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Once, having a master’s degree in healthcare administration was the golden ticket to a guaranteed job.  Not anymore. 

A proliferation of graduate schools, some great, and more than a few that should be closed for failing to provide the quality education an indebted graduate will need to survive in the new healthcare economy, have flooded the market.  That aside, each year there is an increase in the number of graduate students seeking a career in a healthcare industry that is entering a radical transformation – reduced reimbursement, a shift away from inpatient admissions, and an emphasis on population health management.  In short, over the next five to seven years there will be an abundance of aspiring leaders and dramatically fewer executive jobs.  That is not a throw away fact of life.  As I have written in earlier blogs, this is real and will require job applicants to rethink their career brand management strategy.

Bill McDermott16-CORNER-moth-v2One of my Sunday morning favorites, Adam Bryant’s Corner Office column in The New York Times, featured a profile on SAP CEO, Bill McDermott.  There were two major takeaways: 

  • Employers “will make bold bets on people who have an unwavering passion for success.” The idea can become lost in academia “but that’s the real world,” Mr. McDermott said.
  • Know what you want and then want it more, he explained.  I would add exceptional commitment, exceptional values and exceptional confidence are all critical characteristics that are necessary for success. 

In his interview, Mr. McDermott, who bought a delicatessen at age 16 and used the profits to put himself through school, told the story of how he got his first job.  He wanted to work for a company “that provided great training and would give me the professional polish I needed.  I wanted to work for Xerox.”

On the day of his interview in New York, his father drove him to the railroad station on Long Island.  As he got out of the car, young Mr. McDermott promised his father, a man he clearly admired and respected,  “I am coming home tonight with my employee badge from Xerox in my pocket.”

He survived all the interviews and, at the end of the day, he met with the district manager in what he termed “an extraordinary interview.”  Instead of an offer, the district manager told him that HR would be in touch with him in a couple of weeks, to which Mr. McDermott replied:  “I don’t think you completely understand the situation, sir.  I have never broken a promise to my dad in 21 years, and I can’t start today.  I promised him that I would have my employee badge in my pocket before I got home to Amityville tonight.”  The district manager looked at him for what McDermott described as an eternity, and then said:  “Bill McDermott, as long as you have not committed any crimes, you are hired.”

Great story, but different economic times. 

Today, more often than not, there are very few career launch opportunities like that one.  There are hundreds of applicants competing for not as many jobs, whether it is healthcare, law, banking or a host of other professions.

As I thought about Mr. McDermott’s wonderful story, I remembered a line from a quirky movie, “People Like Us,” in which a young, rebellious boy is told about the six rules of life.  Most notable on the list is one that seems to never go out of fashion:

“Most doors are closed, so if you want them to open you need a cool knock.”