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They say that a man who hates a dog has no heart. They say a man who hates his job is a lawyer. Last week, I wrote that in a piece about career management for my speaker’s blog, John G Self. It had a ring to it — and it fit my message for today — so I decided to borrow it from myself.

I do not know how widespread the professional dissatisfaction is within the legal industry, but I have been told by many attorneys in subsequent conversations that it is common. 

If you ask the Baby Boomer generation of healthcare leaders why they chose this profession, you frequently hear phrases like “a chance to serve…” or “the opportunity to help people…” Perhaps one of the best career choice explanations that I have heard from a healthcare CEO is this:

“I felt called to this industry. It is a business, but it is a business with a conscience.  It offers everything for an executive who is seeking one of the toughest challenges in business. We get a chance to experience the intellectual and emotional satisfaction of running one of the most complex business models ever created and in the process we provide meaningful service to our communities and the people who come to our hospitals. And all the time we are looking for ways to innovate so that we can serve more effectively. It just does not get better than that.”  

Even after more than 25 years in the profession, this CEO admitted that he still is excited to go to work each day — yes, some days more than others — but it still offered emotional and professional satisfaction. His wife agreed. “There are so many challenges in a relationship that create friction or fractures. Your spouse’s work is huge. But I am truly lucky that my husband loves, absolutely loves what he does and it shows up in our daily lives.”  

I know, based on my 30+ years in healthcare, that is not an isolated example, and that makes me very proud to be in an industry where so many people love what they do. There are other professions where this passion runs deep, but in this example — the law versus healthcare — the contrast is stark.

The larger, more important career/life’s lesson is this: pursue the work about which you are passionate. For college students enamored with a certain profession, look before you leap. Do not be seduced by a mind’s eye rose colored image of what your professional life will be like in five or 10 years. Do not discount the negatives, I don’t care how much money they throw at you.

If you choose healthcare expect a bumpy but rewarding career where, if you are smart enough and a good leader, you can make a solid impact  in one of America’s most important service industries, and, along the way, you can improve life for your fellow man. 

© 2012 John Gregory Self