“I used to work with him at Vandelay Industries 15 years ago.”
“I gave her her first job in the industry a long time ago.”
“He was the best boss I ever had, and I knew that when he left I’d be out the door soon.”
“Sure, I know him.”
“Yup, I know her.”
“If he/she was available, I’d hire her/him in a second.”
We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Reflecting on this for about a second, I realized if you know a lot in this industry, everyone knows who you are and, if you don’t know much, everyone knows that as well. There is no shell game here — the players are too smart and have been around too long.
I got to thinking about how insular the world of healthcare IT talent is when asked the obligatory, “So, what’s your main takeaway from the show?” at last week’s HIMSS conference. Amalgamating dozens of conversations, it was this — the government-engineered bubble we’re all thriving in has produced a massive workforce shortage that hasn’t been ameliorated by its workforce-development programs.
While many people want to get into healthcare IT, and many jobs sit unfilled, the critical disconnect is that the aspirants lack the crucial clinical experience CIOs need on their staffs. Sure, a certificate showing you know a vendor system is great, but CIOs need folks that can talk the clinical talk when a nurse or doc need help navigating an application. And, of course, people without clinical chops bring almost nothing to the table when it’s time to do some clinical workflow redesign — a key first step to implementing an EMR.
But let’s forget about those lower-level jobs and talk about the dynamic I alluded to in our introduction. The kind of talent grab that’s going on in the industry isn’t happening through ads, recruiters, or HR departments. It’s a personal call from the CEO of one organization to someone they have worked with in the past, or perhaps a relationship representing one degree of separation beyond that. It’s a known entity calling another known entity in a zero red tape approach to recruitment.
How do you get into this game?
The answer is you do it very slowly, over a number of years, one customer engagement at a time, one relationship at a time. You must think of your career as dependent upon each and every professional interaction you have — every person who knows you must be “referenceable,” every comment about you should describe your professionalism and integrity.
Overall this, of course, is your reputation, which constitutes both the best and the only job security you ever really have. Have you ever seen someone follow the unscrupulous dictates of an evil boss in an attempt to curry favor and the job security they believe will attend it? Trading an industry-wide reputation for the temporary graces of one without honor is no bargain.
So as I reflect on this year’s HIMSS Conference, my thoughts aren’t on the issuance of Meaningful Use Stage 2, the ICD-10 postponement, the cloud, or hospital/physician integration. They’re on the fact that success and happiness depend so much more on continually exemplifying simple and timeless values than seizing any short-sighted and short-term opportunities of the moment. There always has been and always will be a right way for the honorable to conduct themselves. Over time, they’ll always be the ones landing on their feet. When dark clouds converge over head, they’ll be the ones who hear an old friend bearing a new opportunity knocking at the door.