Just when I think I am nearly running out of mistakes I make new ones! But that is all part of the improvement phase of life which I am understanding to mean the improvement phase of your entire life. I really only have a few left in this series.
This one isn't necessarily the most painful mistake, but it was costly. Most mistakes cost something in terms of money, relationships, emotions, physical harm - if there wasn't some visceral consequence of making a decision how would we knew we could have made a better choice?
Sadly, not all decisions are logical ones - sometimes they are purely emotional ones that you can't argue with even though you know what the consequence will be.
Mistake #4: Taking an entire month off before starting the real job
This is one of those mistakes where I knew it wasn't a good idea, but how do you tell the man/woman who has spent the better part of two decades being told where to go and what to do that they need to start work sooner than later. They have an entire career of work ahead of them. It seems like an eternity and this is the last rest stop on the road.
I think everyone I know looks forward to taking a month off between the end of training and the start of a new job. It is almost expected and is one of the "prizes" we think we all earn. When will there ever be another time that you can take 4-6 weeks off and just do what you want before embarking on a career of long hours, stress, and life saving work?
So when he signed the contract and I looked at the start date I knew it wouldn't be rainbows and flowers. I knew because as part of my homework two years ago, so I would not make a tragic mistake, I ran across this article appropriately titled Two Big Mistakes Graduating Medical Residents Make. For a time I even had this link on my sidebar so I saw it often. Didn't matter! I forgot all about it in the euphoria that is signing a contract!
Sure, that month off was nice to spend with my husband and children. Yes, it was nice to sleep in and not listen to a pager go off in the middle of the night for an entire month. Absolutely, we had a great time! We took a couple of weekend trips, visited family, and just relaxed. We did everything we felt we couldn't do during training.
Here is a warning, given in love, from someone who was very recently there:
That time off has a fixed cost. In fact when you look at it from a financial perspective that month off may have been the most expensive month of our entire lives. Think of how much that month off will cost you in terms of dollars. I don't always think about money, but money is important and learning how to tame it is a survival skill.
The larger your salary the greater the opportunity cost of taking time off will be. Let's say your salary will be $400,000/year. If you divide that amount by 12 you are looking at a gross income opportunity loss of $33,333 for that one month that you will never get back or make up. Of course the net amount will be vastly different (love taxes), but even then the net loss would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000. What could $20,000 do for you?
Can you afford to miss out on $33,333 in earnings and approximately $20,000 in cash? Is taking a month off worth that much money to you? If the answer yes, then maybe taking a block of time off is the right decision for you. If the answer is no, maybe starting work sooner than later and then taking a vacation after you have worked for a few months is the right decision. You know doctors get vacation time, right:-)
Spend some time as a family deciding how much time off is needed or appropriate for your situation and financial goals. Have the conversation and consider the financial implications. Are you buying a house, want new furniture, must have a vacation now, just want do do nothing? Once you can identify what your priorities are, you can determine what portion of your income you are willing to miss out on to have it. Maybe all you really need is a week, not a month.
For me, I wish we had started work earlier. In our case, it would have been well worth it for me to move our family in and unpack all by myself. I would have gladly done it alone, in the pouring rain, barefoot, in exchange for the amount that we missed out on.
Now, almost 3 months after starting work, we finally feel like we are catching up from that 1 month we took off. Was it worth it? It was nice, but it wasn't worth missing out on $xx,xxx. One week or two would have been sufficient, a month was too long.
Decide what is right for you and your situation. Decide.
Here is one mistake you don't want to make - Medical Monday's is coming on this next week. Monday November 4th. Yes, the bad news is that it is November and the good news is that you can start the week off right by joining with us!