The new year gives us all a chance to check in with ourselves and make resolutions to help us become the best versions of ourselves. It’s a perfect time to look at your career goals and consider some resolutions that put you on the path to advancement.
We asked some allied health professionals how they reached their career goals. All of their paths were a bit different, but they had similar suggestions to help others succeed.
1. Do Your Research
Whether you’re just beginning your allied health education or looking to advance your career through education, you’ll want to make sure the program you choose sets you up for success and that you understand licensing and certification requirements.
2. Think Outside the Box When It Comes to Your Career Track
Your career track and the setting in which you work can play a crucial role in whether you thrive at work. You’ll want to think about this when choosing a program, as you gain experience in your program, and when you begin your job search. If you’re a current professional and love your field but not your work, think about a course correction.
Msora-Kasago knew she could pursue work in a variety of settings because of the different internships she had. But a lot of allied health professionals may not consider—or even know about—all the places they can work.
For instance, in addition to healthcare settings, nutritionists can work for large restaurant conglomerates, at universities, or even for airlines.
Most people immediately think of healthcare settings like hospitals for allied healthcare careers. These can be intense workplaces, says Msora-Kasago, who suggests that it might be wise to look outside of them if you tend to take the sadness and stress of your work home. “It can be hard to experience death in the workplace,” she says.
Embracing Different Experiences Can Help You Choose a Track
Starer has worked in a variety of settings, some more stressful than others. His last stint before starting his own therapy practice was in the emergency department at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, where he says he worked with people at their lowest point. Starer views it as a privilege to be present at those times, to be trusted enough to help people make breakthroughs.
He notes that many allied healthcare workers, no matter their field, work with patients in crisis. Like Msora-Kasago, he encourages new professionals to consider how much trauma you can take on in your work.
Pay tends to be higher in the corporate world, and many allied health professionals can find work with consulting, accounting, and law firms
Starer has also worked in corporate settings, such as insurance companies, that have little face-to-face interaction with patients. Pay tends to be higher in the corporate world, and many allied health professionals can find work with consulting firms, accounting firms, law firms, and even companies that need help developing psychological testing or focus group protocols.
“I wanted exposure to a lot of different jobs and different settings,” Starer says. “My education gave me training in social work, community organizing, and working as a probation officer. I wanted those different experiences.”
Understand the Roles You Pursue
Shapiro says research into potential workplaces is just as important as choosing a school. “I have had experiences where I took a job because I felt I had to, and didn’t really investigate what the work was like,” she says.
This was the case when she worked with adolescent girls in a residential care unit, a position Shapiro said was emotional and intense. “It would have been better to know ahead of time, so I could prepare myself,” she says.
3. Tap the Experience and Knowledge of Others
Whether you’re launching a job search, working to advance in your field, or considering a new career, talking to professionals already where you want to be can provide valuable insight.
Msora-Kasago suggests interviewing or shadowing someone doing a job you’re interested in. If you’re considering earning a certification to advance your skills and knowledge, she says you should talk to professionals in the various roles the credential will prepare you for.
“Volunteer at a hospital. Find out what it looks like to work in this role in this place,” she says. Even if the person you’re shadowing was in school years ago, they can still offer advice about what they wish they had learned or done while in school, or options they didn’t pursue.
Once you are in a job, Msora-Kasago suggests you find a mentor to talk through issues or strategies to advance. “I wanted to be a leader,” she says. “I needed to ask: What skills do I need, what am I weak on?”
Later in your career, you can become a mentor yourself, which can often teach you as much as you teach the person you’re mentoring. “They come in with new information from their more recent education, and with new best practices. We both benefit,” says Msora-Kasago.
4. Raise Your Hand Often
When you’re starting out in a career, it’s a good idea to volunteer for new initiatives and committee work and to attend meetings and conferences. These opportunities can expand your skills and knowledge and help you network. This will prime you for advancement or the next big opportunity.
“No one will tap you on the shoulder,” says Msora-Kasago. “Find out what you want and then go after it. Maybe you start with a lateral move, not an increase in responsibility or pay or rank. But in any new position, you will learn something new.”
5. Earn a Certification to Boost Your Profile
If you’re looking to advance or eyeing a lateral move into something a bit different, certifications can help you get there. Professional certifications can demonstrate deep knowledge, expertise, and commitment to your field. Higher-ups and stakeholders, in turn, may place more confidence in you.
Piccirilli says that in billing and coding, having credentials in practice management and medical auditing have helped her understand the entire spectrum of the billing cycle, which helps her better serve her clients.
If you’re looking at advancing or eyeing a lateral move into something a bit different, certification can help get you there.
“Go for something that will improve you professionally,” she says. “While everything can improve you personally, at the end of the day, you want to pay your bills. So do something that can help you do that.”
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