When I was a young marketing representative fresh off three years of successfully selling and setting up the first 14 hospital emergency helicopter ambulance services in the country, I thought I was hot stuff. I was full of it: you get me in front of people and I could close the deal.
If only that were true when it came to searching for my next job. I couldn’t close the deal. The biggest mistake I made – consistently – was showing up for interviews, flush with success and confidence but with no plan or strategy.
In the interest of transparency, that is not the only time I made that miscalculation.
After eight successful years with a rural hospital network in which I helped grow the system from three hospitals to more than 40, 24 of which we operated under a management contract, I once again was in the job market. No problem I thought. I had a solid, quantifiable record of accomplish. My deal closing rate was more than 90 percent of the targets I pursued. That ought to get everyone’s attention. Well, no it didn’t. Again, I made a job market miscalculation.
Here is what I missed: In my network development role, I worked for a talented, market savvy but unconventional hospital CEO. That I did not have the traditional hospital administrator degree and career path, was a deal killer for every opportunity I pursued. While I had a record of success, I did not realize that the healthcare industry was more adamant about educational preparation and infatuated with credentials. My training, credentials and my style did not align with what prospective employers thought they needed in that role. I simply was not traditional enough. That my nontraditional career path would be an issue never crossed my mind. I thought my success would win out.
Another job search mistake I made, one that as an executive recruiter I see in almost every search I conduct today, was haphazard management of my references. While I included my most recent boss who could speak specifically to my work ethic and track record, the others, I later learned, were too random — they could say nice things about me but they were unable to provide specific examples of where I made a difference, or how I was involved with the other members of the senior hospital team. It never crossed my mind that I should brief my references on the jobs I was pursuing, reminding them of my accomplishments and ability to forge good working relationships.
There was one constant at this point in my healthcare career: I did not have a career plan. I just showed up at interviews for jobs that sounded interesting and hoped for the best, which in today’s new normal job market, is an almost impossible hurdle to overcome.
© 2021 John Gregory Self