Bradley Richardson is managing partner of the Plano, Texas-based recruiting firm Kaye/Bassman International, which specializes in health care placement. He's written five books, including the bestsellers Career Comeback (Broadway/RandomHouse) and Jobsmarts for Twentysomethings (Vintage/RandomHouse).
Health care is one of a handful of industries that are truly growing. It's not just that they are building new hospitals and clinics, but they're also improving in effectiveness and efficiency. Before, health care companies just needed people to do the job, but now it depends on how well you do it. They want people who can really make an impact on an organization from the financial side, and if you're not helping a company make or save money, they will evaluate you much more quickly and are faster to pull the plug. I'm seeing a lot of upgrading or top grading rather than organic growth.
For job seeker that means knowing your skill set and what you bring to the table. Line up five accountants or five CEOs and they've all done pretty much the same thing. At the end of the day if all you can do is close the books and do basic analytics, well guess what? So can everyone else. Instead, you need to express what those results obtained and how you did it. Show how you are the better solution.
Leadership, Not Just Skill
Finance people are great technicians, but if you have the personality and attitude to also be a great leader, then you're off to the races and I can place you all day long. You have to be cocky and adopt a marketing mindset. But you're not going to get that across on paper. Finance people put too much emphasis on the resume.
Focus on a few companies in your area and get the hiring manger on the phone or contact them directly through e-mail. While you will get shot down most of the time, HR people just won't get it.
There is no chance that a top-level finance professional can be placed in health care without any background in the industry. While 80 percent of what you do is the same as technology, or insurance, or oil and gas, 20 percent is extremely specialized knowledge about dealing with insurance and government.
On the other hand, at entry-level or lower-level positions like accounting or analysis, you can make a transfer to health care, and there are great opportunities there. And once you hit manager level, you can take that knowledge elsewhere - or stay and build a career in health care, for which the market is steady and improving.
I'm seeing a lot of opportunities in the Sunbelt - the Southwest, Texas, Southeast, as well as smaller communities which have trouble recruiting professionals but have growing medical demands. Even areas where they aren't building new hospitals or clinics need to fill financial positions. No matter what, they're still bring in money and sending it out the door. It's not like marketing where they can decide they can live without it.
I'm seeing more and more joint ventures between hospitals, physicians groups and specialty clinics, so people with M&A or joint accounting exposure are in demand. Also, keep in mind that of the 4,000 major hospitals in the country, 3,000 are non-profits in need of financial experts in that area. And non-profit experience can always be transferred to other industries.
Emma Johnson is a New York based journalist who writes about money, business and finance for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Forbes, MSN Money and others. Reach her at <a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org@emma-johnson.net.