October 20, 2008

What Now? — Pursuing the Next Job When You Didn’t Choose to Leave the Old One
By Gwen Wawers, MEd, RT(R), RDMS
Radiology Today
Vol. 9 No. 21 P. 8

Understand that the challenge is not just finding a job, it is reflecting on what you want to do, where you want to do it, who your search impacts, and what outcome would mean success to you. Look at the big picture.

You have heard about it, read about it, and maybe witnessed it—or even experienced it—in your facility. Perhaps as a manager, you’ve had to eliminate staff in your own department. Regardless of your role in imaging, everyone needs the skills to continue their career and look for the next opportunity.

The circumstances of your departure are not the issue. Don’t look for comfort in the programmed responses delivered by your employer. The standard explanations that “this isn’t personal” or it was an “organizational decision” attempt to remove the facility representative from the event. You may have said these things in the same situation.

But if it impacts you, it is personal. When it happens, your focus has to be on professionalism, the strengths you will bring to your next position, and where to find and identify it. Instead of juggling all the demands of directing an imaging department, you are working on one project—you. Use your management skills to approach this task as you have so many times in your imaging director role; the steps involved are the same:

• Define the problem.

• Identify resources.

• Determine your timeline.

• Evaluate and document your progress.

What Do You Want?
First, understand that the challenge is not just finding a job, it is reflecting on what you want to do, where you want to do it, who your search impacts, and what outcome would mean success to you. Look at the big picture.

The second step involves figuring out where help is available. There are more resources in the job market than I anticipated when I was searching, and I was pleasantly surprised to find them so accessible. Helpful Web sites I found included CareerBuilder.com, TheLadders.com, AlliedHealthCareers.com, MedicalConnections.com, and professional organization Web sites, such as AHRA, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. TheLadders.com sends you e-mail notices regarding timely new entries by locations you identify. CareerBuilder.com has excellent links to interview questions, resume suggestions, and other helpful job-hunting tips. Web sites you may have used to hire for your department probably bear checking out as well. Also visit the Web site of potential employers of interest to you.

If you haven’t been in the job market for awhile, spend some time brushing up on your resume and interview skills. Check with your former employer’s human resource department to determine whether they will help you draft a resume or update what you have. If you know someone in human resources at another facility, ask that person for help. I asked a friend who is a human resources director to help me update my resume a couple months prior to my termination.

Employment Web sites request that you download your resume, and you want to be sure yours stands out. Incorrect grammar or spelling will send the wrong message. A letter of introduction gives you a chance to demonstrate your written communication skills, explain your situation, and highlight your accomplishments in the field. I asked another friend who teaches job-hunting skills to proofread my letter of introduction. He recommended emphasizing my continuing education endeavors, in my case, a recent certificate in conflict resolution and mediation skills.

You’re the Interviewee
Interviewing potential employees for your department and interviewing for a new position yourself are very different. The skill sets required aren’t the same, and a little preparation can really improve your interview performance. There are books available, but you don’t have to buy them; an afternoon at the library will suffice. Talk to the reference librarian and explain your area of interest, whether you are looking for sample question and answer books, examples of resumes, or job seeker tips—it is all available. Take a pad and pencil along to make notes. Use the index to locate topics of interest and jot down what is relevant. Three books I found helpful were Be Hunted! 12 Secrets to Getting on the Headhunter’s Radar Screen by Smooch S. Reynolds, Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. DeLuca, and Secrets of Successful Negotiating for Women by Wendy Keller.

Don’t forget to utilize friends, colleagues, and professional contacts as sources of both potential employment information and people who may be willing to act as a sounding board. Informal recommendations or firsthand experience with an employer can reveal more about a position than is likely to show up on a Web site or even in an interview. Remember, that employer is also putting its best foot forward in the recruiting process.

Plan ahead for the question, “Why you are seeking a new position?” Few employers haven’t experienced staff cutbacks. Explain your understanding of how cuts were determined at your previous facility. In my case, it was a hospital merger with director positions determined by seniority. Whatever happened in your situation, present it in the most positive light possible. Your response to interviewers will help them gauge your ability to adapt to change and demonstrate that you are not looking to blame someone for your situation. Understand and show the prospective employer that this could prove the best thing for you, that you are moving on and making plans for the future.

Organize your personal resources so they are readily available, including the following:

• copies of your last three performance reviews from your former employer(s);

• names, addresses, e-mail contacts, and phone numbers of references;

• current professional licenses, registries and credentials, and basic life support certification; and

• health records (eg, tuberculosis test, hepatitis B series).

What’s Your Timetable?
Step three affords you the least amount of control. This is a new role because, in the past, you determined timing. You set up interviews, selected candidates for hire, and asked human resources to make offers. Now you find yourself waiting for e-mails and phone calls and arranging your schedule to be available. If you haven’t done so already, you need to spend some time thinking about how soon the next action will take place. Do you need some time to recover and weigh your options? Are you looking for a lateral move, or is it time for an advancement? Is a career change an option, or are you ready to jump right into the job hunt? I started my search the day after my position ended, which was right for me. I like what I do, enjoy the medical setting, and have been successful as a director. My position had a change in leadership, and I had been casually looking since I anticipated the hospital’s action. Other directors received severance packages, and I wanted to wait it out. It gave me time to think about what I really wanted to do. Additionally, I wasn’t limited geographically because my husband’s profession is very flexible.

Each person’s situation is different. Flexibility is a valuable attribute. If you were already looking at a career move, this will accelerate it. If your plans were to stay in a position until retirement, adjust your mindset.

If you plan to take some time before starting your job search, obtain current and accurate information regarding COBRA insurance laws, flexible spending accounts, or other benefits offered by your former employer. Check with the unemployment department in your state regarding benefits; you can usually file online. Unemployment compensation is adjusted according to your severance package.

The final step is evaluating your options and determining progress toward your goal. As I mentioned, I started right away. An unanticipated family emergency required a little more than two weeks of my time. When I was able to return, I worked at finding a position several hours every day. I registered with the Web sites listed previously, sent e-mails to professional contacts and friends, and looked at the Web sites of a number of hospitals in areas where I was interested in working. I recorded my contacts on a spreadsheet, listing the date, location, Web address, phone number, and contact person if I had one. In the comment section I noted what actions I had taken (ie, resume and letter sent, personal contact, date to follow up, etc). I eliminated facilities that didn’t meet my requirements. I discovered that job titles vary by institution, that position descriptions do not always represent the job, and that some director positions or facilities have negative histories.

I experienced the most success with the professional organization Web sites. Within a few weeks, I had several phone interviews. In less than a month I landed three location interviews. The professional site listing the position I was interested in worked through a recruiter, so there was always a contact I could reach. I had the offer I wanted seven weeks after leaving my previous employer. My interviews were reimbursed, and relocation, travel, and a housing allowance were included in the offer. Because of my previous employer’s severance package and personal time off, there was no financial loss. In that regard, I was fortunate.

Depending on your comfort level, there may be a tendency to jump at the first opening or accept the first offer. The first one may be right, but do your research and try to make the best decision for you. The right job is about where you’re going, not your recent experience. If possible, pursue a positive career move, not just a paycheck. You are seeking new challenges in a new environment. Good luck!

— Gwen Wawers, MEd, RT(R), RDMS, is the director of imaging for the Riverview Hospital Association in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.