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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System
7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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1 December, 2016 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management
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An MD With an MBA and No Executive Experience

Posted December 1st, 2016 | Author: John G. Self

A physician in his late 40s with a distinguished reputation and a robust practice in a large metro area fell in love — with the science and art of management. 

He saw in this discipline an opportunity to improve the practice of medicine and delivery of care — helping people — on a much broader scale as a senior hospital physician-executiveshutterstock_273634943executive than he could ever experience with his practice.  So while maintaining his clinic schedule, this physician earned an MBA.  It took him three years because he opted for a special program designed for physicians that blended class and online learning.  It was tough on his family life but his wife was only too happy to support this new calling; she felt a renewed sense of energy and passion that had slipped over the years.

When it was all said and done, our physician was at the top of his class, a distinguished graduate.  Then the reality set in.  No one would hire him.  He had the degree but no real leadership or medical affairs experience. 

He learned a lesson that most physicians never experience:  finding that first job is always the hardest.  No one slammed any doors, he said,  but without experience he could not even get an interview. 

When he called me, his frustration was more than a little apparent.  “I would like to stay here — I thought there would be ample opportunities in a metropolitan area of this size, but I obviously did not think that part of the process through.”

While there is a demand for capable physician leaders, that demand is for those with relevant experience and a track record of accomplishment.

Our physician was particularly interested in strategy, but when I asked what his strategy was for developing a career as an executive, he went silent, reaffirming yet again that sometimes  the most obvious issue gets overlooked.  Developing a personal career strategy had not crossed his mind.

“So how can I earn a chance show them what I can do?  If I can’t find a job because I have no experience, how can ever get the experience?”  His words were reminiscent of comments I frequently hear from newly minted college graduates who are entering the workforce for the first time.

Here are steps I suggested he take:

  1. Talk to the CEO.  Let the Chief Executive at your hospital know of your interest to transition to management.  Ask for his or her advice.  As a big admitter they will hate to see you leave clinical practice, but most will be happy to help. 
  2. Join the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Association of Physician Leadership.  Become active in local, regional and national activities, most especially in their excellent continuing education programs. These associations will help connect you with more opportunities.
  3. Sit down with the Chief Medical Officer.  Outline your goals.  Do not be brash and suggest that one day you want his job.  Do  volunteer to help him/her on projects, whether it be a quality or safety improvement initiative or even an EHR selection/implementation.  You can get valuable experience but more than likely you will not be paid for it, which means you must continue the day job.  This is called investing in the future. Once you successfully complete projects, develop a LinkedIn that reflects these accomplishments. 
  4. Actively participate in standing committees.  “Actively participate” does not mean showing up, eating and listening.  It means doing the homework and then offering thoughtful comments and suggestions.  Volunteer here as well. 
  5. Be patient.  Building experience this way will take time but it will afford you the opportunity to learn, make your mistakes and learn from those, all without the risk of losing your job, something that happens in the world of physician leadership just as it does for administrative personnel.
  6. Be flexible.  Be prepared to relocate.    Historically, many physicians spend their entire career in one community but once you move to the executive leadership side, chances are you will have to relocate to find that first paying gig, and then move again to move up.  While that concept will probably not be too popular with a spouse or any remaining children living at home, it is a fact of life for those pursuing a hospital leadership career goal.

Photo credit:  Shutterstock 

© 2016 John Gregory Self

3 comments

  1. Susan Haas MD MS says:

    The advice is excellent. I echo having a supportive spouse: if my husband hadn’t been first call for kids and meals it would have been much harder.
    The path I took involved starting much earlier to gain mrelevant management then leadership experience. I interdigitated with a growing clinical reputation rather than sequencing . Early service–in fact before I felt competent–on committees with high exposure to people and concepts not seen in day to say clinical life shaped my understanding of the enterprise. A few one week courses from time to time covering payment, policy, and how other industries solve the same problems were remarkably fruitful. Finally, service nationally in my specialty grew a network of reliable consultants.

  2. Sachiel Millien says:

    Really great advice. I’m currently experiencing the same thing. Only difference is I don’t have a medical degree. I am however an MBA who traded commodities (Energy) for 12 years with senior management experience.

    While I’ve had a lot of success in my previous career, I’m having a very difficult time breaking into Healthcare management/administration. I can’t seem to get any Healthcare systems to give me an interview.

    I consider myself a highly accomplished, results-driven commodities trader with proven business acumen. I thought with background, I would be appealing to many Healthcare systems. To my surprise, no one has shown any interest thus far.

  3. David C. Pate, M.D., J.D. says:

    Fantastic advice. This situation is far from uncommon. I often advise people (and they often disregard my advice) that the educational degree is far less important than the experience. So many people believe that the educational degree allows you to enter into senior leadership roles. It does not. Health care is becoming more complicated; not less, and organizations that are trying to change fast want proven leaders with a track record of success. I think this lesson is particularly difficult for physicians because getting our medical degree is the step that allows us to become licensed to practice and see patients. Unfortunately, having an MBA is not a predictor of success in senior leadership positions. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting an MBA, but the MBA without experience is not going to open many doors.

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30 November, 2016 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Healthcare, Patient Safety
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Patients Come Second [PODCAST]

Posted November 30th, 2016 | Author: John G. Self

As a hospital executive responsible for setting priorities and allocating resources to fulfill your important healthcare mission, the question is where do you prioritize the care and safety of the patient?  Are they number one or are they lower? You might be surprised to hear the answer from some healthcare leaders.


Listen below on the podcast player or subscribe and listen on iTunes.listensubscribe-itunes

© 2016 John Gregory Self

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29 November, 2016 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Career Networking
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Three Big Ideas for Career Management

Posted November 29th, 2016 | Author: John G. Self

“Historically there may have been periods on our planet where it was conceivable to “not change” for most of a person’s lifetime.  Mostly because people tended to die off before things changed materially. Those days are gone and we are now entering an era of exponential change – where ground breaking and fundamental change in all aspects of life happens within years or months (not decades or centuries).”

Stefan Korn, CEO, Creative HQ, Wellington, New Zealand

 

How helpful are job posting boards like LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and iHire?  If you are seeking executives in specialty fields such as healthcare finance, not very much.  They tend to open the doors for dozens, in some cases more, of candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements — such as experience in the industry doing the recruiting.

3 big ideas in career managementThis is a time wasting proposition for executive recruiters but we still use the services because, for the money we spend, even if we identify only one qualified candidate that we did not know about from our extensive telephone networking, it is worth it.   The time we waste looking at resumes from candidates who are not even residents of the US, or who do not meet even the minimum job requirements, is just an accepted part of the routine for recruiters and their researchers.

But here is my real concern:  All those people wasting their time applying for jobs they have no chance of landing.  The sad part is that many of these candidates have no clue how to go about looking for a job.  Many are so obsessed with the financial reasons to find their next position that they mistakenly believe that the volume of applications they submit is more important than the quality of the applications they make — that is to say to companies in their industry who are seeking individuals with the competencies and experience necessary to be successful in the job.

I do not know if they were told to throw dozens, hundreds or even thousands of applications against the wall in hopes that something would stick, or if they came to that inaccurate conclusion on their own.  If they were given that advice by some career counselor or outplacement consultant, shame on those supposed professionals.  By the way, for every good to great outplacement or career counselor — and make no mistake, there are some really good ones in a variety of professions — there or four or five that probably should find a new line of work. This is based on our research with candidates we interview and the resumes they present from such career counselors/resume writers.

Here are three big ideas I want you to think about for career management and your next job search.

  1. If you start to look for your next job after you’ve already been laid off or terminated, it is too late.  This is one of the hardest concepts for the majority of managers and executives, including directors and managers,  to master.  The best executives must engage in continuous networking, always look ahead in case of a “what if” – as in what if I am fired or my job is eliminated.
  2. Make an investment in your career.  There really is a common thread among the best and most successful of candidates:  continuous learning that typically translates into excellent performance.  Many executives are generally knowledgable but they have not been to a professional education program in years and they lack energy of new thinking and a sharp focus when they try to explain how they can add value to a potential employer.  Your ideas and beliefs must constantly evolve.  Continuous education, continuous learning is the key.
  3. Be flexible.  Be willing to let your career evolve with changing market and regulatory conditions.  A mistake that too many executives make is that they get locked into a traditional career path and resist change.  “I have always been in operations and I do not want to change.  I do not want to move into other delivery segments.”  Certainly you can appreciate an executive’s desire to do what they like to do.  But there are times that this reluctance to expand professional horizons, to broaden skill sets and  to take on new challenges, can lead to a career dead end.

© 2016 John Gregory Self

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