WASHINGTON, DC — When I made the leap of faith from being a crime writer and investigative reporter to healthcare management, career management was much less complicated.  In fact, I was oblivious.

Oh my, how times have changed.

Today, the healthcare management job market has reached a “new normal” plateau – there are fewer leadership opportunities and the competition is more intense, Baby Boomer retirements notwithstanding.  The tightening in the numbers of available choice management positions is not really new.  This trend has been developing over the last 10 years.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA), value-based reimbursement, and population health management are all forcing hospitals and other healthcare providers to adapt to a new business model that will result in fewer inpatients and more industry consolidation.  The latter is significant in how the healthcare job market will work in the future.

Dallas offers an example:  with several hospital closings and mergers, smaller free-standing hospitals that frequently offered a job gateway for lesser experienced administrators and managers are either no more or are part of bigger systems.  The number of hospital job employment portals – potential employers – has declined significantly.  While this has been offset somewhat by the growth in the number of outpatient centers and home care services, many of those are part of national chains that control hiring through enterprise employment platforms.

With a growth in the number of master’s programs in healthcare administration, the market is flooded with people with little or no experience.

Healthcare executives, now, more than at any other time in this industry’s short history, better have a career vision and a plan if they expect to achieve their professional goals because working hard and producing results may not be enough to ensure a fulfilling – financially or professionally – career.  A best effort laissez faire approach to these goals is a fool’s errand.  If you have not had a career transition in which you had to actively look for a job in the last three years, know this:  many of the old rules that you knew and followed, have changed, or are changing at a stunning rate of speed.

Here are five points to consider:

  1. Be open to change about everything from personal brand management and social media to how you construct a resume.  If you are stubborn and determined to follow the old rules, you will have no one to blame but yourself.
  2. Wake up, get busy and build a professional network.  If you do not have at least 250 relevant, professional LinkedIn contacts, you will be in for a big surprise the next time you slide into career transition.
  3. If you do not have a personal strategic plan with a board of career advisors of five or six people that you trust and who will commit to counseling you on performance, next steps, etc. you are only putting yourself in a career limiting box.
  4. If you are not cultivating your brand – being recognized as a thought leader in some facet of healthcare management — do not be surprised if the number of recruiter calls decrease.  Social media sites like LinkedIn are critically important tools.  If you do not know how to use them then find someone who does, and fast. (Watch for future blogs on the use of social media in recruiting)
  5. Again, stay focused on the important things including building and nurturing your professional network.  Help people in your network not because you expect treatment “in kind” but because it will only enhance your own image and standing.  Good deeds from good people – that kind of news gets around faster than you think

If you gave any questions, feel free to email me.  I will be happy to share an executive recruiter’s perspective.