Advice for New Health Care Grads

By Sheng Wang
For MedHunters

Advice for new healthcare grads

Earning your degree is such an accomplishment. It is almost as if the moment you add those letters to the end of your name, you can literally hear the doors opening. Knowing what to do to get your foot in those open doors, make a name for yourself, and thrive in an ever-changing health care industry is your next big step.

Finding a Job in a Competitive Industry

Mastering the hard skills required of your job is only part of the equation. Interpersonal skills are just as important because your ability to become a respected and trusted source of knowledge and talent will surely help you grow in your career.

Finding the right job takes a lot of research. It is this research that will help you launch your job search with realistic expectations.

You probably have a good idea about what your day will entail, thanks to practicum placements or internships, but don't forget to look at issues like job prospects in your area and in other communities of interest, prospective employers and what they offer (e.g., advertised benefit packages), and salary ranges for new grads (and for future reference, experienced workers).

For basic salary information in different locations, reference sites like salary.com or PayScale.com. And, if you're thinking about looking beyond your hometown for a job, take advantage of online relocation tools.

Mastering the hard skills required of your job is only part of the equation. Interpersonal skills are just as important because your ability to become a respected and trusted source of knowledge and talent will surely help you grow in your career.

“Many of the skills you need can only be learned on the job, and only time and experience can turn you into a seasoned professional.”

As your research reveals your specific interests in the field of rheumatology, you will want to prepare yourself to apply, and interview, for different positions, and your resume; or CV will need to be in tip-top shape. Many universities have career service centers that offer assistance in preparing this all important document, and there are companies that specialize in helping job seekers look their best on paper. No matter what approach you take to preparing your resume; or CV, it is important to write, rewrite, review, and ask for suggestions. This—along with your cover letter—is often your first and only chance to make a great impression. Don't be hasty to hit send or drop it in the mail. Take your time to make certain you're representing yourself in the best possible way.

Another important step to landing your first job is networking. Once you have your resume; or CV ready to share, jump right into networking. A great place to start is with your school contacts - former instructors can act as references, and they, and your old classmates, are the start of your valuable professional network. Job fairs offer another great opportunity to network and to see what's available at home and further afield, and the ACR offers several opportunities each year for networking at different meetings.

On the Job

Now that you have your foot in the door it is important to establish yourself in your new setting.

  • Master the basics: Don't think that you know nothing. On the flipside, don't think that you know everything, and experienced, older staff are out-of-date and know nothing.
  • Be patient with yourself: Many of the skills you need can only be learned on the job, and only time and experience can turn you into a seasoned professional.
  • Learn the rules: Attend orientation sessions, read the policy and procedure manuals, and ask your supervisor or more experienced staff if you have questions.
  • Be flexible: Health care work environments can be places of controlled chaos, and your plan of action may have to change in an instant. Learn to accept this unpredictability, and don't let it stress you out. Focus on completing your tasks—in order of urgency and priority—and delivering the best patient care possible.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help: Even doctors can request a consult when faced with a difficult diagnosis!
  • Be proactive about learning: Ask questions, learn new procedures, model yourself after skilled, experienced staff members, and make an active effort to grow in your career. Take the time to fully understand what is going on and why. Read professional journals to stay up-to-date about new developments. Go beyond the continuing education requirements for your license and attend in-services and professional development seminars or enroll in additional courses that will grow your skill set.
  • Join professional associations, like the American College of Rheumatology, offer many membership benefits, such as information on the latest trends in your field, access to educational programs, online discussion forums, and the chance to expand your network.
  • Accept responsibility for any mistakes you make: Everyone makes mistakes. The best plan of action is to correct them, learn from the experience, move on, and avoid dwelling on them.
  • Manage your stress: Working in health care can be physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Try to leave your work at work. Maintain your health by eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Watch for the early signs of burnout, and take action to prevent it. Use all of your vacation time each year, and give yourself the chance to relax and rejuvenate.
  • Keep track of your progress: Start a log of your work accomplishments, including procedures you've learned, problems you've solved, and the technical and soft skills you're acquiring. This will help boost your confidence, and also makes it easier to remember these accomplishments during your reviews as well as update your resume; and sell your skills at your next interview.
  • Set clear boundaries regarding your work: You cannot compromise the care delivered to all patients to accommodate one particularly demanding patient. If you cannot take on tasks outside of your job duties, learn to say "no" without feeling guilty.

Interpersonal Skills

Mastering the hard skills required of your job is only part of the equation. Interpersonal skills are just as important because your ability to become a respected and trusted source of knowledge and talent will surely help you grow in your career. Below are some tips on building the right kind of interpersonal relationships in your new position.

  • Observe the basic rules of good professional conduct: Dress professionally, arrive on time, and show courtesy and respect for all staff members and patients. Give others due credit for their work, and show your appreciation for any help or advice you receive. Don't engage in malicious gossip or other destructive behaviors.
  • Be assertive, and communicate effectively: Assertive and positive communications, both giving and expecting to receive respect, will set the tone for successful conversations that will lead to a successful career.
  • Engage in problem-solving rather than complaining: Avoid complaining about how difficult your tasks are - even when your supervisor is out of sight. It is better to go to your supervisor and explain the problem, how you've tried to handle it, and what you feel you need to get the job done.
  • Try to make friends among your coworkers: Having friends at work can decrease your stress level and provide you with emotional support during difficult times.
  • Find a good mentor. A mentor can be invaluable in helping you to navigate your career path.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and enjoy yourself: You made the choice to become a rheumatology health care professional for a reason. Don't forget that reason, whatever it was, and strive to enjoy the profession you have worked hard to join.

There are so many things to consider when you first begin your job search. It is important to treat you first job with great care. Look for opportunities to learn and grow; find ways of becoming a respected source of knowledge and talent, and eventually, you will find that your "job" has become a "career."

Looking for a new employment opportunity?

Find your next employment opportunity using the ACR CareerConnection. CareerConnection is ACR’s online job board. CareerConnection is free to job seekers searching for opportunities in the field of rheumatology. Benefits include personalized website, job alert notifications and resume builder.

Attend the ACR Career Fair! The ACR Career Fair is held in conjunction with the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, is an extension of the ACR CareerConnection. For job seekers, the Career Fair provides the opportunity to meet with employers and recruiters, check out open positions in rheumatology across the country and network with other rheumatology professionals. Learn more >

This article is provided for informational purposes only. The ACR is not responsible for any career decisions made by those consulting this article.

© 2015 American College of Rheumatology