John is an executive recruiter & speaker sharing his thoughts on healthcare, recruiting, digital technology, career management & leadership. 

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Michael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third WorldMichael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World Next up on my reading list. Lewis, author of Liar's Poker, The Big Short and Money B
7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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31 October, 2014 Posted by Nancy Swain Posted in Career Management
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The Power of Networking

Posted October 31st, 2014 | Author: Nancy Swain

A degree of separation is the measure of social distance between people. You are one degree away from everyone you know, two degrees away from everyone they know, and so on. The concept was popularized by John Guare’s 1990 play, Six Degrees of Separation, which was turned into a film starring Will Smith, Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Ian McKellen.

After checking 30 billion electronic messages, Microsoft has proven that the theory stands up. Since there is a planetary scale social network available, it is important in a person’s career to take advantage of “networking” both through electronic means, telephone, and face to face. On Twitter and LinkedIn, 5 or fewer steps may separate you from a very important introduction.

Being proactive in both your job search and while you are employed is the most productive way to understand the job market. Most of the people that I have provided career coaching or executive leadership coaching do not bother to take advantage of gaining insight into the market through networking. In fact, they don’t understand what it really is or how it works. Many feel like they are employed, so why bother?

When you accept a position, most of us intend to stay and grow and contribute without another thought about the way the market has changed. It is unusual in today’s world for anyone to keep a job for a lifetime as many of the previous generations did. Therefore, you cannot “marry” your job. You must always “flirt” with the market; understand what is going on outside your company both in the industry you are working in, but also within other industries where your skills may transfer.

You should build a contact network that is meaningful and attend to it. Not only are opportunities uncovered that would never be “posted”, but you can enhance your credibility, gain input and insight into your current resume, gain greater exposure to people who might hire you in the future, and put you in less competitive circumstances.

Jobs are created in many ways:

  • Company expansion
  • Promotions and transfers
  • People leaving
  • New products or services
  • Restructuring
  • New Management team
  • Problems needing solutions

To begin to build your significant network, it requires more than just accepting invitations from people you may not even know on LinkedIn.

Begin with your “A” contacts:

  • Already known to you
  • Willing to give you feedback without feeling threatened
  • Able to recommend a “B” referral

Develop your “B” contacts: this is the 2nd degree – bridge people

  • Reach out using your “A” contact name
  • Let your “A” contact know that you did reach out to their recommended referral
  • Ask for other “B” referrals
  • Now work on “C” referrals from your “B” referrals

Develop a “C” contact list: This is the 3rd degree of separation…and so on.

You want your contact list to introduce you to leaders in your field, suggest companies to target, recommend successful recruiters, let you know about specific job openings, and continue to act as an additional set of eyes and ears.

You are NOT asking people for a job when you network. You are asking for insight, input, and expanding your circle of influence.

When you begin to reach out and get involved in your network, it is critically important that you understand your value. What is it that you bring to the market, to an employer, and what quantifiable evidence do you have to support the skills you claim to have? Most people, even though you may know each other for a while, have no real clue what you do and what contributions you have made in your company. You must provide short, clearly stated descriptions for your network. You could also share your resume and ask: “What do you gain from this?” “Are my accomplishments clear to you?”

“A” contacts can be the most unlikely people, many would not consider. Such as:

Former employers, past associates, professional associations, friends, relative, neighbors, business owners, consultants, bankers, lawyers, accountants, college alumni, doctors, dentists, insurance agent, clergy, club members, people you met while traveling.

One quick story: When the telecom corridor was downsizing in Dallas several years ago, I worked with an executive engineer that took networking very seriously. Let’s call him Tom. He would get up every day and put on his suit and plan informal meetings with a contact just to learn and to share. One day before leaving home, Tom took the garbage out into the alley all dressed up. The man picking up the garbage asked why he was doing this in a suit in the middle of the day. They then shared stories. Turns out the man on the garbage truck had also been laid off and he was trying to pay the bills. He too was an engineer.   After hearing Tom’s story, he knew someone that Tom should talk to. He followed through, and within 2 weeks Tom had a great new opportunity.

Six degrees of separation …IT WORKS!


NancyHeadshotNancy Swain is a member of the JohnGSelf + Partners transition coaching team, leading the Transition/Outplacement practice and advising clients on candidate profiles. She is also President of Strategic Intelligence in Dallas.  You can reach Nancy at


© 2014 John Gregory Self

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27 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Recruiting
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Words of Success

Posted October 27th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

I love being a recruiter for many of the same reasons that I so enjoyed being a newspaper reporter in my earlier life.

Sure, I like the research — preparing to begin an executive search engagement by doing a deep dive into the client’s organization, understanding the job, the people/working relationships, the performance expectations and the hurdles to success and the culture — but it is the candidate interviews that I enjoy the most.

I love listening to them tell their personal and professional stories, from the interesting tidbits about their earlier life that help me gain insight into who they are today, to understanding how and why they lead people. I benefit so much from that engagement and the ensuing conversations about issues and experiences.

In our firm, we call this three-hour in-depth interview the FtoF, or face to face. We sit across the table — never on videoconference or Face Time or Skype (we use those earlier for get acquainted sessions) — and ask the candidates a myriad of questions covering six areas. This is the time when candidates can demonstrate that they are up to a specific challenge — putting words to success. We aren’t just listening for technical expertise, competence and a record of success. We want to get a clear understanding of who they are as a person — a sense of their confidence, style, values and whether they can adapt to our client. If there is a place in the process for the candidate to brag, this is it. But candidates must learn you have to do it in the right way. Delivering overpowering, excessively boastful and/or rambling answers is not the right way. That kind of response signals a lack of preparation or a deficit in self-awareness, both significant warning flags in most searches.

In today’s evolving healthcare environment, it is not enough to efficiently and factually tell the recruiter where you have been and what you have done. You need to be engaging, smoothly selling yourself, connecting the dots of your successes with the needs of the client. And you need to close the deal in a very uplifting way that differentiates you from the 10 to 15 other candidates who are competing for the same job.

In a recent interview with a candidate that I really liked, personally and professionally, I kept hearing him talk about his successes in business development, forming joint ventures, and successfully creating and expanding new service lines. When I asked him a softball question, “You seem to be very adept at building business but you did not mention that as a key competency, he stopped and instead of offering a deal-closer response, he used words not of success, but of surprised recognition, “Well, I guess you could say that I am.” There were so many positive things he could have said, but he suddenly became a little too modest and lost the moment to build on his asset base for this position.

As I have frequently written over the past several months, being prepared to tell your story — to sell yourself — is so important in the recruiting process. Some candidates seem more concerned with image/damage control — age, employment status, number of short tenures — that they fail to effectively employ words of success.

Boards are pressing recruiters for true leaders, not just successful managers who produce positive quarter over quarter results. This is the impression candidates should focus on leaving.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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24 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management
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Posted October 24th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

If only…

If only I had done this or that…

If only we could get through our careers without making mistakes or without missing a performance target, our best intentions, our best efforts notwithstanding?

But alas…

“Hell is not merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them.  Yes, and furnished too.”  While there is a whiff of truth in Adolphus Huxley’s seemingly rueful assessment, as CEOs work to tighten expenses, the operating and financial metrics are becoming tougher and more important and the executives are facing increasing pressure to perform or step aside.

First, some perspective:  30 years ago, most hospital administration graduate students got residencies and job offers in an operational role.  The majority of the good ones moved on to enjoy a career, with varying success, as vice presidents, COOs, CFOs, CNOs and CEOs of hospitals.  That pathway is no longer an easy road to navigate.

Which brings us to this unfortunate but realistic truth — only a small number of hospital management graduate students today are wired to be successful operational executives in this transformative phase of healthcare.  Fewer still will have what it takes to make it to the top.

There is no better time to stop, look at your career, and reassess your future.

Anecdotally, I have met more erstwhile executives than I care to count who are struggling to work their way up the career ladder but have had a series of short tenure positions.  They always seem to be on the reduction in force short list. Sadly, for the second, third or fourth time they accept a termination plan, engage an outplacement coach and begin the search for a similar job in a new town.  Most outplacement counselors go through the motions — they focus on retooling the resume and they work to craft a scenario, a storyline to help the candidate achieve that goal.

Stop! Executives should not keep repeating the same career management mistakes.  They should not allow themselves to be trapped and marginalized, their career brand to be stained with the image of being a job hopper or, worse, an inept manager.

Stop!  Look for someone who can help you assess your skills and understand your value so that you can find a new pathway to success and happiness.  There are going to be plenty of healthcare jobs in the future, just not as many in the acute care management arena.  It is time to stop and rethink your career path.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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