For the longest time ever, there has been the traditional mindset that the ideal career is either in a medical, legal or finance profession. This is particularly entrenched in an Asian family, as it appears that such careers are the only pathways to guarantee one’s success in life.

Interestingly in today’s society and context, we do find that there are a number individuals taking up alternative career roles that are vastly different from their educational background in medicine, law or finance. Here we will draw our focus towards the medical profession. Let us explore the various reasons as to why individuals are leaving these roles, and the types of careers that they have chosen to pursue instead.

The need to choose the right degree

In the majority of the cases, the chosen degree programme determines an individual’s career path. Hence, often at a tender age of 17 to 20 years old, we are expected to have a generic idea of our intended career path. Being relatively young, we do not know what is “ultimately good” for us, and it is a common notion to take the advice of our parents.

In their eyes, being a medical doctor who does good for the community and is able to generate a stable income has been accorded a certain level of prestige. However, there is no reference made to the amount of hard work and time invested to make the medical profession a reality.

For instance, an undergraduate programme requires an arduous 6-year journey, ranging from theoretical examinations, practical examinations and a practicum at a public hospital. Furthermore, upon commencement in being a doctor, one needs to be continuously updated with the current medical advancements in the field. Hence, the quest for further knowledge has and will become a lifelong journey for them and this is in spite of their busy work schedules. Therefore, when students are made aware of this hard truth, they begin to realise that they might be unable to commit to such intensities in their medical career.

Millennials think differently

One other contributing factor is the fact that “millennials” have a significantly different upbringing, relative to their “Generation X” counterparts. Economic and social circumstances have varied and changed so much in the last 50 years and this influenced their thinking.

The “Generation X” is generally more pragmatic in nature and prefers long-term stability in decisions. This precludes them from expanding their search for an alternative career role and the focus is on gaining status and carving out a stable career path – even if it is not in their own interest.

However, if we were to analyse the mind of the “Millennials”, they are often more ambitious and forward-looking. Generally speaking, the “Millennials” prefer to take a step back to seek a wider perspective of things that surround a major life decision in their early 20s.

Considerations that they have primarily include: Do I have a general interest in saving others? Will I be able to spend time with my family? Does this profession bring me a sense of satisfaction later in life? Indeed, expressing their individuality and alignment with their true identity and values are key elements that they look out for in a career.

Another result of the changing socio-economic landscape in our society has opened the doors for a greater acceptance of what can be defined as the “new norms”. The use of technology and the exponential rise in the popularity in social media has blitz the way forward for this to happen.

This is leading to a change in the thinking that one can only attain success through the traditional career role of being a doctor since technologies in our current digital age has made being an entrepreneur possible – effectively, expanding the routes available to success!

In fact, anyone can be their own boss; given the right idea, an expansive business network and with sets of the relevant technical skills. With this combination, individuals can start to pursue careers that are in their own interest and not be restricted to the “traditional guarantees of success”.

A byproduct of this change has a spillover effect on the other career roles also. As individuals become more open-minded, careers such as teaching, social work and creative are increasingly normalised and accepted amongst society. This is where we see various stereotypes weaken and more individuals are gaining confidence in pursuing these careers.

Admittedly, there are individuals who genuinely want to be in the medical profession due to a desire to serve and contribute to the community in the restoration of health of those who are unwell. Yet, as they enter into the profession, they find the demands of their career risks – ironically – their own health, personal well-being and social life.

As a result, their innate desire is often destroyed by disillusions, as this career path requires more than just being capable in the field. It demands a complete dedication of their time, energy and effort to pursue advances in their medical knowledge, adherences to administrative protocols and to devote themselves completely to the Hippocratic oath.

Certainly, one can conclude that such demands are a high price to pay for the amount of recognition that one can get. Given the above considerations, it is little wonder why our medical professionals are overworked and the decision to pursue an alternative career path is now much more plausible. MIMS

Read more:
Why becoming a doctor is still worthwhile despite the gritty realities
Part-time doctoring as a means to cope with burnout
Is a work-life balance impossible for doctors?