February 19, 2023

2 min read


Oxentenko A. Presentation: Professional Advancement: Succeed like a woman. Presented at: Scrubs and Heels Summit; Feb. 17-19, 2023; Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Oxentenko reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Succeeding like a woman means reframing your mindset, prioritizing what is best for you and not being afraid to pivot in your career, according to a speaker at the Scrubs and Heels Summit.

“We tend to stay in roles and jobs longer than we maybe ought to because of loyalty; we are afraid of disappointing someone who has invested their resources in us,” Amy Oxentenko, MD, professor of gastroenterology and vice dean of practice at Mayo Clinic, said. “You can imagine in doing so [staying in your role that] you may be pleasing them, but it might be circumventing your potential growth and leadership.”

Amy Oxentenko

Image: Healio

She further noted an integral hurdle women face in being unable to pivot or grow to new successes in their career is working through the mindset that disappointing others is okay. But how do women get to this career path they desire? Oxentenko outlined four key pieces of advice.

“The first step is dispelling that career path myth because that can get you into the trap that I was in, initially, of being blinded to those other non-linear options,” she said.

The second step, she noted, is to focus on transferrable skills: “Think about cultivating skills that are transferrable to any career you want to do.”

The third step is to create milestones. “Don’t necessarily always shoot for a title, although we are always programmed to think like that; [instead] think of milestones as things you can do along the way to get the skills and the tools that you need,” she said.

Finally, the fourth step is to encourage small experiments; Oxentenko encouraged attendees to dip their toe into new things that intrigue them before deciding to fully pivot.

Reflecting on her own non-linear growth in the field, Oxentenko offered life lessons for “succeeding like a woman”:

Lesson 1: you don’t have to think like a man, but it is valuable to know how men think.

Lesson 2: if you think of your career as a ladder or straight road, you will see there are few exits, detours or varied options.

Lesson 3: a common derailer is the inability to adapt; self-reflect on your openness to new things.

Lesson 4: you need food and water to survive, but avoid ‘dessert-opportunity gluttony’.

Lesson 5: your professional life is a rubber ball; the other things that are most important are not.

“Don’t be afraid to move your ladder to a new wall or to a jungle gym to see what other opportunities might be available to you,” Oxentenko said. “Second, dessert is amazing but not if in excess; choose your own adventure very wisely to avoid that opportunity gluttony. Finally, your professional life is your rubber ball, [but] the other things that are most important to you are not, so don’t juggle them.”