The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting paths that physical therapy professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Lily Mercer, PT, DPT, who went from physical therapist to account executive at a healthcare tech company.
What’s your name and full title?
Lily Mercer. I am an Account Executive at Health Recovery Solutions, a healthcare technology company.
Where did you attend PT school and when did you graduate?
I graduated from Columbia University’s Program in Physical Therapy in 2016.
Why did you initially pursue PT?
I have always been passionate about healthcare and helping others. I decided to pursue physical therapy because I love working with and getting to know other people. PT has a high level of patient engagement, which appealed to me.
What did you like about PT?
The patients! I absolutely loved getting to know them and seeing them progress over time.
What did you dislike/find frustrating about PT?
Working with insurance companies was one of the most frustrating parts of being a physical therapist. Also, I worked in outpatient orthopedics, and I found the staggered schedule difficult to adjust to. I am a creature of habit and I did not like working different hours every day. The nature of my work schedule also made it difficult to achieve work-life balance.
At what point did you start to consider a non-clinical career?
I started to consider a non-clinical career when I was on my rotations in PT school. I knew I wanted to remain in healthcare, but I started to have doubts about my longevity in patient care. However, I decided to practice in a great setting as a licensed PT before making my final decision.
Did you work with any professionals along the way when you decided to go non-clinical?
Yes, I worked with a career coach. This was immensely helpful. Before working with a career coach, I had a lot of trouble deciding what to do with my career. I wasn’t even sure that a career change was the answer.
After several months of back and forth, I finally decided to seek outside help and I am so glad I did. I needed to speak with an objective person, someone who wasn’t a family member or a friend. My career coach not only motivated me to figure out my next step, he also helped me gain clarity on what’s truly important to me inside and outside of my career. We developed long and short-term goals, many of which I am still working toward today.
Where do you work now? How long have you worked there?
I work as an Account Executive for Health Recovery Solutions (HRS), a healthcare technology company that provides telehealth software to chronic disease patients. I have been working at HRS since September, 2017.
What does your role as an account executive entail?
I am on the business development side of the company. I support the sales and marketing team in finding new clients. As part of this role, I also work on email marketing campaigns, I find clinical research that supports my company’s cause, and I distribute this information to potential clients.
What’s a day in the life like for you?
Every day is a little different. I often work with the sales team to generate new business, but I am also working with the marketing team to improve our website and set up a blog.
What made you decide to pursue this particular role at your particular company?
Although I wanted to leave clinical care, I am still incredibly passionate about healthcare. It is important to me that I use my skills to contribute to the advancement of healthcare. I narrowed my focus to healthcare technology companies because I am excited by the progress they drive in our healthcare system.
Throughout my job search process, I placed more value on the company than the role.
I wanted to find a company whose mission aligned with my own and I wanted to make sure that the company culture facilitated a learning environment. I am fortunate to have found both at HRS.
What steps did you take to land the role? Did you tailor your resume/cover letter specially, etc? Network?
I worked with my career coach to tailor my resume to highlight both clinical and non-clinical experiences. However, I did NOT at all hide that I was a clinician.
My unique background was valuable in the job search process. Coming from a clinical background was an easy way to distinguish myself from the crowd. When I got a chance to speak with prospective employers, I made sure to emphasize how my experience working within the healthcare system made me understand why technology in healthcare is so desperately needed.
In addition to demonstrating the transferability of my clinical background, I also highlighted my other experience in healthcare. I was a writer and editor for NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com and I participated in clinical research when I was at Columbia. This outside work most definitely enhanced my resume when I was seeking to make a change.
What are the pros/cons of your role?
Pros – The people I work with are incredibly smart and willing to teach me, being part of a progressive side of healthcare, the variety of responsibilities I have during the workday.
Cons – Working as an account executive involves a sitting all day, which isn’t ideal.
What are some skills that someone should have to apply for a role like yours?
When jumping into any new situation, particularly a career change, it is important to be willing to learn. Recognize what you know and how that can be valuable, but also identify what you could work on. For example, my clinical background and scientific research skills allow me to develop content for email marketing campaigns. However, I have a lot to learn about inside sales and marketing in general, so I made sure to subscribe to a few newsletters and blogs so I can learn more.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are usually willing to teach you and you end up being able to provide more value because you asked.
What excites you the most about what you’re doing?
I am excited and proud to contribute to the progression of healthcare.
What are your career goals?
TBD on this one! When I first pursued the clinical route, I thought I had it all figured out. This process has made me realize that I need to embrace taking one day at a time. I know I am on the right path – right now my main goal is to soak up as much knowledge as I can.
What would you tell a clinician who is considering going non-clinical but afraid of the judgment?
I was worried about this too, and I found the fear of judgment paralyzing in my decision to leave clinical care. However, after much self-reflection, I concluded that leaving clinical care was the best option for me, regardless of what anyone else thought.
I stopped looking for validation from other people, I started applying to non-clinical jobs, and I never looked back.
By the time I had an offer, I had enough confidence to proudly embrace my decision. And to my pleasant surprise, my PT colleagues were happy for me. Perhaps some people judged, but I am honestly not aware of them.
It’s also helpful to step outside yourself when making a decision like this. There are plenty of professionals, like lawyers and MDs, who use their degrees in unique ways. PTs are just as qualified to break with convention!
Do you have any specific tips for a clinician who doesn’t know where to start with making the move out of patient care?
- Talk to everyone and anyone who has made a career change, particularly within the medical field. Speaking with other people who’ve succeeded in their career changes was incredibly insightful and made me feel confident that I could do the same.
- Take the advice of people who have what you want. If you know of someone who is doing what you want to be doing, reach out to them. Ask them about their career, and how they think you can apply your experience.
- Embrace the DPT – you worked hard for it. Your degree can only help you and it is more versatile than you think it is.
Thanks for your insight, Lily!