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Early Careerist FAQ

Early Careerist Network

This section includes questions and answers on topics including career moves, interviewing skills, ACHE services and more. The responses were developed with input from successful healthcare executives.


Recent Graduate

Q: I recently graduated with my master’s in healthcare administration. Where should I start my job search?

A: First, decide what you want and set goals. Make a list, brainstorm with a friend and talk to your advisor. Determine your deal breakers. Are you willing to sacrifice salary for a job that really interests you? Will you relocate? Do you have personal commitments that prohibit you from working overtime?

Next, eliminate jobs that you are not qualified for. While you may have a strong interest in a certain job, do not bother applying for it if you do not meet the experience requirement or if you are missing critical criterion.

Third, who do you know? Have you exhausted your personal network? Contact former classmates, alumni, instructors, former employers or colleagues. Join ACHE and connect through your local chapter or Regent. Additionally, you can exchange information and ideas on ACHE's Official Group on LinkedIn. Make yourself visible in the field by volunteering at a local hospital or participating in community events where you can get to know potential employers and colleagues.

Find a good match. Is there a healthcare organization that has a specific need for someone who has, for example, a finance and healthcare background? Maybe your graduate school foundation work fits nicely into a project that a hospital is undertaking in your area. Know what’s going on in the field to find out how you can fit into the needs of the marketplace.

Finally, keep learning about your field and your career options. Attend classes, read articles and books, sign up for e-newsletters and seek knowledge. Instead of clicking past the tips section and advice articles on job sites such as monster.com, stop and read them. Other sources are www.jobcircle.com, www.findarticles.com, www.collegegrad.com, as well as journals like Harvard Business Review and magazines like Fast Company.


Q: I am starting a new job in my field, but I have limited experience in this particular sector. What advice can you give me to succeed in the first six months on the job?

A: No matter where your job hunt lands you, it is vital that you make a good impression within the first six months. Some ways of accomplishing this are obvious, such as being on time for meetings, maintaining a professional presence and attitude and admitting mistakes. Other ways may be harder but are just as important. For example, don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Be clear about what you can take on and what you can’t. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your supervisor or another leader. Also, ask for feedback regularly; don’t wait for your formal review.


Transitioning

Q: I have been in the healthcare management field for about 10 years and I am considering a transition from a nonprofit to a for-profit company. What do I need to know?

A: Size matters and so does organizational culture. Working in a large, national enterprise will be a different experience than working for a smaller, local, entrepreneurial undertaking. 

In the large system, there may be a regional reporting hierarchy, as well as a hierarchy at the operations level. There may be standardized approaches to managing and problem solving. There may be an expectation that executives will move to new geographic locations during their careers. 

In an entrepreneurial undertaking, there may be less routine approaches to pursuing the firm's objectives; workdays may be unpredictable in terms of their content, length and number of days per week. If there is another entrepreneur present, then it would not be unusual to find a "my way or the highway" culture. 

In either setting, however, there will likely be a strong emphasis on "managing to the metrics" with measurement of results occurring with greater frequency than you were used to in a non-profit setting.


Q: I am interested in relocating to another area with more job opportunities and I would like some advice on cross-country networking and job searching.

A: Become a member of ACHE. ACHE's Career Management Network can help connect you with volunteers willing to fill you in on who's who and what's what in your target community. You can also identify key informants among the leaders of local chapters. Go to the Chapters section of ache.org, select the chapter serving your target community and make contact with its chosen leaders. Learn about its job-finding resources (some chapters may post jobs on their Web site) and when it will be sponsoring programs with networking activities that would be open to you. Schedule a visit to the area when you can attend a local chapter event so you can make multiple contacts in one visit.

Access ACHE Career Services to search for opportunities in the ACHE Job Bank and post your resume in the ACHE Resume Bank.

Check out Career Management 101. Don't overlook ACHE's online Affiliate Directory to help find potential networking contacts selecting them based on their organization, their chapter and their areas of expertise. Never forget that respect, reciprocity and follow up are keys to successful networking.


Degree Options

Q: I am considering returning to school for a master’s in health administration but I'm not sure which schools and programs to consider. Is an online program a good option? Where should I start?

A: Start by visiting the Career Services area of ache.org to learn about available degree options. You can also visit the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education Web site at www.cahmeweb.org for a list of accredited programs. Only consider accredited programs.

To determine whether you should select a traditional or nontraditional program, you can start by talking to students in various programs to obtain their feedback. As an ACHE member, you can search the Member Directory on ache.org for student associates in your area. The Member Directory also includes an education history for each affiliate. Your local chapter may also be able to provide contacts. Consider contacting leaders you admire to find out their education preferences.

Another factor to consider is how you learn. If you work better in teams or with personal interaction, an online program will probably not meet your needs.

Your choice also depends on your location, flexibility, career goals and financial situation. Make a list of your requirements and check off programs that do not fit your needs.


Management Skills

Q: I have a strong competency and several years of experience managing projects in the healthcare field, but I have no experience managing staff. How can I gain staff management experience to meet this requirement?

A: Find ways to work with and lead teams in your current position. Joining a committee or volunteering to lead a project will help you gain management experience and raise your visibility. Share your desire to build your skills with your supervisor and they may suggest taking a course or recommend other options.

Volunteering outside of your organization is another great way to acquire management skills. Contact your ACHE chapter or volunteer through social service agencies such as the United Way or your local food bank. Get involved, join a committee, and volunteer for leadership opportunities.


Q: What are some methods for dealing with difficult employees?

A: There is a reason why so many job descriptions list interpersonal skills as a requirement. Use these skills to better understand the problems you may encounter while dealing with difficult employees.

Ask and listen
If an employee does not complete a project to the assigned specifications, ask them what happened. Instead of criticizing, gather information before you respond and point out successful accomplishments first. You could say, “Thank you for completing the project before the deadline. While reviewing the project, I noticed that portion C was missing. Can you tell me more about this?” You may discover that the employee did not understand your instructions or that they did make a mistake.

Identify and resolve ongoing problems
When a problem occurs repeatedly, ask what you can do to make the employee's job easier. “This report has been late for the last few months. How can I support you so you can get this done consistently on time?” You may discover that the employee has three reports due at the same time, and by changing the date by a week, it may be easier for them to get it done on time.

Also, remember to be fair and consistent, offer specific praise when appropriate and be aware and respectful of cultural differences.


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