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Learning new skills vs climbing the hierarchy

Hello everyone,

today we talked with my supervisor/mentor. I exposed to him my career plan for the next 2-3 years. It implied staying a resident physician (my current level in the hierarchy) and going to learn about adolescent medicine, child abuse and child psychiatry.

These are all important skills in working with migrant population. I'm not "shopping around". I would like also to do dermatology (or maybe just do a theoretical training) and then I would be set in terms of basic skills.

He told me after I exposed him my plan:  "You cannot stay a resident physician for ever: you'll have to be a big man at some point" (meaning climb the hierarchy instead of staying at your current level)

Context: I've been studying for about 15 years  so it tells you my love of learning. However, that is not why I do that. Of course I want to be competent, but now I feel comfortable not knowing certain things.

It is more about what Tom Bilyeu said: "The path to success/happiness is the systematic acquisition of skills that have utility".

And this quote: "every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success"

I think Tom Bilyeu is right. However I understand that there is a timing for everything. That I'm already 41 and that some jobs will only be available within a certain time frame.

I'm curious to read what the community thinks about the tension between expanding one's skills (being a learner) and climbing a hierarchy.

Of course you can do both, however, I'm talking about learning new skills adjacent to yours. If you're a generalist in your domain about acquiring specific skills that also will pertain to your daily activity.

Alex has reacted to this post.
Alex
Quote from John Freeman on August 26, 2022, 9:52 am

Hello everyone,

today we talked with my supervisor/mentor. I exposed to him my career plan for the next 2-3 years. It implied staying a resident physician (my current level in the hierarchy) and going to learn about adolescent medicine, child abuse and child psychiatry.

These are all important skills in working with migrant population. I'm not "shopping around". I would like also to do dermatology (or maybe just do a theoretical training) and then I would be set in terms of basic skills.

He told me after I exposed him my plan:  "You cannot stay a resident physician for ever: you'll have to be a big man at some point" (meaning climb the hierarchy instead of staying at your current level)

Context: I've been studying for about 15 years  so it tells you my love of learning. However, that is not why I do that. Of course I want to be competent, but now I feel comfortable not knowing certain things.

It is more about what Tom Bilyeu said: "The path to success/happiness is the systematic acquisition of skills that have utility".

And this quote: "every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success"

I think Tom Bilyeu is right. However I understand that there is a timing for everything. That I'm already 41 and that some jobs will only be available within a certain time frame.

I'm curious to read what the community thinks about the tension between expanding one's skills (being a learner) and climbing a hierarchy.

Of course you can do both, however, I'm talking about learning new skills adjacent to yours. If you're a generalist in your domain about acquiring specific skills that also will pertain to your daily activity.

Hi John,

This is an important question, and also one I had to ask myself few years ago.

We might have a different story, but to give you a bit of context I've always tended to be a nerd that likes learning new useful and practical knowledge and skills, albeit often to the point of "bulimia" where it seemed to be never enough (I used to spend almost all of my time learning and researching, and not much on applying anything I learned).

Eventually, after careful of examination of my life I came to the conclusion that this was more of a way to stay in my comfort zone, as the knowledge and skills acquired gave me a sense of control, self-esteem and rewarded me. But in fact, I was not really happy with where I was and wasn't doing anything to solve that.

This is where my life took a shift, I started to listen to myself more, find out what my priorities were, and focused on fewer stuff while still acquiring knowledge in what mattered most. A great book that helped me to reach more focus was "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less".

Otherwise, I don't really know the kind of professional environment you're evolving in so it would be hard for me to say what I would do in your position, but one thing I know for sure is that as much as I want to bring value to others with my work, I also want to be respected and paid in fair proportion with my skills and knowledge. Which might mean reaching a certain position in the hierarchy when I feel that my skill is enough.

That being said, I have witnessed many times selfless yet competent people not really pursuing any kind of hierarchical climbing while letting opportunities open for lower value people, only to end up frustrated because they did not have much money by the end of their life, or needed to obey less competent and unfair managers. This is the kind of thing that I find very frustrating, just like the fact that more intelligent people make less children. And definitely not something I would personally want (even though I believe that the other extreme of pursuing power for power only is as unhealthy). Moreover, reaching leadership positions might also be a way to protect yourself against the rise of AI which might become a threat for medical professions in the near future.

John Freeman, Kavalier and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
John FreemanKavalierleaderoffun

Hello Alex,

thank you for your thorough answer!

I do agree with you there is a balance to be found. I'm thinking that doing 2 years of complementary skill learning after my degree is a good idea. However, I agree with you that it has to do with staying in your comfort zone as well.

In my case it's more that if I start to climb the hierarchy I won't be able to go back to learning these skills.

Regarding AI, after having practiced my profession for 4 years now, I don't think that it's a threat in the near future for the kind of medicine I practiced.

The people that AI could replace (and I don't even think it's in the near future due to the nature of the work) are the radiologists. It will not replace them, though. We'll just need less of them I think. But that's another topic.

As an engineer I was sure it was, but now I changed my mind.

Alex and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
Alexleaderoffun

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