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Renew your job-hunting skills: an organized approach.

Part I

Recently, the job market for medical technologists has shrunk in some parts of the country. Technologists who once might have left their positions because of marriage or the birth of a child now continue to work in the laboratory. Where three or four applicants used to compete for a job, 10 or 15 show up today.

Finding the right position takes a lot of work. I believe that reviewing and renewing job-hunting skills makes the difference between success and failure--whether you are a new graduate seeking your first job, a seasoned technologist recently laid off, or a technologist returning to the lab after years of working at home.

Above all else, you must maintain faith in yourself. After years of talking to new graduates about job hunting, and after interviewing countless applicants for entry level or promotional job categories, I have found that everyone's biggest stumbling block is a lack of self-confidence.

Many medical technologists qualify their every skill: "But I don't know how to use hematology equipment."..."But I'm not very good at troubleshooting." ..."But I've never done that." You must forget all the "buts" that narrow your thinking and keep you from having faith in yourself.

A search strategy can also improve your chances of finding the right job. There are hundreds of self-help books on the subject. In addition, career counselors, employment agencies, and well-meaning friends and family stand ready to provide guidance. By all means, read up on job hunting and talk to your family and friends. Remember, however, that at some point learning about the process must take second place to actually getting out there and doing something about it.

Many people complain that finding a job is difficult. Question them and you learn that the hardest part is developing and launching the job search.

There are two basic ways to proceed. One is to learn which jobs are open and apply for them. Many technologists take this approach. They go after anything that becomes available. Putting a little money in their pocket to pay the rent and support the family or repay school loans takes precedence over personal interests or desires, When interviewing such individuals, I find they frequently know nothing at all about the environment, scope, or purpose of the laboratory they seek to work for. They settle only for the knowledge that a job is available.

The better approach is to decide what you want to do most and where, and work toward those goals. Even if you have to sacrifice some personal desires and interests along the way, you will still need to learn a lot about yourself and prospective employers before applying for a job.

To get started on information gathering, buy a notebook with several dividers or a set of note cards. Write down your primary job objective and any secondary objectives you want to reach with a new position. Be honest! Your objective might be as general as "obtain entry-level job in any laboratory" or as specific as "manage quality assurance program in a metropolitan hospital." If there are 10 kinds of jobs you might like to land, list all 10. Don't limit yourself at this point.

Next, write down the tasks you like and want to do and the skills you possess. For example, you might list troubleshooting automated equipment, maintaining equipment, organizing multiple tests simultaneously, handling Stat testing, analyzing research data, interacting with patients, and performing phlebotomy.

If you have strong feelings about tasks you don't want to do or skills you don't want to develop, write them down, too.

Don't stay committed to the lists as if they were carved in stone, never to change during the job search. As often as you can, refer to your objectives and skills for updating and additions. Read them to remind yourself where you are headed and to restore your faith in your capabilities.

After learning about yourself, you must learn about potential employers. This circular process can begin with identifying employers, identifying contacts, or exploring workplaces. Once you have identified employers, for example, you can get the names of contacts there and explore workplaces, where you may find new contacts who have names of additional employers to investigate. Each phase feeds naturally into the others, expanding and growing as your information increases.

To identify potential employers at the outset, use personal contacts such as friends, relatives, former classmates, or co-workers. Want ads in journals and newspapers, listings in the Yellow Pages, and professional organizations are also useful sources. Libraries have directories and other books about hospitals, other health care providers, government agencies, and companies. For each employer you identify, find out what products or services are provided and what types of jobs and career opportunities are offered that are of interest to you.

This kind of activity helps you focus on what you want to do and where you want to do it. For example, if your personal objectives include selling reagents and laboratory equipment for a large vendor, the employer search may point to locations beyond where you currently live. If you are locked into a particular location through preference or personal commitments, the choices will be narrower.

Employer identification forces you to learn something about the organizations you are considering. Are they profit- or service oriented? Do they have a good career ladder for medical technologists, or are most jobs the same?

You can call a supervisor and ask such general questions or make an appointment and save the questions till then. If you reach the job interview stage with a particular organization, you can seek more detailed information.

In our laboratory, many job applicants ask me what the commitment to teaching is like because they know we are part of a teaching hospital. They want to know what level of teaching would be expected of them.

New graduates are generally reluctant to ask for information, in my experience. They think they have to know someone personally before they can plunge in with questions.

But I have almost uniformly found that managers like myself don't mind sharing job information. We are willing to spend a few minutes of our time to pass on information about how the employee selection process works or what we have or don't have open in the way of jobs.

With your notebook or note cards, start a section entitled "Employers." Figure I shows an example of a simple note-card system. At a minimum, an entry should carry the name and address of the organization; focus of the organization, including services and products; and types of jobs open to medical technologists.

If a potential employer provides more than one type of job for laboratory workers--e.g., a university with research and hospital lab positions, or a company with basic research, applied research, and marketing positions, you can use one sheet or card for each job category.

There's no single right way to keep track of this kind of information; suit your own organizing style. Other items you may want to add are contact people and advantages and disadvantages of the work. A comment section can include notes about the work environment, potential for on-the-job learning or career advancement, salaries, or anything else of interest you Team about the employer.

Identifying contacts, which follows a pattern similar to that of employer identification, is critical to job-hunting success. Surveys have shown that 30 to 75 per cent of all jobs are filled because applicants knew the right person or found the right contact. In fact, job placement services, newspaper ads, and employment agencies play a relatively small role in successful job searches.

Ask co-workers for the names of friends and acquaintances at other work sites. If you are not keeping your job search a secret from your current employer, also ask your supervisor, manager, or director for contacts. Talk to sales and technical representatives who call on your lab. Make use of individuals you know in professional organizations, and find names of new contacts in lab journals.

Employees in my laboratory have let me know they are looking for another job. Usually they have gained additional skills in supervising or in a specialty, and their experience exceeds what we can currently provide for them. I support them in their quest for a new job because they need to be in a supervisory or advanced technical position.

If you do wish to conduct your search quietly, tell prospective employers, "I would appreciate your not calling my current employer. "

Devote another section of your notebook to keeping track of contacts. Label it "Network," "Network Directory," or "Contacts." One format for a network card is shown in Figure II. Include the name of the contact, his or her title, organization, phone number, your source for the contact, further contacts suggested by the contact, and a section for notes on conversations and phone calls. Recording who gave you a contact's name and new names helps you keep your network organized and the interrelationships clear.

The third step in this cycle is exploring workplaces. Use people you know or contacts you have developed to arrange for a tour of the laboratory or workplace you are interested in. Request an information interview to collect data about what an organization does and what kinds of jobs are available.

One technologist told me that over her career she has made it a habit when traveling to stop and ask for tours of hospital and independent laboratories. She gained valuable information about what laboratories did, how they were organized, what the work atmosphere was like, and so on. In addition, she was gaining valuable experience in job hunting, a skill that served her well when she decided to make a career change.

The point of networking, visiting workplaces, and studying employers is to locate the "hidden" job market and learn enough to match your skills and interests with the best organization possible. Get into the habit of asking for more information about a job or organization. If you are just launching your job search, solicit broad advice about your career goals or plans. Most contacts will suggest ideas and share names.

The first phases of job hunting involve information gathering about yourself and about potential jobs. Many of us find this difficult because we have to reach inside ourselves and identify who we are and what we want, and we have to reach out to others to find out what's available and where we might be heading. But like many of the one-celled creatures that turn up in the laboratory, we can learn to bounce off obstacles, squeeze around others, regroup, and move forward.

In Part II next month, we will discuss effective ways to present yourself in a job application and resume.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:part 1
Author:Romfh, Peggy
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Feb 1, 1988
Previous Article:Protocols for bedside testing.
Next Article:Formulating policies: essential supervisory tool.

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