Dhanya James, DrOT, OTR/L, CLT had a successful career as an occupational therapist. She did outstanding work in her specialty as a lymphedema specialist but had limited options for further career growth. Through the years she experienced burnout and frustration around the healthcare system. Her burnout was related to her highly structured schedule, increasing demands during COVID, and her income ceiling as a clinician. Beyond flexibility and pay, Dhanya dreamed of impacting more people and feeling more respected as a specialist.
The Search for Answers
After several years of dreaming from a distance, COVID kicked Dhanya into active career exploration. After some soul-searching, Dhanya updated her resume and even landed interviews for non-clinical positions. It quickly became clear – interviewing for non-clinical roles was a whole new ball game. “I was just so frustrated. I got interviews but no jobs. I kept getting positive feedback around my personality but people doubted that I had the skills for these positions.” But she did have the right skills. She just didn’t know how to connect her current experience to the expectations of non-clinical positions. However, Dhanya didn’t have forever to figure it out. Following a casual conversation with a sales rep friend, she landed an interview for a position as a Key Account Manager in the Oncology Division at Tactile Medical. This felt like a golden opportunity that aligned perfectly with Dhanya’s experience in cancer-related lymphedema. So Dhanya doubled down on her need to sell her skills during interviews. “What do I have to lose?” Between attending an AOTA Summit and social media, Dhanya discovered the Rehab Tech Summit and was drawn to the track featuring Career Growth.
“The timing was perfect! I was looking at how to learn new skills and how therapists got their non-clinical roles because I wanted to do the same. So I signed up immediately, figuring I didn’t have anything to lose.” The easy decision for Dhanya was surprisingly difficult to explain to curious coworkers. “I would tell people at work that I was going to the Rehab Tech Summit and I had mixed reactions. Some were supportive and some wondered why I was attending a conference not directly related to patient care.” But Dhanya was not deterred. Her dreams were worth the time and money investment. “It was definitely something I did for me. Not for the department, not for the hospital. Not for anything else. But for me and my own career goals.” As fate would have it, Dhanya’s interview with Tactile Medical was scheduled for the week right after the weekend of Rehab Tech Summit. So she headed into the weekend laser-focused to learn whatever she could for a successful interview.
The Turning Point
Initially, she was a little worried the Rehab Tech wouldn’t fulfill her big expectations, but Dhanya didn’t need to wait long to feel at home within the conference. With a clear focus, she attended the sessions that best fit her goals. Never a person to jump into the limelight, the conference format provided flexibility for her learning style and comfort level. Even if she wasn’t the first to hit unmute, Dhanya was still an actively engaged attendee. She took pages of notes and interacted with speakers online. “I’m not that good with networking and I’m very awkward on these things. The nice thing about virtual is using the chatbox. That takes away the pressure of speaking up onscreen.” With her interest in career transition, Dhayna loved sessions that included career spotlights and topics around sales communication. For Dhanya, it was powerful to see what was possible and to witness others with similar personality traits or skills who successfully made the leap to non-clinical jobs. “I always learned by example. So for me, it really resonated to see others like me who were doing jobs I wanted to do.” A big shift in confidence happened during one of the breakout rooms. During the discussion, Dhanya shared ideas and insights. And later when the moderator shared the ideas with the bigger group, everyone was impressed. “And I realized for the first time, I am on to something. I do know what I’m doing. Up until that point, I was still insecure.” And as the conference wrapped up. Dhanya got to work on her interview prep. It was time to take all her new knowledge and confidence to knock her upcoming Tactile Medical interview out of the park.
The Interview that Felt Completely Different
This time Dhanya showed up to her interview fully prepared with concrete answers to link her experience with the role at Tactile Medical. “It was the scariest interview but also the most exciting. I knew I was killing the interview. There’s this one director shooting questions like a machine and I was answering every single one of them. And she left the interview with a completely new feeling. She knew she successfully laid it all on the line and actually captured the spark she brought to the position. And this time, she got the role! In reflecting on what was different, Dhayna discovered, “Instead of just showing my personality and my general experience, I was able to effectively convey the skills for this specific role. That was my biggest takeaway from the Rehab Summit.”
Things are so different in just a year.
A year into her role as Account Manager at Tactile Medical and Dhanya is so thankful for her new life. Instead of the commute and rigid schedule of a typical occupational therapist, Dhanya works from home and even gets to travel. It’s a combination that provides the mix of flexibility and growth Dhanya always dreamed of. “My new job has pushed me to be more confident. I’m selling at the end of the day. So I feel more bubbly and walk a little taller. It’s changed my life.” Most importantly, she got that sense of respect she spent years longing to achieve. “I feel I have a voice in the company. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like that at my previous jobs and in this job, I really do feel respected for what I’m able to contribute.” Taking her new confidence and voice to the next level, Dhanya stepped onto the stage at Tactile Medical by leading a 1.5-hour workshop for sales reps and senior leadership. Her workshop was successful because of her perspective and expertise as a therapist. “I feel like this is the job where I was able to be myself fully. There are aspects of every job that aren’t perfect but I love what I’m doing now. I help make real change so my impact is so much farther than it was before.” And an exciting part is going from a soft-spoken attendee to being featured as career spotlight at the 2022 Rehab Tech Summit. “I’m thinking back to last year, and I do remember me being so quiet. I’m like, Oh my God. Yeah, things are so much different now than they were last year.” Dhanya’s story illustrates this: Your dreams aren’t dependent on your personality or your current knowledge. With perseverance and willingness to learn, you can carve out a new future. Taking your learning and implementing is the path to success. That’s why Dhanya recommends, “Take everything in, go back to what you miss. Have a notebook with you. And write down anything that resonates with you. Reach out to any speakers that touched you in some way.” Even without jumping into centerstage, you can be an active attendee and uncover the right tips to change your life.