Building a Career Action Plan
Having an action plan can help you recover quickly if you get “downsized.”
Thomas J. Foley, FACHE
Whether we call it downsizing, rightsizing, shrinking the system, re-engineering, job elimination, or termination doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that if one of them happens to you, you are out of work. Given the rapid rate of change in the healthcare field, it is unrealistic and unwise for you to view your current position as a “sure thing”; yet still, many of our colleagues are stunned when they get the news that they are being let go, particularly if they have been with the organization for a number of years. Most of us cannot afford the effects of that surprise, but having an action plan can help you recover quickly.
I’m not trying to scare my colleagues in the healthcare field, nor am I trying to be dramatic or sensational. Let me offer an analogy: As a young child during World War II, I remember vividly the blackouts and the bomb shelters as we prepared for the possibility of an enemy attack. We knew what to do, where to go, and how to survive. Although we never actually needed to implement it, that action plan gave us the security of knowing we were ready—just in case. I am recommending that you similarly prepare yourself for the possibility of a surprise attack. That way, if your job is eliminated, you can call upon your action plan with comfort and confidence.
First, you must consider the emotional impact of learning that your position no longer exists. Expect to feel anger, fear, despair, and emptiness, and know that these reactions are normal. Being mentally prepared will help you quickly regain your footing and continue forward with your action plan.
To begin developing your plan, ask yourself how you might survive a restructuring. Are your knowledge and skills up to date? Are you keeping up with trends in healthcare? Are you helping to improve processes and/or control costs within your position or department? Being able to answer “yes” to these questions may help you survive a restructuring or, if necessary, land a new position.
In forming the job search portion of your action plan, you should consider a number of factors: What is the marketplace like today? What skills are in demand? What skills do you have that would make you an attractive candidate for a new position? What do you like and dislike about the work you do, the employer you have, and the organization you work for? What do you like to do? What are you good at? Are you willing to consider a different direction, or even a different field? Are you willing to relocate if necessary? These issues are the building blocks of your action plan.
If you have a dynamic and far reaching professional network, make sure you are maintaining it; if not, you need to develop one. Create a list of all your contacts who might assist in networking, and communicate with them regularly. Stay involved with professional colleagues, organizations, and associations.
The period following a job loss can be overwhelming, filled with many important decisions, so getting some tasks accomplished ahead of time can be very helpful in the long run. For example, you may want to occasionally review your financial situation with your family, accountant, and financial counselor. Update the style of and information in your resume. Learn about outplacement and executive search services available to individuals at your career level. Research careers outside, or perhaps related to, healthcare as possible alternatives.
Building an action plan requires creativity, introspection, personal knowledge, reflection, honesty, and sincerity. Don’t be surprised by the vagaries of change in the healthcare field today. Be prepared, visualize your future elsewhere, and customize your plan for your personality, your skills, and your potential.
Thomas J. Foley, FACHE, is senior partner at Foley Proctor Yoskowitz, a healthcare executive and physician search firm.
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