How important is it for a female physician’s career advancement to lecture in CME courses? To answer that question, we begin by relating part of the synopsis of a CME offered by Harvard Medical School. Entitled, “ Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare”. The course is designed to help women develop leadership skills in “key leadership skill set domains”, one of which is “Communication: Executive presence, dynamic and persuasive public speaking”, etc. To the extent that you consider Harvard Medical School a preeminent expert on various matters, that pretty much answers the question. To advance one’s career, a woman must be seen and heard by her colleagues, regarded as a leader and a subject matter expert. Speaking at a CME is the best way to accomplish all those goals.

Of course, now that we have answered the question, there are caveats. First, how do you define career advancement? It is leadership at the administration level or is it a key position in research? Is it a public health and public advocacy post or an internal influencer role in patient quality and safety? Career goals are highly individual and therefore, so is career advancement.

There is No Training for Career Advancement

No one is trained to understand, or plan for, career advancement. As highly trained as physicians may be, there usually isn’t a med school course entitled “How to become a leader in your hospital”. On top of that, many organizations have no idea how to nurture leaders or create clear cut career paths for them. When Towers Watson, a professional services company, conducted a survey on the issue they found:

  • Only 37 percent of companies in the U.S. and Canada stated that their employees understand how they can shape their careers in their given role
  • 44 percent of companies report that their employees are actually able to obtain the career advancement opportunities they desire
  • Only 25 percent of survey respondents said that managers effectively provide career advancement to their employees

The Ball is in Your Court

Even if your organization doesn’t have a clue about providing you with career advancement opportunities, you can create them yourself. The key elements to building a solid career are as follows:

  • Expand your skill sets
  • Take on additional responsibilities
  • Evolve and/or change your role as you grow and learn
  • Find acknowledgement for your accomplishments
  • Seek advancement plans as part of your contract, including raises

Speaking at CME adds to that strategy because the old adage of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, remains true as ever. The richness and reach of your professional network will serve you well. It will expand your knowledge, your ability to change jobs, raise your profile and your position as an influencer. Sharing your experiences and skills as a speaker will give you high visibility and automatically expand your professional network.

It’s About Influence

As you build your career, you will need to influence people; to get work done, to achieve goals, to advance in your job. Speaking at CMEs is one of the best ways to present yourself as an influencer. Influence, according to one expert, “...is the application of power to accomplish a specific purpose”. Among the positive influence techniques identified by this expert are:

  • Logical persuading
  • Legitimizing
  • Exchanging
  • Stating
  • Alliance building
  • Appealing to values

These are also the techniques of a compelling public speaking. Therefore; speaking at CMEs equals influence equals career advancement. A + B = C. It’s a short, smart equation for career advancement for women physicians.

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