When I was a young marketing representative fresh off three years of successfully selling and setting up the first 14 hospital emergency helicopter ambulance services in the country, I thought I was hot stuff. I was full of it: you get me in front of people and I could close the deal.

job marketIf only that were true when it came to searching for my next job. I couldn’t close the deal. The biggest mistake I made – consistently – was showing up for interviews, flush with success and confidence but with no plan or strategy.

In the interest of transparency, that is not the only time I made that miscalculation.

After eight successful years with a rural hospital network in which I helped grow the system from three hospitals to more than 40, 24 of which we operated under a management contract, I once again was in the job market. No problem I thought. I had a solid, quantifiable record of accomplish. My deal closing rate was more than 90 percent of the targets I pursued. That ought to get everyone’s attention. Well, no it didn’t. Again, I made a job market miscalculation.

Here is what I missed: In my network development role, I worked for a talented, market savvy but unconventional hospital CEO. That I did not have the traditional hospital administrator degree and career path, was a deal killer for every opportunity I pursued. While I had a record of success, I did not realize that the healthcare industry was more adamant about educational preparation and infatuated with credentials. My training, credentials and my style did not align with what prospective employers thought they needed in that role. I simply was not traditional enough. That my nontraditional career path would be an issue never crossed my mind. I thought my success would win out.

Another job search mistake I made, one that as an executive recruiter I see in almost every search I conduct today, was haphazard management of my references. While I included my most recent boss who could speak specifically to my work ethic and track record, the others, I later learned, were too random — they could say nice things about me but they were unable to provide specific examples of where I made a difference, or how I was involved with the other members of the senior hospital team. It never crossed my mind that I should brief my references on the jobs I was pursuing, reminding them of my accomplishments and ability to forge good working relationships.

There was one constant at this point in my healthcare career: I did not have a career plan. I just showed up at interviews for jobs that sounded interesting and hoped for the best, which in today’s new normal job market, is an almost impossible hurdle to overcome.

[Tweet “It’s important to craft a career plan that focuses on the next step in your career.”]

  1. The Career Plan: Most people who are successfully — and securely — employed rarely think about developing a career plan. Craft a plan that focuses on the next step in your career — even if that means remaining with your current organization. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
    • Am I truly happy and professionally satisfied, or I am I stuck, a slave to my financial needs and the paycheck?
    • What is the next step in the career ladder?
    • What are the big threats in the market and to my job/skills?
    • What skills and tools will I need to remain relevant, productive and valued?

  2. Your Professional Network: Executives who are “securely” employed rarely invest the time in developing and nurturing their professional network. Time constraints is the most common excuse I hear — job, family and leisure pursuits. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, having a robust professional network will become more important than ever. Invest now or suffer later. 
  1. The Job Market: It is here where the acceleration catches most people off guard. There have been major changes in the job market fueled by the digital evolution of talent acquisition processes and the needs of employers. Today, it is all about the value you can deliver — you have to provide quantifiable evidence and communicate it in a meaningful and memorable way. Qualifications and your job history are no longer enough to help you land that next great job.