Finding your first professional job in Health Information management is tough. If anyone tells you how easily they did it back in the day, smile and appreciate the story but know your fight is harder, the world has shifted.
- Networking. You’re probably sick of hearing this. But done right, it works.
Social media is your friend, but be strategic. Linked In is the social media place to be for job hunting. Dan Schawbel of Mellennial Branding, researched the subject for Forbes and suggests connecting to as many people as possible. Makes perfect sense, however, keep it professional. Thoughtfully ask people in the HIM or healthcare field. Remember LI is not Facebook, it’s a professional tool. Have a good profile; look at others to get an idea how to compress your resume into a good LI format. Read and share articles to promote yourself. Join discussion groups and add your 2 cents worth. It’s not uncommon for potential hiring officials to check you out on Facebook. Clean up your posts if you need to.
Traditional networking. If you’re a new graduate or newly credentialed, tell everyone you’re looking for a job. From your Aunt Betty to the receptionist at your Dr’s office, anybody may know someone who can help you. Network at professional meetings by introducing yourself to people you sit beside. Read nametags and specifically make a point of meeting people who can help you. Have business cards but write a note on the back, “looking for an opening in HIM” or “eager to find a coding position” whatever you can to make the person remember your conversation with them.
- Resume. It’s all about what you have to offer the reader. A resume is a tool, not a biography. Use it to honestly convey your experience, education and enthusiasm. Tailor it, within reason, for the specific job. Even if that’s just shifting the order of bullet points. For example: if you’re applying for a position in Release of Information and did some work in ROI and Coding while on your practicum, list ROI first, coding next. And reverse that if you apply for a coding position. Just logical sense, but it does require adapting your resume for every application. And by all means, proof your writing. No misspelled words, font continuity, or incomplete sentences. Cut and Paste, going from Mac to Word, and using unusual fonts has been the downfall of many resumes. Portals simply can’t cope with creatively written resumes, be simple.
- Internships and Mentors. Get out there. Internships are golden. These opportunities are a chance to really put action to your intentions. Plus they add validity to your potential by providing a ready reference. Mentors are also incredibly valuable. Most people have someone they look up to, but for a professional mentor to be of job finding value, look for someone who is tied specifically to what you do, or want to do. This person should be willing and able to help you navigate the field, guide you in your career because they understand it, not because they like you. And, toughest task, you have to ask them-they probably won’t ask you if they can be your mentor.
- Be a joiner. If you’re not already an AHIMA member, join. This will put you in touch with the linked in discussion groups, internships, mentors, professional networking opportunities at all levels: state, local and national, and so much more. This should be your “life-long” professional resource for jobs, education and contacts. When you look for opportunities, be bold. Research websites and career sites. But don’t be too selective. Your first job is an introduction into the field, and usually not the job of your dreams but it can certainly lead to it.
- Interview. In most cases, your first interview will be by phone. So being articulate is especially important. Whether you interview on the phone, by skype or in person, have your resume, the job description and a notepad by your side. Always remember, the objective of the hiring official is not to help you get a job, it’s to fill a need in their department. Be that solution. Expect “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?” and “What are your weaknesses?”. Keep your answers focused, don’t ramble. A couple of well stated sentences are so much more valuable than a long explanation. If you do interview onsite or skype, remember eye contact, posture and professional dress and doing your research about the hospital or company. These things matter so very much. Finally, follow up with those you met. Send a thank you and tell them you want to work there.
- Be bold. Your education is excellent, your skills are fresh and sharp, and you have so much to offer us.
Author: Susan Parker, M.Ed., RHIA, FAHIMA Seagate Consultants, HIM Recruiting firstname.lastname@example.org 877-392-0047