By Dotty Zukoff
Stepping up the rungs of the healthcare career ladder begins with that crucial cornerstone: finding your first job. Whether you're a recent high school grad or a senior who's exploring career options, one out of every five jobs created from now until 2014 will be in the healthcare field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This increasing demand for healthcare services means that with proper training from a top-notch career college, you could be employed in an exciting healthcare setting after just 36 weeks of training. Whether it's working directly with patients or being an integral administrative or support member of a healthcare team, healthcare is a lucrative and fast-growing profession.
Education drives success
Exciting entry-level healthcare opportunities include medical-dental receptionist or assistant; health information specialist; pharmacy technician; or massage therapist. A key component to finding that first job in these fields means having the proper education-a local career college with specialized healthcare programs, like A.C.I. Career College, is best.
Look for quality coursework that consists of lectures, hands-on laboratory sessions, and externships for practical experience. Recent technological developments should be incorporated into the curriculum--preparation to become a medical-dental administrative assistant, for example, should include training in a variety of medical office software applications.
Preparing for the job market
Jumpstart your job hunt-and land that first healthcare position-by talking with career counselors at the school where you completed your healthcare education. Ask them to provide job leads, resume evaluation, interviewing advice and networking connections. Develop your personal and professionals skills by:
- Evaluating yourself: Examine your background to identify experiences and skills that may strengthen your application. Volunteer work; knowledge of other languages or cultures; travel; or educational specialties are all learning experiences that can contribute to your value as a healthcare worker.
- Know what you want: Understand and clarify your goals and expectations for your first job. Is location or geography important-do you want to work in a small town or metropolitan area? Where do you want to be five or ten years from now? What path do you want your career to follow?
- Understand the market: A large pharmaceutical company may offer scholarship opportunities to continue your education, whereas a small insurance company can offer a broad range of office management responsibilities. Decide what healthcare setting you'd like to work in, whether it's a HMO assisted living facility, independent billing company, hospital, physical therapy center, chiropractic office, retail pharmacy, or physicians' or dentist's office. Employment growth in healthcare is also not limited to traditional full-time jobs-the American Hospital Association, for example, reports a three percent increase in part-time hospital employees. Part-time employment is often a gateway into becoming hired as a permanent full-time employee.
Work for the experience
Even if a job isn't exactly what you're looking for, it may put you in contact with organizations or people who can help you in the future. For example, perhaps you're offered a medical clinical assistant position that doesn't pay the salary you had hoped for. Don't be too quick to turn it down---sometimes the best compensation is experience or access, and future employers look at any work experience as valuable, no matter what
Refine your people skills
More high school students and recent graduates who are actively seeking work find their first job through networking connections than through any other method, according to recent polls. Most employment comes through referrals from people you know, so spread the word that you're looking for a job. Your parents, former and current teachers, coaches, friends, and relatives can all be a good resource. Be sure to also use other informational resources, such as the internet, medical publications, associations, directories, and job fairs.
When you do land those first interviews, dress appropriately, paying close attention to personal hygiene and wearing business-like attire. Make direct eye contact with the interviewer, ask questions, and give direct and concise answers. Lack of experience doesn't necessarily doom new grads and high school seniors. Be honest and tell a prospective employer, ''Yes, I am fresh out of school, but I'm willing to learn if you will give me a chance.''
You're ready to dive into the healthcare employment job market-all it takes is a little preparation and lots of confidence. Remember that healthcare jobs and careers are the rising stars of the nation's future employment outlook, and employers need fresh, young talent just as much as you would like an opportunity to join this exciting, cutting-edge industry. As one recent healthcare graduate said, ''I've always dreamed of helping people. I'm just starting a career that offers a lifetime of opportunities.''
A.C.I. CAREER COLLEGE - WE CHANGE LIVES, ONE STUDENT AT A TIME!
About the Author:
Cindy Atoji is a Boston-based freelancer writer who specializes in career, business, and education coverage.