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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Find Your Passion, Find Your Niche

Published October 12, 2013 6:12 PM by Glen McDaniel


There is a lot happening in this country these days. As a medical laboratory scientist, I have been used to change, but it seems like the past few years have been typified by huge changes to many people I know personally and professionally.

One of the questions I get asked a lot as I travel around this country and as I read my emails is , "How can I find a satisfying career in this second half of my life?" or something similar. The professional workforce is aging and as boomers approach retirement, many are burnt out. However the reality is that they might not be able to retire for financial reasons, or they feel healthy and vigorous enough that they are not yet ready to stop working. They are asking, "What else can I do now?" Boomers have become "seekers."

The stock answer to a seeker of any age (or of any background) is to say find your passion, do it for a vocation and you will feel like you are not even working. But how do you find your passion without paying a shrink or life coach? I have a simple method.

Take a piece of paper, grab a pen, sit in a quiet place and answer in writing three simple questions.  

What really excites you?For some this is easy to answer, for others it takes some introspection. Think about the things you like to talk about, to watch on TV. What areas are you always following on the Internet? If you go to a bookstore (yes, those still exist) what section do you gravitate to?

What would you do for free?  OK, the tendency is to say, "Nothing." But if you were independently wealthy or won the lottery, what would you choose to do to keep yourself busy, to give back, and to feed your mind? This can be something specific or a general area. Writing down these answers tens to crystallize your thoughts and let you see a pattern as you write.  So just write freely without censorship.

This may or may something you are especially good at. Do family members and colleagues compliment you in a certain area or constantly volunteer you for a certain type of task that you also like to do?

What really annoys you? This one sounds odd, but if something really annoys you, you generally have some idea of how to change or ameliorate that situation. If it's a process, you might have some alternative suggestions of how you would "run" things better.

These are very simple questions, but I suggest you really think about them. Write down your thoughts and revisit the list three, four, five times. Look for patterns and trends.  This technique can be used in any area of your life. For seeking laboratorians it might mean moving out of the laboratory to pursue something else; whether inside or outside of healthcare. But just as likely it might entail pursuing a path within the
laboratory you had not even considered before.

You could be the laboratory liaison to a college, hospital department or the public.  Think of adding value by being the laboratory expert or "go to" person in a particular area. It might even mean creating a brand new job.  You might well have to sell your boss on changing the status quo; so be prepared to do that. The good thing is I have found that in today's changing, challenging climate, managers all the way up to the C-suite are
very open to any idea that increases productivity, that increases the bottom or line or that makes them look better.

So, open your imagination. Get that piece of paper and start writing.


Very timely article. I have been having these conversations with my fellow scientists at work and also my other friends in business and so on.  

I started doing QA when I got tired of working the bench almost 4 years ago. Most supervisors were more than happy to give up all that review work to me, to have me oversee the QC  in their various departments and create reports monthly for the lab director. As a result of my work, we have had several changes. For example, There has been change in frequency of QC in Hematology (decreased) so we save money.  We started doing chemistry QC on the night shift when the volume is low instead of the busy day shift. When the day shift comes in, QC is already done and ready to go. We have had many classes to re-educate the technicians and scientist who have the most problem with QC.

Both CAP and Joint Commission complimented us on how strong our program was. They can clearly see the frequent  review, re-education of staff, change in processes or reagents based on analysis and the many  improvements we have made. That is what QA is about.

What started as a part time job became a full time job. Recently the hospital has been using Six Sigma in various departments so my job now is to work with the lab and some other departments like the ED to incorporate Six Sigma. I am doing something exciting. I went from being tired and burnt out to feeling really useful. I am making a difference and I am known outside of the lab.  I love my job!

Jason T, Change Consultant October 13, 2013 5:09 PM
New York NY

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