Managing your Career in Healthcare Strategy: Thoughts from an Executive Recruiter

  |  May 31, 2017


Developing your career takes time and attention.  Many people, often times, make choices that sidetrack them when they are planning their career and/or pursuing new job opportunities.

One of the first things to note is that there is more than one definition to career success and there is no one “right path” to achieving a successful career.  Of course, some paths are more direct than others, but there are many different ways to achieve success.

If you are seeking a traditional career path, here are a few things to consider: progressive titles, expanded portfolios, additional budgetary responsibility, movement from a smaller to a bigger or a more prestigious organization, and to whom you report are all factors that may impact an outsider’s perception of your success. If you are trying to advance your career in the traditional sense, being promoted from a Manager to a Director to a Vice President will be viewed as steady progression, which will be appealing to future employers.

It may also be favorable to demonstrate that you gained areas of responsibility over time and/or that you took on more budgetary responsibility. By managing more resources, FTEs, and dollars, you can demonstrate professional growth. Also, reporting structure and to whom you report are important factors because these are often indications of how much influence or visibility you may have within an organization.

Additionally, the size of your organization – and going from a smaller to a bigger one – is typically seen as a positive step and shows development.  However, this may not always be the case. For example, you may decide to move from a larger organization to a smaller one to gain a more senior role. Of course, the reputation of your current organization is naturally important and going from a more prestigious organization is another way to show advancement in your career.

These are all developments and progressions that future employers look for when they are trying to understand an employee’s career path. However, with all of this being said, achieving success does not need to be, nor will it always be, linear or progressive!  Your title, portfolio responsibility, reporting structure, and size or reputation of your current organization are not the only ways to advance your career. Getting involved in big projects or key organizational initiatives is a great way to gain additional exposure and can serve as another avenue for success.

Here are 5 key things to keep in mind as you chart your career path:

1. Be “self-aware”

Being self-aware may sound obvious, but it is a very important aspect of finding success. We all know there are things we are good at and enjoy doing. It is important to follow these passions and strengths because they inevitably breed success. We also know that each of us has skills that come naturally to us – while other skills require more work. It is important to be aware of your skills and proficiencies and it is equally important to know where you are less competent. It is also critically important to think about your personal life as you are considering your career path.

You should be “self-aware” enough to know whether a new opportunity or career move will work well for you AND for your family. In fact, this is one of the first things we discuss with candidates when we present them with potential job opportunities. A perfect job is one that makes sense on paper, but also works for the entire family unit.

Lastly, always consider the factors that drive job satisfaction for you.  For example, depending on the time of your life, flexibility may be essential to professional fulfillment.  At other times in your life, you may be driven to be part of an innovative or startup like culture. Being aware of what will provide you with job satisfaction is very important to career success.

2. Be internally motivated to perform at your best

Doing a good job in your current job is one of the first things you must do in order to achieve success. Demonstrating enthusiasm, commitment, and hard work will not go unnoticed by your current employer. Also if there are skills you would like to improve, do not hesitate to seek additional training to advance a certain skillset.

You should also focus on the results of your current job. At the end of your time in this role, you should be able to point to what you accomplished. Remember that “responsibilities tell, and accomplishments sell.”  High performance may not guarantee you a promotion, but it will certainly give you a chance at bat.

3. Maintain your professional network

As you chart your career path, you should constantly be developing and maintaining your professional network. By networking and increasing your visibility, you are making connections which may help you later in your career.

Staying professionally connected may entail joining a professional organization, accepting speaking engagements, getting published or recorded in the press, and maintaining relationships with executive recruiters. Also, you should keep in mind that the healthcare industry is a tight network. Everyone you touch may ultimately be a professional reference. Do not burn bridges and brush up on your social skills!

4. Take some risk along the way

Another key piece to advancing your career is dealing with risk – facing it, accepting it, and managing it! Making a career move always feels risky because you are leaving a culture and relationships that are known to you. This transition can cause stress and apprehension. However, keep in mind that risk, opportunity, and rewards are inherently linked.

Career moves are typically a requirement for significant career advancement. In other words, in order to advance your career, you may need to make a move. A final thought on risk is that perceived risk is actually greater than actual risk. It may be hard to leave the security of your current role and organization, but in the end, you will be glad you made the move.  Go for it!

5. Don’t be perceived as a job “hopper” or “lifer”

A “hopper” is someone who makes a lot of jumps in their career and a “lifer” is someone who stays in one organization for too long. To avoid being a jumper, do not accept a position if you do not think it will keep you challenged for at least three years. Multiple job moves of less than three years do not look good to future employers. Conversely, 10 years or longer in one organization may create a perception or questions regarding your level of motivation and your ability to deal with change. Make some moves – but not too many!

In summary, here are a few things to ask yourself when considering a career change: 

  • How it will look on my resume?
  • Is the organization and team a fit for me?
  • To whom will I report?
  • Is the job itself a fit for my interests and abilities?

You should always be keeping an eye on advancement opportunities, but you need to be thoughtful about your decisions to make a move and you should always do your due diligence.




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