How To Switch And Make A Successful Career Transition
Are you thinking about making a career transition to another role? If yes, this article will help you understand what goes into a successful career transition and the modern day approach to finding the job you love.
Most people feel doubtful about switching from one career to another despite having the right opportunities, the desire and valid reasons to leave their current role.
They choose to stay in the same place instead, as they feel intimidated by the thought of leaving behind all they have built over the years and feel fearful about making a change in their life.
If you are facing a similar dilemma, my conversation with Runam Mehta, CEO at HealthCube about how to identify your strengths, leverage your network, and lifelong learning will help you get clarity about your career transition.
Runam Mehta started as a physiotherapist and has made several transitions and succeeded in each of her endeavours. You can catch our full conversation on career transitions here.
In Conversation With Runam Mehta, CEO at HealthCube
How To Switch And Make A Successful Career Transition
Can you tell us about your career transition from a physiotherapist to a CEO?
I studied to be a physiotherapist as I was interested in medicine as a subject. I also had a decent clinical practice. But I noticed a very gaping problem in the market - investment bankers, people working in the insurance companies would come with recurring issues of neck or back pain. That made me realize there was a simple solution they needed to know - to sit better. And someone to tell this to them.
So it just felt like a progression where I went from dealing with people coming to me to reaching people who needed me through workshops with corporates. And that led to a lot of references which in turn led to hiring consultants, spreading out the work ultimately booming into a business.
So I went from being a clinical physiotherapist to a corporate physiotherapist and simultaneously running this whole business. And it was a very natural career transition at that point.
What was your first step towards moving into business?
I moved from Mumbai to Bangalore about 10 years ago and after I went there, I realized the sorry state of physiotherapists in this city at that time. It was an undervalued, under-appreciated career with very few growth prospects.
So, I spent a year unemployed, trying to figure out what would be the right way to disrupt physiotherapy in Bangalore.
I came across Portea - a home healthcare company that was at that time trying to organise the disorganised home care segment. So they were looking at a variety of services and physiotherapy was one of them.
They hired me to build their physiotherapy business and that armed me with all of my clinical knowledge. I think that's where my first step of moving out of clinical permanently and moving into the business happened.
What were some of the transferable skills that helped you move from one space to another?
The first and the most important thing was my willingness to learn.
It doesn't matter what you're doing in life, you must go into a new career or a new project with the mindset that you have to learn something before you can deliver.
The second important thing is how comfortable you are with taking risks.
Because the fear of failure is very real. When you're going from a technical role into a business role, you have to be okay with failure. The people who are betting on you also have to be open to allowing you to fail.
This allowance to fail is important.
The next thing is structured problem-solving. You need to look at a problem, get to the bottom of it, and think about the best possible solution in your given situation.
Taking sabbaticals isn't that common in India. How did you manage to take a year off?
Honestly, my gap year wasn't planned. I was just going to set up a physiotherapy system out here as the growth prospects at that time were so bleak.
I didn't want to settle for something where the ceiling was already defined for me. And I was very fortunate because I had a partner, who allowed me to find my way.
I had the support system, the emotional backing to take my time and to find my way into a career that at least allows me to grow into it instead of a career that kind of clips my wings before I even start to fly.
That's the reason I was able to find the right opportunity.
There's always a risk that things may not work out. So how do you decide that this is a risk worth taking?
I approach risks by writing down what the worst-case scenario could be. If I'm okay with it, I take the risk.
I think people get caught up in defining worst-case scenarios that aren't likely to happen.
You said you've been lucky. What does that mean?
I'm not the one to say that people fail or succeed only because of luck, but, I think it would be arrogant of anyone to assume that their success or failure doesn't have a modicum of luck to it.
I think I've been fortunate in many ways. I was lucky because I had treated a few high profile people. I cured them. And then when I saw this opportunity to reach larger audiences, they became my starting point. I was able to call them up and say - Hey, can I do this workshop for your people?
At Portea, they were looking for a profile different from the role I applied for. But I was lucky enough to get interviewed by the COO instead of the HR. And he decided to take a chance on me. So, I was able to get the job without the required qualifications.
Of course, I run with the opportunity I see.
And I've been very lucky to see as many opportunities as I did.
At what ages have you made these career transitions and how has your experience been?
I believe that my career has constantly been transitioning since I started working at 22.
I'm now 37. And in the last 15 years, I've had at least four or five meaningful transitions. And between Portia to now, I've gone from heading growth to heading the organization. So I've had at least four or five transitions.
It has become easier with time as I've become more confident in my ability to transition.
What have you found hard and how did you get through your career transitions?
As you grow older, you need to continue to be okay with being a dumb person.
It's easy to be curious at the beginning of your career. But as you progress and rise in your position, asking for help from others feels difficult. However, that's essential for career growth. I have continued to be curious and have the willingness to constantly learn from others.
Also, I have a child and I think prioritization has become more challenging over the last few years than ever before.
Because earlier it was work and life and now it's work, child and life. So the cost of what I do with my time is much higher. Every single day you have to choose mindfully what you do with yourself and your time.
How do you prioritise your work?
I analyze what are the problems that require my mind share versus somebody else's mind share. The way I go about it is by asking myself, "who’s the best person for the job?" And secondly, if this job isn't done perfectly, what's the downside?
The second lens through which I look at it is if it's a job that we can get by on 80% efficiency. Does it need a hundred per cent efficiency?
I think you have to decide what deserves a hundred per cent and what we are okay with doing with less efficiency.
What is it like being in a CEO role?
Firstly, it's not that big a deal. It's just like any other job.
There are problems, resources and you have to do your very best to use the resources to solve the problem. I think - here's the money, here are the people, here's the problem. How do you solve that?
And I think we need to stop complicating things. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously, titles only matter that much. It's ultimately just about structured problem-solving.
What advice would you have for people looking to transition roles?
First thing is to learn to leverage people. People are happy to help. Most people are happy to advise you, take a little time, and guide you.
The second thing would be to learn, to identify the right lever. There'll be a hundred ways to solve a problem, but identifying the right lever, which will move the needle to solve a problem would benefit you, no matter what you are doing.
And number three is prioritising. Pick your battles. You don't have to fight everything. Both at home and work, you have to decide which battles are worth fighting. Pick those up and delegate the rest of them.
Any final thoughts?
I'll leave you with one thing that my husband said to me a long time back when I was struggling and trying to find my way.
Just chase excellence and success will follow. It's been almost 10 years now and I've lived by that mantra. I don't chase the title. I don't chase salary. I don't chase the next big thing. I chase excellence every single day and everything else has followed.
So to everyone who's around here, I would say just chase excellence in whatever you choose to do. And the rest will follow!