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I have had a wonderful career, uniquely varied, filled with multiple successes, some disappointments, but mostly great reward and satisfaction. 

I was on the start-up team and served as the first director of Hermann Hospital’s acclaimed Life Flight program in Houston.  I played a major role in setting up the next 13 programs nationally.  I helped build one of the largest not-for-profit network of community hospitals in the mid-1980s. I have built two successful search firms and recruited in six countries on four continents.  In the US, I have been involved in numerous high-profile executive searches.  In 2010, I was honored with the Regent’s Award as Senior Healthcare Leader of the Year for North Texas. 

I do not have a master’s degree, fellowship, or certifications from any of the professional associations. 

The chances that I could replicate my career and its success without the graduate degree and credentials today is doubtful. The opportunities are more limited and the competition for career opportunity is intense.  Today it is simply not sufficient to be a great relationship builder, communicator, or rainmaker.  I had talent, but in an era of new rules where hiring mistakes are increasingly expensive, employers want more.

Employers today are elevating the bar for credentials, experience and prior performance.  These three are the gold currency in today’s hyper competitive job market.  For each one of these important qualities that you lack, you drastically reduce your chances for landing a top job. 

Here are some strategies to enhance career management:

  1. Have an updated mission statement.  Who are you, what do you stand for, what do you want to accomplish with your career?  This document should drive what you do and say, as well as the career opportunities you pursue. If you do not have the academic and/or professional credentials, you must address the deficiencies within your plan.  If you cannot produce a compelling personal vision statement, how can you motivate and lead others?
  2. Keep a career journal.  Not only will this help you maintain an accurate account of employment dates, names of supervisors and compensation increases, but you can also record your significant accomplishments.  Moreover, it is a tool for regulated thought—the practice of reviewing decisions from a different perspective.  It is the process of thinking about what you could have done differently or better with your decision making and execution. Athletes and musicians, for example, practice.  Regulated thought is a form of “practice” to improve your decision-making skills.  Think of it as replaying the game film of, for example, a meeting where you executed on an important decision.
  3. Cultivate an effective professional network. Size is important, but bigger is not necessarily better. You want a network that adds value. If you are a hospital executive in rural Montana, being connected to a telemarketer in Lahore, India or a financial planner in Northampton, MA who wants to sell you something, is of questionable value.  Link with people who can help you solve a problem, or connect the dots for the next new job that will advance your career. This is a career-long endeavor.
  4. Be active in professional associations—nationally and locally.  Continuing education and professional development are essential to remaining relevant.  Be open to new ideas because the transformation of healthcare will produce a tidal wave of new ideas and innovations.  Volunteer for committees or even the board.  This is a key part to building a network and enhancing your brand and can position you to achieve a credential.
  5. Share your ideas on LinkedIn and other business and social media sites.  Your posts should add value to your brand, which includes everything you write, post or say.  If you enjoy writing, then blog.  The blogoshere is crowded, but consistently delivered fresh ideas have a way of moving to the top.  And this takes us back to having an up-to-date mission statement which should drive the boat for career management. If your posts and comments are not consistent with that statement, you may be drifting into image muddle.

Above all else, pay it forward.  When someone helps you with your career, turn around and help those coming up behind you.  Surprisingly, this is not a common practice in business today but is one way you can distinguish yourself in the market.

© 2012 John Gregory Self