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The New Year starts now.

Unless you are a senior executive with a retirement plan that is set, or a lucky CEO with a generous golden parachute, you need to invest more time and energy in managing your career brand in 2014.

iStock_000027006589XSmallWhy? Because a significant number of healthcare executives over the next five to seven years will find themselves either out of a job or hitting roadblocks to career advancement.

Aside from the Baby Boomer retirements that will create a window of opportunity for career advancement over the next two or three years, the forces of transformation and deficit reduction will begin to sharply alter the healthcare employment landscape. There will be significantly fewer jobs, and only the top performers who master the new rules for career management will have a chance. Executives who are not purposeful about their performance or of managing their career brand, will find it tough sledding.

So the New Year begins today — to prepare yourself for the tumultuous transformation that is dead ahead. If you don’t, you will only have yourself to blame for falling short, or being forced to make a career change.

Here are five points to guide your preparation:

  1. Understand who you are and what you are really good at — your strengths and your success. My colleague Nancy Swain, a transition coach supreme, refers to this as understanding your value proposition. What are your strengths and what is the proof? Once you understand this, you will become a better executive and, when the time comes, a better candidate.
  2. Know where you want to go. As healthcare transforms itself, you need to ask yourself where will the new hot jobs be — home care, mobile health, population health management? Today, no one can predict with certainty what the healthcare career profile will look like in seven years other than we do know there will be fewer, but bigger health systems with smaller inpatient capacity.
  3. Begin a career journal in which you record key events and critical decisions. Take the time to think about your performance. Using a method called self-regulated thinking, force yourself to ask the hard questions — what could you have done differently, from your implementation plan and communications, to the critical decisions in the process. This is hard work but if you want to grow, to improve your performance as a leader, this is essential.
  4. Invest time in developing or improving your online brand. Platforms like LinkedIn are becoming more important talent identification tools for recruiters — internal and external. From your profile to the picture you select — and, yes, you absolutely should add a picture to your page — you must invest time in building your brand. Having a LinkedIn page is not enough. You must use it to define who you are, your expertise and your value proposition, says our social media expert Becky Pearce. Having an ACHE profile or LinkedIn page with outdated information sends a negative signal to recruiters.
  5. Be active in your professional associations. Achieving a life balance is hard, but active involvement in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), American College of Physician Executives (ACOPE), or the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), to name a few, is essential. You must be able to demonstrate that you are committed to active professional development. That does not mean achieving fellowship status and then sitting on your butt thinking you are home free. The smart thought leaders who have a verifiable record of accomplishment — and who are active on LinkedIn, for example, will be twice as likely in the future to achieve their professional goals than those people who think that going to work and producing results is enough to guarantee a successful career path. It’s not.