Whether you’re looking to advance your executive healthcare career, or enter the field, the following steps can help make your transition smooth and manageable. Applying the change management steps for organizations, recommended by Dr. John Kotter, adapted to the individual level, will enhance your journey and chances of success.
1. Get started
Transitions are difficult, even when welcome. Begin. Each action you take will build upon the next until you’ve reached a critical mass that will propel you forward. Deal with the concerns you have head-on. As Annie Favreau points out in her article:
Write down any and all fears you have. For instance, you might be worried that changing careers will be too expensive. Next, turn each fear into a “how” question. For example, “How am I going to pay for my career change?”
This is a great tip because its important to remember fear is simply information. Reframing fears into how questions will allow you to address the issues instead of feeding the fears. Be patient with yourself during this process but don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s a better time than the present to begin. Early resistance can derail your plans.
2. Create a vision of your future leadership position
Investigate different options of areas you’d like to work in. This includes finance, government relations, human resources, information systems, marketing and public affairs, materials management, medical staff relations, nursing administration, patient care services, planning and development, risk management, and many more. It’s not just about identifying jobs but understanding places you’d like to work. Working in the health field doesn’t require you to work in hospitals, though that’s certainly one option. Consider leadership choices in environments like ambulatory care facilities, consulting firms, associations, home health agencies, hospices, integrated delivery systems, long-term care facilities, managed care organizations, medical group practices, mental health organizations, public health departments, and even universities or research institutions.
Take the time to investigate your options to find a good fit between your current skill set, what you can gain from further education (formal and informal), and where you’d like to go. Get specific but don’t worry about exactly how many hospital administrator jobs are available in your city just yet. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) can help you find resources that will lead you to understand the breadth and depth of the choices available in healthcare.
Establish a timeline for change. Set goals that are specific, challenging but achievable, time bound, and that you can track progress towards accomplishing. If education is a factor then investigate what it would take to complete a degree or certification and include this in your strategic plan.
3. Enlist support for your health administration vision
Now that you have a good grasp on where you want to go, enlist the support of family and friends. Look at your professional network from a new perspective. How can the people you know help you navigate into your new position? Communicate your ambitions with others so they can let you know about other connections they may have. This strategic networking may help steer you in the right direction for a school, place of work, or position. Look to make new contacts in healthcare through professional associations, internships, or volunteer opportunities. You never know which connection will lead you down the right path toward your future.
4. Remove barriers to success
As mentioned above, consider education, interning, independent learning, and/or volunteering to expand and improve your skill set. Honestly assess what you know and can do. Find out what you need to be educated or trained to do. Removing skill gaps and knowledge deficiencies can not only prepare you for your new position but also motivate you throughout the transition. Learning is exciting and will expose you to options you may not have considered before, help you hone in on transferrable skills, and expose you to people already working in the field or position who can broaden your perspective. Consider attending a conference or online training.
5. Take small steps and celebrate each accomplishment
Adjusting to new demands is difficult so don’t make it harder by trying to tackle everything at once. Taking small actions will not only make the process manageable but more enjoyable. Celebrate each success; the journey is where the growth happens. Each new contact, skill, piece of knowledge, and exposure to the health field will bring you closer to what you desire.
6. Keep moving towards your leadership ambitions
It can be easy to loose sight of the future during setbacks. Over time, stagnation can erode your momentum. This is why celebrating the small victories helps keep you motivated. It’s also why it’s important to think about and take the next best action. Small steps will add up to larger accomplishments.
Staying up to date with what’s going on in the field by reading publications related to your area of interest can give you great things to talk about when networking or interviewing. Learn from leaders in the field. Be inspired by the journey of people like you. You demonstrate your passion when you share knowledge with others. Sharing this knowledge will increase your confidence.
7. Build upon the progress you’ve made and healthcare career capital you've created
The process outlined to engage you in changing or advancing your job, is similar to the process applied in change management within companies. Health services is a rapidly evolving field, this experience will help prepare you for what lies ahead. The flexibility to maneuver quickly in this shifting landscape will add value in your new position. Additionally, you will bring all your transferable skills and experience to bear in this new endeavor. You have a unique history and perspective that will help you be a creative problem solver in your new position. Innovation can be enhanced by your broadened horizons. This will allow you to make connections others may miss. The ability to adapt is a very valuable skill, so start practicing it now.
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