At 32, after eight mostly successful years as a special projects manager for a major health system, Sally was out of a job. That there were 150 colleagues in the corporate office facing the same fate did not make this day easier.
They called it a strategic realignment. When she left her office for the last time on a Friday afternoon, after saying her good byes to friends, especially her assistant, she took a white banker’s box filled with the last of her personal possessions and left her office that had become a home away from home. As she walked to her car, she experienced a swirl of emotions — fear, confidence, a deep sadness and then, surprisingly, a bubbling sense of confidence. She knew she had the skills to manage this transition just like any of her other successful projects.
She had already met with her outplacement coach a couple of times. Her resume was being “overhauled” and she had picked up some important ideas regrading expansion of her network of professional contacts and social media tactics. She realized that while the outplacement company helped her with the tools of the job search, they gave her no overall strategy. It would be up to her to construct that part of the process in order to identify a new employer before her eight months of severance ran out.
Here is an overview of Sally’s strategy and her schedule:
Sally took time to decompress. She had begun to appreciate that there is a sadness that comes with losing a job that you loved, leaving behind colleagues whose company you enjoyed. She wanted a chance to grieve for this loss and to prepare herself mentally for the hard work at hand. She had dinner with friends, started a book she had wanted to read and at the end of the week, she left the city and flew to her parents beach house for some solitude and serious reflection.
There was a nagging question she felt must be answered — did she want the same job in another city, or was this the time to take her skills and experience and apply them in a new business setting? Sally also knew she had to be disciplined, she had to have a strategy. She was not instinctively a gregarious, backslapping personality, so she realized she would have to focus her energies on making meaningful, productive connections.
With a sense of direction in mind, she used the second week to construct her job search strategy. She began by inventorying her experience and the skills she had developed. She assembled a list of accomplishments that supported her success. She began work drafting her value proposition — formerly known as the elevator speech — that emphasized her accomplishments.
By mid-week, with those harder than expected tasks behind her — this process took more self regulated thinking and more self reflection than she initially imagined — Sally began to identify potential employers. Her criteria included reputation of the organization and its senior leaders, an alignment of values, geography, and the opportunity to use her skills for meaningful work.
She ended the second week, working through the weekend, by conducting research on each organization, settling on an initial list of 15 companies she felt would be a good fit based on her criteria. Sally knew that she would probably have to add more to the list, but this was a start and she would be sensitive to other opportunities as her search progressed.
She conducted an inventory of her existing contacts to see if any of those individuals had connections, directly or with someone else, tied to one of her target organizations. While there were some positive hits, Sally realized that she would have to quickly expand her network to realize her objective. She began looking for contacts that could help her with introductions to her targeted list. She had heard the term “connecting the dots” which made sense, but Sally was amazed at how hard she worked on this aspect of her plan.
She decided to use customized messages to current and potential contacts and was transparent about her intentions. She hated LinkedIn’s suggested email invitations and felt that a brief personalized note would generate a better response. She was working hard and did not want to waste time by cutting corners. She also spent time polishing her value proposition, making sure that potential employers would not see her only as a project manager. She reviewed and tweaked the generic resume that the outplacement consultant provided. It was a good start, but Sally knew full well that this resume would have to be adjusted for each job she sought to ensure she was effectively connecting with the needs of each targeted company.
Although Sally felt a sense of urgency, she took weekends to have dinners with friends, to go to movies or museums, and to read. She knew it was important to maintain ties with her support group and to take time to recharge her mental and spiritual batteries. She worked out early each morning so on the weekends she rested physically.
After week three, with most of the developmental work done, Sally moved into a regular routine just as if she had a regular job — she worked out, read the overnight news on her iPad and dressed. This work, she believed, was important stuff and she did not think wearing a bathrobe and slippers reflected her serious commitment. It was symbolic, but to her, it made a difference. Sally wanted to maintain her professional edge throughout the process.
She was in her home office at 8:30 AM each day. Sally looked over various healthcare websites searching for clues — actionable information that could be used to expand her contacts or enhance her intelligence of her targeted companies. She checked the job postings of those companies and then reached out to new contacts in an effort to expand her sphere of market knowledge. On some days she would meet local contacts for coffee or lunch. Occasionally she would have lunch with a friend, but her days were focused on networking.
In the afternoons she continued her research and networking. She even establish contacts with vendors, including search firms and other consultants, that she identified as having connections with her targeted organizations. By the 15th week, she had expanded her list of targeted companies to more than 30 companies after conducting more research. In periodic calls to contacts close to or inside her targeted companies, she listened for hints of opportunity.
LinkedIn, various healthcare news briefing sites and the web pages of her targeted organizations served as key tools for her research and networking. She established Google Alerts for industry-specific news regarding her targeted organizations and their markets. She constantly doubled back with her contacts every two or three weeks by email, sometimes by telephone, depending on the status of the relationship. She made a point to find interesting and useful information to share that would add value to each message or conversation. She paid attention to their birthdays and work anniversaries.
For some of her strongest supporter-contacts, Sally also connected with them on Facebook and Instagram. “I sent a lot of Paperless Post cards during my search,” she said, “and I know I will have to keep that up even after I find a job. I have come to fully appreciate that contacts are so valuable and you must nurture and safeguard those relationships. You cannot turn this off and on like water. This is an important investment in your career.”
On the 28th week of her search, Sally, who had three job possibilities in the pipeline, made a site visit to one of her targets. Two more, not originally on her list, had expressed a strong interest. Each represented an advancement in compensation and a larger scope of responsibility.
“I heard a speaker at ACHE once say that hope was not an effective job strategy. There were never truer words spoken,” Sally said. She was also lucky in the sense that although she was in a committed relationship, she did not yet have the family ties that limit so many executives, geographically speaking.
“I also realized that if you do not have a plan and if you do not execute that plan with discipline and commitment, you will fall short of your goal. I did not want to settle for just a job. I wanted to find a workplace with people I liked and respected where I could make a meaningful contribution and be effective in their culture.”
All the hard work, all the planning, paid off.
© 2015 John Gregory Self
Technology and automation have revolutionized the world. Technology and automation also have enabled some very bad habits that can have nasty consequences.
A captain with a major US airline once told me that the Airbus jet he flies, is one of the most automated, technologically advanced airplanes in the sky. He added, however, that there was a downside to that level of sophistication. “It makes a bad pilot average. It makes a great pilot average.”
Years earlier, a General Motors CEO spent heavily on automated technology in the form of robots to assemble cars in hopes of reducing the power of his nemesis, the United Auto Workers Union and to enhance quality. He solved neither and the financial consequences for GM were disastrous.
I believe we can find some parallels in healthcare.
When you depend so much on technology — whether it is the Cadillac of the electronic health record systems, the latest patient monitoring devices or state-of-the-art computerized diagnostics, all with hot and cold running automation, there is no guarantee this technology will improve quality of care or enhance patient safety.
At the end of the day, healthcare is, and always will be, an industry that depends heavily on the skills, judgment and deep commitment from those who take care of patients. For those who choose this profession, like the airline captain, it must be more than just a job to pay the bills. Mistakes can have massively serious consequences.
During a recruiting trip to Manila, The Republic of the Philippines in 1992, I interviewed a very bright and passionate registered nurse. She had just completed a 12-hour shift in a 12-bed intensive care unit at one of the nation’s largest public hospitals. This facility lacked most of the modern technological equipment that American care givers have long come to rely on. She and four patient care technicians — she said she was the only nurse in the unit — had to manually check vital signs, manually monitor pressures and other requirements for care. She looked forward to moving to the US where she would earn five times more money so that she could support her family in Manila, and she was excited about having access to the latest technology and equipment she had read about in nursing school. But she was also concerned that with all that technology, her nursing skills would suffer.
Whether her concerns are accurate or justified, or not, it made me think about the state of healthcare and the proliferation of technology — our version of the global arms war — where organizations spend millions upon millions of dollars to have the latest and the best equipment. Yes, they spend it for the patients, but they also want to beat the competitor hospital down the street. It begs the question, is it making our care better, and safer?
We have the highest healthcare costs of any industrialized nation but we have significant problems with quality and patient safety and our life expectancy is less than those nations who spend so much less.
Depending on technology without a passionate commitment to quality and safety — to make the care of the patients a personal commitment — will not solve our growing cost and value problem.
© 2015 John Gregory Self
TYLER, Texas — When selecting an interim executive, there is always the risk of making a bad choice.
Too often the decision is based on the resume and the advice, slanted or not, from the interim company executive touting the candidate list. Frequently these decisions are made at a time of crisis and with a sense of urgency, and the organization is already looking forward to starting the permanent search. It is as if they are thinking, oh well, how much damage can the interim do?
Barry Dykes, FACHE, Managing Principal of Westwind Advisors in Conway South Carolina, and a former hospital CEO, says that selecting an interim candidate, whether for human resources, nursing or finance, is critically important. Once you have made the decision that you must bring in an interim to help the organization transition or expand, there is usually a sense of urgency that precludes the same thoroughness of an executive search. “This is a critical time and making the wrong choice for the interim role can be a huge, costly setback.”
“Selecting executives to lead a turnaround is one of the most critical decisions a governing board can make,” says Ian E. McFadden, FACHE, President of HRM Solutions, LLC of Valpraiso, Indiana and a veteran of six successful turnarounds. “The wrong choice can lead to closure of the hospital. There are vacant lots where hospitals use to be for that very reason.”
What if you could review the resume, the interim’s skills/experience assessment by the recruiting company and references, as well as watch a short video of the candidate answering key questions? Would that help you make the right decision?
Our research shows that clients tend to make the right choice when they see videos of the candidates before either inviting them to interview, or, in a time sensitive rush situation, making a choice and offering a contract. This has to be better than sight unseen.
In times of urgency, you do not always have the time to bring two or three candidates in for an interview. But here is the problem, interim firms, like executive search organizations, are not keen on innovation. Why bother when what you are doing works just fine, revenue-wise, they argue. So, you are forced into a decision structure that is fraught with risks.
The interim recruitment business and its high society cousin, retained search, rely on the same business model that they have used for the last 40+ years. It is working, some say, so why would you want to change — don’t fix it if it is not broken.
That has the ring of an excuse, not a rationale. Only the brave search consultants will reluctantly admit that this is the way it has always been done, but the industry practice of the majority of firms suggests that is how they feel. They are content to keep doing what they have been doing for years. If the clients aren’t clamoring for something better, we must be pretty smart, right?
First, just because a client isn’t asking for better service doesn’t make you smart.
Secondly, conventional wisdom and conventional recruiting practices have something in common: they are not always right.
Third, finding, screening and presenting interim candidates in the conventional manner does not necessarily serve the best interest of the client. So why be content to do something because this is the way it has always been done?
I could not agree more. And we have a plan, the flexibility — and the technology — to change the game. For more information, contact me. If you are an interim candidate, and would like to be included in this innovative initiative, send me your resume.
I believe the JohnGSelf + Partners approach will better serve the needs of our clients for less cost than what some of the national firms charge.
The this is the way it has always been done approach needs to change.
© 2015 John Gregory Self