The Ultimate Guide to Pursuing a Career in Healthcare
A career in healthcare can be one of the most rewarding paths you can take with your occupation. Being able to help other people with potentially life-changing health issues means you can make a huge positive impact on the world – and witness that impact immediately.
Unlike many career paths (in which the fruits of your labor are limited to improving the bank balance of the company you work for), healthcare provides you with the opportunity to both further your own interests and help make a positive change to the lives of others.
What’s more, the healthcare industry is increasingly diverse, meaning there are countless directions you can take depending on your strengths and ambitions.
For example, if you are passionate about helping others daily, becoming a doctor or nurse is an ideal occupation, whereas if you want to earn a lucrative salary and create your own legacy, then starting a healthcare business is a strong option.
However, at this point, you are probably wondering where to start.
Embarking on any new career path is a daunting prospect, but healthcare is more complicated than most. Given the specific qualifications needed to become a specialist healthcare professional, it may take you a long time before you fully understand whether it is viable for you to pursue a certain job.
Furthermore, unless you have had your heart set on a particular career for your entire life, it is crucial to do your research before making a career decision. Taking stock of your different options allows you to make an informed decision and prevents you from taking a wrong turn in your life.
Lastly, it is important to know how to improve your chances of reaching your healthcare career targets. Knowing how to network, what work experience to gain and which qualifications to earn will make it far easier for you to rise quickly within your chosen career.
Here is the ultimate guide to pursuing a career in healthcare:
Work out what your strengths and weaknesses are
The first step you need to take with your career in healthcare is to ascertain what your personal strengths and weaknesses are.
As with any career path, you can only succeed if your job suits your natural talents, interests, and character traits. Not only does choosing a job which goes against your inherent strengths make life harder for you (and gives more naturally gifted competitors an advantage), but you will almost certainly find your career less than rewarding.
If you are unsure of what your strengths and weaknesses are as a person, then there are a few simple steps you can take.
The first is to reflect on your career to date and pinpoint which tasks you found relatively easy to complete and which ones were a lot harder. For example, you might have enjoyed math-based tasks and hate writing-based tasks.
You could also consult your colleagues, friends, and family for their opinions on your skillset and natural strengths of personality. Often it is difficult to identify your own personality traits, and instead you might require a third party who can see you for who you are, without the emotion and ego that blinds self-reflection.
Lastly, you can think back to your childhood when life experiences feel far more vivid. There will likely be activities you enjoyed doing more than others, and types of learning which felt easier or more difficult.
Once you have done this, you can apply your findings to the various types of healthcare careers available to you. If you are an introvert, then a patient-facing role may not be ideal; whereas if you are more mathematically able, then a career in the finance or corporate side of healthcare might be more appropriate.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to evolve as a person or challenge yourself with a difficult job, but it does narrow down your options.
Gain the right qualifications
The next step in pursuing your healthcare career is to achieve the necessary qualifications for the job you want to land. While you can say this for most careers, the healthcare industry is particularly strict on qualifications, and for good reason.
When you are handling the health of your patients, only a certain level of subject-specific expertise will do. The degrees themselves will depend on the job you are applying for, so you should thoroughly research this before making any academic decisions.
Of course, when you need as many qualifications as you do with certain healthcare careers, it is best to start as early as possible. If you are still in your teens, you can focus fully on gaining the right school and college qualifications, before moving on to specialist healthcare courses such as second degree accelerated BSN programs online.
However, if you leave your decision to move into healthcare until later, there are many opportunities to enroll on online courses which you can take in your free time.
Regardless of when you choose to pursue a healthcare career, you need to avoid enrolling on the wrong courses. If you want to land a specific occupation (such as a surgeon or specialist doctor), then you cannot afford to take a course with the incorrect qualifications.
This will waste your time and money, leaving you boxed into a corner you can’t get out of.
To ensure you don’t make this mistake, double-check with course convenors and existing specialists in your chosen field about which qualifications you need.
Boost your experience levels
To stand the best chance of landing your dream job, you need to combine the right qualifications and the right soft skills – such as interpersonal skills – with as much on-the-job experience as you can manage.
In an industry as tightly controlled as healthcare, this may not be possible for all jobs directly, but you can still gain valuable experience. Start by applying for internship roles in medical establishments like hospitals or doctor’s offices. Your role might be modest, but you are demonstrating your comfort with a medical environment.
Even working in a retirement home or a similar environment is a great way to hone your ability to care for others, and shows prospective healthcare organizations that you are motivated by selfless work.
Most of all, though, you need to rack up experience in high-pressure situations. A healthcare recruiter’s worst nightmare is hiring a qualified recruit who crumbles at the first sign of difficulty or distress – which is only ever exposed when the employee is needed most.
This could endanger a patient’s life and compromise the healthcare facility’s ability to perform its duties, so every staff member needs to be strong under pressure.
By seeking work experience placements in environments which offer consistent pressure, you can quickly separate yourself from other candidates.
Network in the right areas
Another important tip you should keep in mind when pursuing a career in healthcare is to network. While qualifications, experience levels and strong personal strengths are all vital, you cannot make an impression when you are ‘just’ another candidate – simply a number on the page.
Instead, you need to get your name in front of the decision-makers who can make or break your career. Contrary to popular belief, networking doesn’t have to be a scary task reserved for extroverts, because thanks to social media there is more than one way to build a personal brand.
For instance, you could start to establish yourself as a healthcare professional by creating a profile on social media, following prominent professionals in the industry, and interacting with them privately.
By respectfully introducing yourself and asking for advice, you will be amazed by the number of doors which can be opened. You should also start posting about your healthcare career – no matter how early you are on the journey.
Perhaps you are studying for a medical degree, or you have just started your first job in healthcare.
While you may be too inexperienced to position yourself as an expert within your field, you can inspire and educate others who wish to follow in your footsteps by sharing career advice, personal stories from your healthcare career or your reasons for wanting to pursue the career in the first place.
By building a personal brand online (particularly on LinkedIn due to its corporate focus), you can cultivate immense value that can accelerate your career. The more followers you have, the more recognized you will be by your peers, the more decision-makers will see your name, and the more influence you will carry in your field.
What’s more, you will create an emotional response in those who could one day grant you your dream job. They will relate to you, wish to see you succeed and are more inclined to trust you.
After all, humans are intrinsically attracted to storytelling as a way of bonding and building relationships. When you share your story, as well as actionable advice for others, you will quickly develop a network of professionals in your field and beyond who can present you with opportunities, guidance, teaching, and support.
Of course, social media isn’t the only way to network in the healthcare industry. Old-school networking events are still brilliant places to meet decision-makers in your field, learn new skills and develop relationships with your peers.
When you make yourself visible to others, you will massively expand the number of career opportunities available to you and open your eyes to different career paths. Although it can be intimidating to approach senior figures within your industry, networking is a necessary action to take if you want to progress quickly in your career.
Find a healthcare career which suits your lifestyle
An often underappreciated factor in the success and enjoyment of any career is how well your job aligns with your preferred lifestyle. Many people struggle through jobs that make them miserable simply because it severely compromises other aspects of their life.
The reason why this is important to factor in is that your career lasts decades. If you are unhappy in your personal life, then you will be unable to do your job correctly – and vice versa.
While not everyone can tailor their occupation to their lifestyle, you can improve your chances of finding a balance by deciding what kind of life you want to lead.
If you don’t mind working long hours and devoting the majority of your life to your career, then choosing more intense jobs like running a business or reaching the top of a specialized healthcare field may be of more interest to you.
Conversely, if you want to dedicate a lot of your life to building a family, then choose a role with less responsibility and more free time.
Moreover, healthcare gives you a rare opportunity to travel with your work. If you gain the correct qualifications and experience, you can choose to work all over the world.
Whatever your lifestyle, there is a healthcare role to suit your needs. You just need to be aware of your specific requirements before you set out with your career.
How does a healthcare career align with your long-term goals?
When you are trying to pick a career path to follow, it is easy to become swamped with the vast number of jobs and potential avenues to take. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep one eye on the long term.
By knowing what you want to achieve over several decades, you can start to shape your present far more easily. This is not to say that you should have a detailed understanding of how your career will pan out, only that you may have some overarching goals that you want to reach.
Perhaps these are specific career goals, such as building a company, helping people in a certain field, or specializing in a particular skill set – or they could be more general targets. You may want to live in a certain area, buy a dream home, retire with a particular amount of money in the bank, and so on.
This will also make it easier for you to work long hours, endure stressful situations and bounce back from setbacks.