You’ve decided it’s time to start looking for your next executive career move and you’re not exactly sure where to start. If you’re heading to HIMSS, you’re in luck. As the largest heath IT conference, it’s the perfect opportunity to gauge the job market and explore career options.
With more than 40,000 attendees, 1,200 vendors and 300 educational sessions, HIMSS can be hard to navigate. While a precise formula does not exist, here are a few tips to make the most of your time at HIMSS and additional conferences you attend.
- Strategize. With so much going on at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices ahead. To make the most of your conference experience, treat it with the thought that you will be walking miles, talking with important people, and collecting essential information for your future success, not to mention collecting free pens and business cards. Look at the conference programming ahead of time and plan to attend educational sessions that most align with your next career move. After those sessions, start a conversation with the presenter and follow up after the convention to continue those discussions. If you’re interested in moving to the vendor arena, choose vendors that you’re interested in and make it a point to learn more about their products or services. [Pro tip: Remember, vendors are there to sell a product or service, not generally to find their next innovative IT executive. You’re more likely to find salespeople than the HR team or other executives, but it’s a good way to start doing your homework on the organization.]
- Reconnect. If you’re an IT executive, it’s safe to assume you’ve made connections throughout your career. Take the time to reconnect with those friends and contemporaries and plan to have dinner or meet for a drink. This is the perfect time to trade stories of battle scars you’ve all experienced along the way. If you’re lucky, you can find one of the parties hosted by a major vendor and reconnect with some of your colleagues. Never forget that one day those colleagues may need someone to be their replacement, and that someone just might be you.
- Recruiters are your friends. Remember, HIMSS is a chance to connect with recruiters like myself who you will work with for years to come. Therefore, if you’re planning to get in the job market or just dipping your toe in, one of the best ways to get out there is to connect with people who can provide you with the most visibility. There are several firms that specialize in IT executive recruitment, and now is your chance to establish those relationships.
- Network, network, network. The importance of networking at a conference cannot be overstated. The biggest mistake a job hunting IT executive makes is an unwillingness to leave their bubble of colleagues to meet new people. Overcoming the networking hurdle is critical. Pop your bubble, enjoy a shot of espresso, and capitalize on the talent and expertise surrounding you.
- Coffee and comfortable shoes are your best friends. Make no mistake, you will be walking. If you have your fitness tracker on, you’ll be setting new personal bests walking back and forth across the convention hall. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and I am not just referencing the monstrous convention floor, and to make the most of your experience, you will need to be constantly on the move.
My final two cents? Enjoy yourself! Big conferences are an opportunity to gain insightful information, make new connections, and strengthen old ones. Embrace the tremendous strides made in IT this year, both yours and those of the organizations around you.
Zachary Durst is an executive search associate in Witt/Kieffer’s IT practice. He is based in Oak Brook, Ill., where he focuses on searches to identify CMIOs, CIOs, and other IT leaders in hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, and other health-related organizations.