discuss how your transferrable skills are applicable to the new role you’re pursuing.
- I wasn’t reflecting the culture of the companies to which I was applying.
Companies are living, breathing animals. Each has its own culture. Some are formal, while others are informal. Some value community service and team visibility, while others focus more on the bottom line. It’s important to understand the culture and values of the company to which you’re applying. Throw in a few keywords from that company’s mission statement.
- Highlighting the wrong things on my resume.
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you: I was a bit of a job hopper during my physical therapy days. It’s because I was never really happy in a clinical role, so I kept hopping around again and again, trying to find the right match. It never happened. But before I wised up, I had a looooong resume with tons of patient care jobs. Most of them discussed what I did as a clinician. But I’m a writer! Why on earth did my few writing roles have about an inch of real estate at the bottom of the second page?
- Forgetting to put a summary/objective statement at the top.
You NEED an objective or summary at the top of your resume. What you call it is somewhat irrelevant, but you need that paragraph. It’s your own personal elevator pitch. Come up with a way to highlight your best qualities, experience, and ambitions in a single blurb. For example, “I’m an articulate, friendly, and detail-oriented physical therapist with 3 years of experience in clinical instructor and mentoring roles. I am seeking an opportunity to leverage my educational and clinical background in a higher education setting.”
2. Failing to land any informational interviews
Informational interviews are VITAL for anyone bent on leaving patient care. How the heck are you supposed to know what to do next if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Don’t “jump from the frying pan into the fire” by pursuing a sales role if you haven’t enjoyed rigid quotas in a home health job. It might turn out that you liked patient care but hated quotas all along. Informational interviews can help you understand the pros and cons of non-clinical roles. Don’t be afraid to pick these people’s brains. If they agreed to the interview, they’ll be willing to be honest with you!
Side note: I wound up in an ill-fitting (and low-paying) marketing role as my first non-clinical job after leaving patient care. Uh, it was pretty bad. Maybe I’ll write about it at some point, once I get past the PTSD (j/k ;))
Anyway, an informational interview could have easily told me that I was not going to be a good fit for that role – at least not at that point in my career. I probably wasted the company’s time and my time during that experience, but I do think it’s a lesson learned, mostly because I can warn you against my dastardly career mistake on this post!
I’ll be writing an article about informational interviews soon, too, so stay tuned!
3. Forgetting about the importance of LinkedIn
LinkedIn (<–That’s my personal profile. Please, go and add me now!) is a job seeker’s best friend. While there are plenty of networking opportunities on Facebook and in person, LinkedIn is the easiest way to stalk – I mean locate – people who have roles that are similar to what you might want for yourself.
You can simply stalk – I mean study – their job progressions to get inspiration, or you can reach out directly and ask for informational interviews.
When I was at my lowest low point of career misery, I would go onto LinkedIn and use the search feature to find PTs who had moved on to non-clinical roles. It made me happy seeing that it was possible, and I was able to chat up a few of them to get our non-clinical spotlight series going on this site!
Don’t forget to follow The Non-Clinical PT on LinkedIn 🙂
4. Skipping the networking events
In-person networking events are extremely important. Unfortunately, I’m extremely awkward in social events where I don’t know people. Like, I resort to making fart jokes awkward.
Needless to say, I avoid social networking events like the plague, but that most certainly cost me some jobs along the way. All of the folks with whom I’ve spoken who actually made a quick, clean transition out of patient care did so because of networking. They showed up, smiled dazzling smiles, handed out business cards, and landed non-clinical jobs.
Just trust me on this. Create business cards and get out there and start networking. Go to after-work events. Attend meetup.com events that seem mildly interesting.
Be shameless. Get cards printed on Vistaprint that say “Your Name, PT, MPT” followed by your email address, phone number, and sub-title of “Seeking non-clinical opportunities.”
5. Being impatient
Leaving patient care is not always easy. For most people, it takes time and some serious work. Depending on the role you want, you might need to take some courses on Udemy, Khan Academy, or Lynda.com. You might even want to obtain an MBA (though if you’re in major debt from PT school, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it) or other type of supplemental degree.
I decided I was tired of being in school, so I resolved to just grind a bit and take lower pay rates as a contract copywriter as I got NGPT off the ground and worked as a per diem rehab intake liaison. If you count from the moment I decided to leave patient care until the moment I landed a truly non-clinical full-time job, it took me over 2.5 years to make the leap.
But it was worth every moment.
6. Being too humble
Now is not the time to be coy. PTs (and all therapists, for that matter) tend to be somewhat bashful about their achievements, but this is not always for the best. At least not when you’re trying to leave patient care.
When I would tell people I had started a website for new physical therapists, even in job interviews, I would often pass the credit to my co-founder or downplay my role in creating the site. I will say it right here – that site took a lot of work, and I feel that I became a pretty solid copywriter in the process of its creation.
For some reason, I had a hard time saying that in my writing interviews. And I think it led to my receiving lower rates for my work than I should.
Don’t make my mistake.
Play up your achievements. If you publish an article on NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com or WebPT.com, that’s great! Make it known! Shout it from the rooftops. You’re now a published author and your written communication skills now echo your stellar interpersonal skills (yep, most PTs are pretty awesome at verbal communication!)
If you tutored someone in school and they wound up passing because of you, say so! Discuss the strategies you used to motivate that student. And, helpful hint, you might want to use that student as a professional reference!
Be smarter about leaving patient care than I was.
I’ve listed just a few mistakes I made along the way. I’ll probably wind up creating a follow-up article because I know I made plenty of errors I didn’t even touch upon in this article.
What mistakes have you all made as you’ve strived to leave patient care? Don’t be afraid to share them below. This is a supportive community!