Managing Your Healthcare Career in an Era of Uncertainty


Leading healthcare executive search consultants J. Larry Tyler (Chairman and CEO of Tyler & Company) and Dennis J. Kain (President of Tyler & Company) offered valuable insight on managing careers in the healthcare industry during an AESC/BlueSteps seminar. Tyler and Cain discussed industry trends, cross-functional experience, retained search, and career management. The panel was moderated by Peter M. Felix (President of the AESC).

What are the current trends in the healthcare industry affecting executive leadership and hiring and where do you see opportunities emerging?

Healthcare continues to add jobs and has continued to grow through the recession. The sector may slow down but the need is always going to be there. There are major structural changes taking place and this is great for mobility. We are also reaching a time where the baby boomer generation will begin to retire, this will open up many positions to be filled at C level.

There is a demand for hospital-level physician-practice managers; although hospitals purchase physician practice groups and consolidate this manager position, we are starting to see a demand for physician practice managers at the hospital level as few existed. Moreover, the acquisition of practices by hospitals opens up a new career path for practice managers who may morph into hospital executives.

The demand for health IT expertise will continue. Opportunities for IT to improve productivity and quality of care will continue. While most hospitals already have CIOs or directors of IT, those people in redundant positions post-merger are often staying with their organization because there's so many healthcare IT related projects and initiatives in the pipeline. While those redundant posts sometime end up turning into roles that are somewhat "downsized" compared to the individual's previous job, new opportunities are also emerging for health IT leaders, project managers as well as programmers and other more seemingly mainstream health IT pros, especially if they're willing to switch employers or relocate.

Is it better for an executive to demonstrate diverse experience across sectors, or to focus within one sector? When is it valuable to have cross-functional experience?
There are not very many opportunities within healthcare for executives with diverse experience across sectors. More opportunities exist at the corporate or system level as new hospital construction is completed; you must keep in mind though, that those jobs don’t turn over much. However cross functioning can be valuable and possible in certain disciplines (e.g. COO to CEO; CFO to CEO; CNO to COO and CMO to CMIO) and this is a good time for executives with finance backgrounds to head in CEO direction.

At what point in an executive’s career should he/she begin to think about attracting the attention of a retained search firm? How should they maintain a good relationship with a search firm that will benefit them throughout their career?

While more and more healthcare organizations are building their own search departments, these tend to focus on lower level searches. There has been a marked increase in organizations looking to retained search firms for higher appointments.

Start building relationships with search firms as early as possible! Develop contact with multiple consultants and researchers at multiple firms and be a reliable source.

What advice do you have for executives looking to raise their profile and become more marketable to search consultants?

The first rule of working with search consultants is if a researcher or search consultant reaches out to you do your best to help them. Researchers are the backbone of executive search; they work with huge databases in which you could get overlooked. Providing information and sources to researchers is a great way of building a relationship with firms and knowing a friendly researcher can be very helpful.

How to get noticed 20 years ago is radically different than getting noticed today and there are many ways to go about it. Having a client recommended you to a search firm is a great place to start with building relationships with firms. Publishing articles, writing a blog and taking speaking engagements are all great ways to get noticed.

What role do career-oriented online services like BlueSteps and LinkedIn play in remaining visible and managing your career?

We haven’t had a search engagement in the last six years where we haven’t used LinkedIn in some form. Whether it’s posting positions or using is as a great research tool, both to locate candidates and do background research on candidates.

Our firm uses the BlueSteps database on a regular basis to source candidates. From the prospective of an executive it is easy to use and offers a huge amount of career management advice.

What one piece of career management advice would you give the healthcare executives on our call?

Network or not work! Networking is the key to a successful job search. You should always be building your network and if you’re out of work you should aim to make contact with at least ten people a day. Great ways to network are joining associations and using your alumni network.

You should keep everything up to date, your LinkedIn your resume, everything. Write down all your accomplishments, record the date, what you achieved, back it up with statistics and drop it in your career file so it’s at hand when you come to update your resume.

Don’t blast your resume out to people, carefully research companies that you want to work for, try and find out if there is a firm that they work with regularly. Or use directories to pinpoint search consultants or firms that work in your field or the field that you want to move in to. Be careful that these directories are up to date, reputable ones include ACHE (American College of Healthcare Executives) and BlueSteps.

This article was written by Sarah Wright, Marketing Assistant at the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.


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