I have been giving career advice for the last five years on healthsystemcio.com, and one might think I would run out of new material. In fact, in my work in executive search, I come across career issues and lessons every day. Moving up, changing jobs, or obtaining a new health system CIO job is not easy, and each year brings new wrinkles to those pursuits. The CIO marketplace is changing and the contemporary CIO faces more competition and more challenges than every before.
In my last blog, Removing Obstacles, I summarized some current CIO career challenges and offered suggestions. Here, allow me to offer some more bits of wisdom to navigate the obstacles on a CIO career journey.
Staying too long
If you have been at one organization for “too long” — 20 years, for example — it can be perceived as an obstacle. One CIO I spoke with recently has been at the same health system for over 25 years. He has a stable C-Suite, the organization has been successful with deploying its EMR across the enterprise, and he has taken on more responsibility. He started at the organization right out of college and was promoted into increasingly challenging IT leadership roles. He became the organization’s first CIO, first at the hospital level and then at the system level. Opportunities were presented to him along the way, but the family could not move and he passed them up. Now he is open to relocation and to new CIO roles. To overcome the perception of too much longevity, here are some suggestions:
- Describe your organization in your resume as it is now, and list all of your positions over the years, separately and with key accomplishments for each position.
- Make sure to include the organization’s size and scope changes that occurred during your tenure. If it grew from one hospital to four and from 50 employed physicians to 750, that shows that you held on to your job through mergers and acquisitions and played a part in both growth and stability.
- Use your stability in the organization and give examples of why they wanted you around so long; examples might include: how you saved money, increased ease of practice, improved quality, retained a great staff; led successful key strategic initiatives; and developed trust and credibility across the enterprise.
Before you get to the point of “staying too long,” consider looking for new CIO opportunities — after five to eight years, for instance. If your health system is growing and changing and wants you to stay, or if you have family reasons for staying put, that is certainly understandable. If not, I encourage you to at least look around a bit and understand how your experiences are perceived in the job market.
Be open and truthful as you go through an interview process with a recruiter or a hiring manager. We always ask in our initial screening process, “What is your current base salary and bonus?” If there is hesitation or resistance to answering the question, it will be an obstacle to move forward in a search process. Always be open and honest about your salary, or it may prevent you from being considered. Other red flags that may cause candidates not to move forward in a search process:
- Incorrect titles and dates on your resume that cannot be verified through an employment verification process
- Degrees from non-accredited colleges or universities (“diploma mills”)
- Inappropriate social media comments or photos that come up on a media check
Keep track of your personal and employment information as you go through your career, and represent yourself in the best light by being open and honest. Be ready to assist a recruiter if more information is needed to help in your candidacy. Don’t hesitate to ask questions on what personal and employment information will be used for and who will see it. Enjoy the journey.