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Career Rx: don't just get a life - write it down!

A first impression that really matters

To avoid any confusion: I am speaking here of the resume, the brief executive career overview, and not of the curriculum vitae/CV, the longer and more detailed academic/professional document. Most physicians know how to prepare a CV; it's the executive resume that seems to give them trouble. As a search consultant working daily with executives and client organizations, I assess hundreds of physician executive resumes each year. While the trend is for these documents to become more sophisticated, too many still do not convey qualifications effectively. Not that the people represented are not qualified; very often, they are. They are doing extremely tough jobs, creatively and successfully, and they are just the kind of people our clients want to meet and get to know better. But locating physician executives, stellar professional accomplishments in the traditional CV or the jumbled maze of a poorly organized resume is often exhausting and always unnecessary labor.

Many physician executive resumes seem to have been written in a fog, without clarity or direction. Some forget to include a phone number or street address. Some unwittingly minimize the executive's achievements or omit mention of dollars saved or productivity increased. Some have handwritten additions, while others are copied onto the cheapest kind of typing paper. And some contain misspellings or other obvious mistakes.

Nobody looks at your resume because they are seeking a new friend. Resumes are only reviewed in potential employment situations. Does it need to be said? Errors create a terrible impression on the resume's reviewer, whether that is a search consultant like myself or an employer. So, when I find enough to interest me in a resume that I actually call to interview the individual, I usually feel conscience-bound to give him or her advice on how the resume could be strengthened, improved, and made more professional.

Usually, the suggestions are graciously received, but I have had individuals become annoyed, as though an excellent resume were a frill rather than a basic career tool.

That's when I think of those words, "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" It's not within my power to make any physician executives put time and effort in on their resumes. But if you think your resume could stand an overhaul, here are some thoughts for your consideration:

Use both a resume and a CV.

Don't bury your management strengths on page 6 of a CV and expect the reader to find them. (A classic CV is not supposed to and doesn't really lend itself to highlighting management achievements; they typically wind up off the first page, anyway.) While your professional medical life is best described in the classic curriculum vitae format, your professional executive life requires a resume-so have and use both documents. Send both whenever your professional background is the topic. While your CV should highlight clinical and educational accomplishments, your resume should focus on executive and management achievements. Each supplements the other in telling your story.

Make-your resume as professional as you are.

It represents you whenever you are discussed in the context of employment opportunities. It is a serious, important document. Prepare and present it with the same attention to quality you would give to a patient diagnosis. (If you think the situation has no "life or death" implications, remember that your career can be dealt a mortal blow by a sloppy or ineffectual resume.)

Write it in executive language.

Just as a resume written in Tagalog would not be readable in most U.S. health care facilities, one written in "Doctorese" will be equally unintelligible. Remember, the purpose of the resume is to put your accomplishments and talents before the people who are in a position to offer you a great job. Use action verbs to underscore your achievements, with emphasis both on team play and on your own contributions. Impact on the bottom line is vital information--express it in dollars or percentages, but quantify it as much as possible. Three bullet points per job is about the right number-and no more than five.

Don't make the reader work too hard.

At the top of the first page, list your name, home address, home phone number, voice mail number, office phone number, and faxes at your-home and/or office, and clearly label each one. If you have concerns about confidentiality (e.g., you aren't ready to let your current employer know you're looking), say that in the personalized cover letter that you send with the resume. You can rely on reputable executive search consultants to be discreet and maintain confidentiality when they call or leave messages for you. But the search consultant has to have a daytime phone number for you; we don't work only at night, like Batman. Start with your current position, listing your responsibilities and key accomplishments. Continue back through earlier positions, following the same format.

Say the right things.

You need to highlight the skills and experiences that the marketplace wants. For example, while you may place a high value on your years of residency in a prestigious hospital, or your exceptional grade point average in medical school, those facts are not actually relevant to your executive career. At this point in your life, they belong in your CV. Focus on what the health care executive marketplace wants-managed care business experience, strong negotiating background with business coalitions, proven ability to manage physicians and groups, cost-effective productivity measures, etc.

Keep it to a manageable length

I am not as adamant on the issue of two-page resumes as some are, but I do insist that every word be necessary. When a resume runs longer than two-pages, I expect the author to be an eminent individual, someone with at least national (if not international) renown. Two pages will suffice for most gifted physician executives. Reducing your qualifications to the appropriate form requires discipline, rewrites, and editing. You will gain from the exercise, becoming clearer in your own mind about your professional accomplishments and goals. Take comfort in the certainty that each time you rework your resume, you are likely to improve it. There are wonderful books and software to assist you in putting your resume package together, and I recommend that you use them. Don't let someone else write it for you; do it yourself. Your voice and style will impart authenticity. And of course, you do update it every year, without fail-right? Well, you should.

A last word to young physicians

Most of my comments could apply to physician executives at any stage in their careers. But let me offer a thought or two to the young physician who is just entering the management arena. You are in the fortunate position of being able-to write your resume to order, by selecting jobs and work experiences that will round out your career. Don't miss this opportunity to develop a career plan!

If you have carefully assessed the health care marketplace as part of your interest in a management role, you have the information you need to take an objective look at your resume and see where the "holes" are, where you need more experience or training or skill development. Do you need to work with managed care organizations? Do you need financial expertise? Would you like greater familiarity with business information systems or forecasting? Are you as skilled as you want to be in dealing with coworkers and subordinates?

This is the time to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges--and then seek whatever it will take to enhance your professional package. Think of what you want your resume to say five years from now, and be sure that you build in those experiences for yourself. You might-have to accept an intern role, or go back to school, or take a pay cut, or volunteer for committees outside of your current responsibility--but you will agree that the effort was worthwhile when you qualify for the job you've dreamed of having.

Take control of your resume, and build it into the record that you want to stand on, proudly. Whose life is it, anyway? Yours and yours alone.

A response to Career Rx: Counsel on a "hairy" subject

The authors would like to differ with the opinion of Mary Frances Lyons, MD. The opinion expressed by Dr. Lyons in her article concerning male hirsutism could not be further from our experiences. Clearly, the world has been blessed with many great hirsuted male leaders. This would include Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln, Samson (who erred by listening to Delilah), and far too mar,y others to list. Within health care, we only need look back a few years to see the tremendous contributions by C. Everett Coop, MD, and others. Is this chauvinism on the part of the author? Is this class envy? Should a scientific survey of ACPE leaders and members be done to test the hypothesis that facial hair is inhibitory to one's managerial career?

We would counter that a beard is testimony to an individual's free thinking spirit, entrepreneurism, and a willingness to "break the mold"...all attributes that would be strongly admired in a health care leader today. Our observation has been that neatly trimmed facial hair is symbolic of self-assurance, self-confidence, and wisdom. Who can doubt the significant contribution given to us by those bearded medical entrepreneurs of the past, the Smith Brothers, of cough drop fame?

Clearly, facial hirsutism is here to stay!

Sincerely, C. Raymond Fernandez, MD Medical Director Nalle Clinic Charlotte, North Carolina

S. Lee Guice, III, MD Associate Medical Director Nalle Clinic Charlotte, North Carolina

Dr. Lyons responds:

The letter from Drs. Fernandez and Guice commenting on the column on the hairy subject of beards was welcome. They are right when they emphasize that my observations about how physicians, beards are viewed by the senior management group are my opinions. But they are informed opinions, based on nine years of executive search consulting, during which I have interviewed hundreds of physicians as potential candidates for senior management roles in U.S. health care.

I call `em as I see `em, and what I see is very few physicians with beards being hired for important jobs. Is it the primary reason? I doubt it. But it must be a factor.

Here's a poem to thank my colleagues for taking the time to respond to my opinions:

Two MDs from North Carolina Disagreed with my column's opine: They may find nothing scary About a doc who is hairy, But then, it's their face and not mine.

Mary Frances Lyons, MD, is an Executive Search Consultant with Witt/Keiffer, Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd, St. Louis, Missouri. she may be reached at 8000 Maryland Avenue, Suite 1080. St. Louis, Missouri, 63105, 314/862-1370, FAX 314/727-5662. If there is a career management issue that you would like to have addressed in this column, please fax a description of it to Dr. Lyons or to the Managing editor of the Journal at 813/287-8993.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Lyons, Mary Frances
Publication:Physician Executive
Date:May 1, 1996
Words:1828
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