Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD, has researched and taught about career planning and life fulfillment for over 20 years while also focusing on his own career and personal life.
Over the course of his academic and research career, Augusta University’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs has hosted many workshops, each tailored to the specific needs of the participants. While he has worked heavily with medical professionals, given his own background as a pharmacist, he is quick to note that regardless of their concentration, all faculty, staff and students can benefit from his workshops.
MacKinnon’s paper “Career and life fulfillment and planning for medical trainees, and physicians,” was recently published in the International Journal of Medical Education. The paper was co-authored with Danielle Rosema, MD, assistant professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, and Pauwlina Cyca, a medical student at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.
“Whether it’s health professionals, faculty and staff, or even students here at the university, sometimes we get so fixated on the career part of our lives, we lose sight of the importance of how that fits with the rest of your life. This particular paper was written and edited for a medical journal, and my co-authors are in medicine, but I think the principles are applicable to anyone in any career,” MacKinnon said.
While the published paper is aimed at medical professionals and students, the message at its core can be applied to nearly every field, especially when considering a recent publication by the United States Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, MD, titled “Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being.”
“If you look at the surgeon general’s new report that came out recently, the five core components align perfectly with the five main points I have found in creating that balance between career and life fulfillment,” MacKinnon said.
“Coming out of COVID, a lot of people have been feeling different levels of burnout, which has led to the ‘Great Resignation.’ People have really begun to rethink the importance of work-life balance. Just about everyone has had to reassess their priorities.”
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The two publications share many of the same points, and MacKinnon is excited to see his publication fall in line with the surgeon general’s research.
MacKinnon’s paper discusses a five-step process for focusing on holism. It begins with scanning your career’s environment, including speaking to mentors, analyzing data and reviewing literature on career fulfillment. Next, engage in self-reflection and self-assessment, including considering one’s definition of success, values, needs, passions, interests, strengths and abilities. Then, set an overarching career vision with short- and long-term professional and personal goals. Fourth, formulate an action plan with strategies, a timeframe and resources needed to accomplish those goals. Finally, partake in regular, ongoing reassessment and reevaluation, accounting for the fact that career and life planning is an iterative process.
Similarly, the surgeon general notes there are five essentials for workplace mental health and well-being: protection from harm, connection and community, work-life harmony, mattering at work, and opportunity for growth.
According to the surgeon general’s report, “There are more than 160 million people who are a part of the U.S. workforce today. Work is one of the most vital parts of life, powerfully shaping our health, wealth and well-being.”
The report continued by noting that when people thrive in their workplace, there is a higher likelihood they will feel both physically and mentally healthy, which leads to continued positive contributions in the workplace.
“I recently discussed the surgeon general’s report with the president’s executive cabinet and will be meeting with Rebecca Carroll, who leads our human resources team, to see how we are doing as a university on all five of these things,” MacKinnon said.
“Now that the surgeon general has developed this new framework, I will modify my workshop and approach it accordingly. In particular, work-life harmony is one of those things to try to think about what it really means,” MacKinnon said. “As far as how we can influence that in our own faculty and staff, you can put all your energy in your career and be very successful, but at the end of the day, if your life is falling apart, is it worth it? We want Augusta University to be a model for work-life harmony for all.”