Early Careerist Question

How should I manage the transition from being a student to being a professional if my goal is to become an administrator?

Done correctly, work toward transition would start before you complete your academic preparation. Begin by answering the following questions straightforwardly:

  1. Is being an administrator or manager the right choice for me?
  2. If it is the right choice, how much of an administrator do I want to be?

Candid answers require self-assessment. To answer the first question, you must be clear in your understanding of "being an administrator." You can be considered part of a management or administrative team without leading an entire organization and without being visibly responsible and accountable for its success or failure. On the other hand, you can manage planning, quality, or information management departments and still be considered "management" even though you might not directly contribute to an organization's bottom line.

The above examples illustrate the differences between being a general manager and being a functional specialist. An assessment such as ACHE's Career Anchors Assessment can help you determine what aspect of management matches your expectations

Examining your past for examples of your management style will provide further evidence that becoming a line manager is right for you. For example, do you like being in charge and responsible for producing visible results? If so, then you should determine how much of an administrator you want to be. Do you aspire to become a CEO, or would you be deterred by the associated political risks and the potential for imbalance between work and life?

Knowing what management roles and levels suit you should enable you to put a name on the job you ultimately aspire to, such as chief operating officer, director of business development, or vice president of system integration.

Entry Positions

Once you have established your suitability for management, management style, and ultimate job title, you will face questions about where you want to work, how to package yourself as a viable candidate, and how to develop a network that will support you as you advance your career.

Knowing your ultimate job title will help you determine the setting where you want to work. Setting decisions involve healthcare sectors (such as healthcare systems, medical groups, public health organizations, associations, etc.) and geographic regions.

Determining both your ultimate job and post-graduation healthcare setting is essential to preparing and packaging yourself to compete for your entry position. Making a decision about your preferred setting early in your academic program may influence your course selection and how you fulfill assignments with exposure to the field of practice. Your objective is to develop a resume that shows you possess the competencies that will lead to your ultimate job. Competencies for healthcare leaders may involve governance, continuous quality improvement, strategic planning, physician group management, and negotiation—all of which specifically employ the ability to direct and coordinate the efforts of diverse groups and complex, multidisciplinary teams.

In your first job, however, it is more likely that you will work independently as a problem solver rather than lead complex teams. In this role, skillfully applying your technical knowledge will be crucial to succeeding. Also important will be systems thinking (which will help you develop solutions for organizations as a whole) and interpersonal skills (which will help you acquire contextual information and develop solutions through your working relationships with others).

The quality of your interactions on the job will shape people's perceptions of you.

  • Are you respectful?
  • Do you listen?
  • Do you keep commitments?
  • Do you express gratitude?
  • Are your motives transparent?
  • Are you trustworthy?

The answers are often revealed through formal and informal feedback. Constructive, objective feedback that occurs regularly will help you throughout your entire career. You should expect to receive such evaluations annually; if your employer does not provide feedback routinely, then you should seek it.

The Importance of Networking

Recognizing that others play a role in helping you succeed is important to learn early in your career. You should avoid being a "lone ranger" if you are going to reach your fullest potential in your job and professional development. Networking is the term we apply to involving others in our accomplishments; it is about succeeding in your present role more than about finding your next job.

In your first job, begin networking with people in your organization so they can help you learn how the corporate culture operates at all levels. Others may have already experienced challenges you are facing, and their knowledge can help you avoid costly trials and errors. You should also start building your professional network beyond the organization by becoming an active member of an appropriate professional association. Other association members can provide convenient access to new technical skills and knowledge, can help you extend your networks, and when it is time to advance your career, can provide you with assets you can use to accelerate your efforts. By participating in your professional association, you will find opportunities to grow as a contributing leader. When you enjoy that reputation, desirable opportunities will find you.