When it comes to building out your team — healthcare information technology consultants included — it’s imperative to screen potential team members carefully to ensure they have the level of expertise required to handle the job.
If a consulting firm hires salaried employees, they are going to make an effort to have projects available for them when they are nearing their current assignments’ completion. They do this because, in the absence of projects, their employees will become pure expense. This is why many people who are getting into consulting think it is less risky to be a salaried employee of a consulting firm — they will have someone actively looking for their next project.
When I'm talking with people about their career options, the subject of consulting frequently enters into the conversation. Many times, they just aren't sure if consulting is for them. In these situations, I try to give them a starting point, in order to determine if it's a path they should explore further.
When looking for work, it’s understandable that you want to make sure your resume is getting in front of the right people and you’re not missing out on any good opportunities. However, when working with a recruiting firm, it’s also important to know to whom your resume is going, as well as for what position you’re applying and/or being considered.
Anyone who was a contractor or in consulting during the last recession (2008-2009) either had his or her project end early or knows someone who did. When I say end early, I mean end prior to the end date established when the project began.
When you travel to a client location each week and spend 40 hours on-site, the client sees you there; they have no doubt that you put in your hours for the week. Therefore, they have no problem signing off and approving the hours you put on a weekly timesheet. They may have an issue with the quality of your work or whether you accomplished enough during that time, but that’s a different issue.
As a contract consultant, every six to 12 months, on average, you’re going to have to transition off of one contract and start another. From time to time, this can be difficult to manage. The challenge can arise when you have 30 days left on your current contract and a new one-year contract becomes available a week or two before your contract ends. It can be difficult to stay two more weeks at your current engagement, knowing that it will soon be over, and having to pass up on a new contract that can secure your income for the next year. So, how do you handle this situation? What can you do ahead of time to make the transition from your current contract as smooth as possible so that you don’t 1) miss out on the new one-year project and 2) do not leave your current client in a bind?
Whenever we look to bring a contractor onto a project on which we’ve never worked before, we have to discuss compensation. Unfortunately, many new contractors are not prepared to have this conversation. Anyone can discuss what he or she wants to make. What I’m talking about is being able to have that discussion in a professional, credible manner.
What’s better, a two-year contract or four six-month contracts? Well, it depends. In keeping with what I discussed in a recent post, there are two types of contractor mentalities: The “get a job” consultant (GAJC) will, nine times out of ten, be more attracted to the two-year contract. This person isn’t thinking about a long-term career in consulting; he or she is thinking about a very well paying contract with the convenience of limited travel. If you add the fact that he or she won’t have to be concerned with looking for another contract for up to two years, well, things just couldn’t get much better.
First, let me clarify what I mean, in the title of this post, by “security.” I’m referring to the money you will have to pay your bills and take care of your family. There are many reasons to join a consulting firm as an employee. Typically, joining a consulting firm due to the perceived security of bench-time pay is not one of them.
In past posts, I've discussed the difference between firms that hire consultants and those that place consultants on a contract basis. There are firms that hire consultants as salaried employees and pay them whether they're working or not (bench time), and firms that bring on consultants and pay them hourly for the term of the project. There are also some firms that do both.
Today we continue our interviews with consultants sharing their perspectives on how and why they got into consulting. I’m really happy to have our guest Kevin Roy, a podiatrist who entered into informatics in 1992 as an associate director of informatics with a hospital in the northeast. He got involved in consulting in 2008. Within the last year he has been working on a project with Healthcare IS, which involved transitioning from one long-term engagement to a project with our firm.
When you belong to a LinkedIn Group and participate on a regular basis, your profile views are going to increase. As a result, your ranking score is going to rise above the scores of others in your network who are searching for the same contracts.
As a pharmacy IT or pharmacy informatics professional, your primary focus is to participate on projects that have to do with enhancing the operation of your organization's pharmacy software, automation, and technology. As you work in this setting for a while, you'll gain exposure to a number of different projects, such as implementing a pharmacy system, CPOE, barcode administration, medication reconciliation, to name just a few.
As part of their day-to-day job descriptions, hospital IT employees typically have a number of different responsibilities. Most of those responsibilities can be filed in one of two categories: “new project implementation” or “support-type functions.” If you prefer one area over another, you probably can’t image how anyone could like the other area. Many people like the “new project” side because of the satisfaction they get from beginning something new, having a timeline to follow, and seeing a fresh solution implemented within their organization. People who like the “support side” derive satisfaction from working on an immediate problem-fix as well as being a go-to person who keeps things running smoothly. Some people like the variety of having a long-term project on which to focus while, at the same time, dealing with support issues that allow them to have a day-to-day sense of immediate accomplishment. Either way, there’s a multitude of variations out there to keep team members challenged.
Most people don’t like change. At the same time, most people don’t like to perform the same mundane tasks day after day, week after week. This paradox can be challenging for the pharmacy IT/pharmacy informatics professional, or for any professional for that matter.
If you’re looking to get into consulting as a contractor (someone who gets paid an hourly rate while on projects but is not paid in between), then you have to understand the difference between getting your first contract and getting every other contract after that.
Our firm focuses on pharmacy informatics. It’s a tight niche with a very specific skill set. Our clients are seeking a pharmacist with extensive experience implementing and using their pharmacy IT software. They will send us a very detailed job description that lists bullet point after bullet point of skills and experience for which they’re looking. In many ways, it’s helpful to have a detailed understanding of what they want. However, oftentimes this will hinder the search internally.
There are people who work for a consulting firm who come to the conclusion that consulting is not for them. This is understandable. What’s unfortunate is when they feel that consulting is not for them when, in fact, the consulting firm they work for is not the right firm for them.
This blog is the third in a series on "Maintaining Disparate Systems." To ensure appropriate pharmacy medication billing, it's imperative that the Charge Description Master (CDM) and Pharmacy Drug Master (PDM) are in sync. The CDM, described as the backbone of the hospital’s revenue cycle, is the key database from which all patient bills are generated.
In Pharmacy Informatics consulting, regardless of your implementation experience, if no one knows what you’re capable of, you might as well be invisible. It’s important to be known and trusted for your skills by securing your place on shortlists and learning how to manage your relationships in ways that gain loyalty and respect.
When transitioning from permanent employment to contract consulting in healthcare IT you need to understand how to price yourself so that you are making a sound financial decision.
In our previous SlideShare presentation we outlined three crucial mistakes that can lead to a short career in contracting, the very first being pricing and budgeting. In this post we hope to address the issue of how to calculate your rate while considering every aspect of working independently.
This is our second podcast in a series about working as a consultant in the healthcare IT industry and talking about the differences between working for a consulting firm and being an independent consultant. Our guest today is Jerry Queen. Jerry comes from the health insurance payer side of healthcare; many of our guests in the past have been on the hospital provider side. He has 25 total years of experience working in the payer IT space with three different health plans, 11 of those years in consulting. He primarily provides his expertise in operational management, configuration management, system integration and operational leadership for payers in the IT area.
David Stansbury gives his insight in this month’s Healthcare IS podcast. Listen in and hear David’s experience in working as a pharmacist in IT, making transitions and what he’s observed in the last 30 years of his experience.
Take a moment to hear Jerry Fahrni tell his story of experience in Pharmacy IT. He tells us how he came to be in the field of Health IT, what challenges he worked through and observed and what advice he would share with someone looking to break into Pharmacy IT. You can also follow Jerry’s Blog at www.JerryFahrni.com.
As an independent contractor whose current project is coming to an end, you're going to be talking with staffing firms about projects they have coming up for which you may be a good fit. If a particular project sounds like a good fit, the firm with which you’re talking will present you to the client. At that point, whether you’re their W-2 employee or a Corp-to-Corp, you’re being represented by that company. As far as the client is concerned, you’re part of the organization that’s representing you.
Unfortunately, some of the lessons you learn in the contracting business are learned the hard way. The hard way generally means that you were dealing with someone who took advantage of a situation that caused you some major inconvenience. Once these situations occur, of course, you do what you can to prevent them from happening again.
If you’re considering getting into consulting as a contractor, you obviously have to be prepared to get new contracts. Depending on the length of the projects you’re on, you may look for new contracts from one to three times a year on average. Unless you’ve built your own client base, you’re going to, most likely, make yourself available for projects through a firm that specializes in finding engagements that require people with your background.
Very often when I am talking with people about their career options the thought of consulting enters into the conversation. Many times, people just aren't sure if consulting is for them. In these situations, I try to give them a starting point in order to determine if consulting is a path they should explore further.
Today's topic concerns something I'm asked quite often. When speaking to people who are working at a hospital and are thinking about getting into contracting, I'm commonly asked, “How do you price yourself in terms of the hourly rate you should be earning?”
Over the years, we’ve followed four main trends in a professional’s decision to transition from a career as a salaried employee to the lifestyle of an independent consultant. Consultants typically work at a higher rate due to the requirements involved, but also because of their scarcity. In order to work successfully as a contract consultant you need to fully understand what motivates you as a professional and what you can take away personally from this career option.
When you’re in consulting, you’re offering your knowledge and skills as a service to organizations in need of that specific expertise.
Contractors frequently express that their #1 fear is not being able to find their next contract. It’s only natural for people dealing with that concern to look for ways to acquire as many skills as possible, in the hope of casting a broad net over contracts for which they can apply.
What I’ve found, over the years, is that there are two types of contractors: “Get a Job” Contractor (GAJC) & “Build a Practice” Contractor (BAPC).
“Get a Job” Contractor
When this type of contractor is looking for their next contract, dollar amount and travel convenience are their top priorities. The more money being paid and the less travel required, the better. This person gives little thought to the type of work or project. They fail to consider how this project will either increase or decrease their marketability for the next project.
What’s the difference? If someone is "Career Oriented," they have an idea as to what type of position they want to be in down the road (timeframe can vary) and have an idea as to what they need to learn or accomplish in order to be qualified for that position. A "Job Oriented" person is someone who focuses more on their satisfaction with the job they are in today AND for the most part will not consider another job unless they become dissatisfied with their current position.
Things are hot in the Healthcare IT marketplace today. As a result, many people I speak with think they need to leverage this demand and attempt to increase their compensation while the going is good. So, how do you make the most of this hot market? Can you just walk into your manager’s office and tell them how much demand there is for your skills and request, or demand, an increase in salary? I guess you could, but what if your manager says, “I would love to increase your salary, but we just don’t have it in the budget.”
After consultants have been with a firm for about two to three years, most will stop for the first time and evaluate where they are in regard to their ability to continue traveling on a weekly basis. Put another way, if a consultant is going to burn out on constant traveling, this is typically when it will occur.
7 Hard Hitting Interview Questions for Consultants
A while back we turned to Twitter & Facebook and asked our followers to share with us their worst interview questions. We ended up some pretty funny responses. When it comes down to it, we've all had some ridiculous interview questions thrown our way. What helps us to address these odd ball topics and hard hitting questions is simple. Preparation. In an attempt to share what we know here at Healthcare IS we put together the following questions that we come across and advice on how to thoughtfully answer them.
As a consultant, you need to know your sellable skill set, or knowledge base. Just as importantly, you have to be able to package yourself in a way that the people who are buying your services will be comfortable engaging you.
I decided to write this particular post as a result of being asked the same question by several consultants over the last two years.
Frequently, people looking to get into contracting don’t have a true understanding of what the Health IT marketplace has to offer in terms of money and required travel. It’s very important to have a realistic understanding of these two criteria in order to work consistently. What I see often is someone waiting to leave their full-time job for a contract that will meet their terms. On the surface, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s exactly what you should do.
From a recruiter’s standpoint, a delay in the hiring process is the most common factor preventing a successful hire. A delay can range from too much time between interviews, to a postponement in making an offer, to putting a position “on hold.” Below are a few things to avoid during the hiring process.
Consultants who work primarily on a contract basis know that there will come a time when their “job” will come to an end, and they’ll have to look for a new one. Even though there are many benefits to contracting, this is the one aspect to which contractors do not look forward.
Contracting can be a bit tricky. You need to keep your current client happy, be on the lookout for your next engagement, while at the same time making sure you attain or maintain a skill set and knowledge base that will continually keep you marketable.
I have been talking with many consultants who work for consulting firms that are thinking about becoming a contractor. It's natural for people who are considering this change to have some apprehension. Because of this I wanted to take a minute to highlight the 3 common characteristics I see in successful contractors.
There are a handful of factors that motivate people to make a job change. In my experience, it's not just one of these factors that prompts someone to start looking, but a few combined. In the end, though, the focus tends to come down to just one thing: money.
Most the time, when discussing salary and/or hourly rate, people state an amount that they desire to make, accompanied by what they're currently making - adding that they would not want to go below that. Certainly, this makes sense. But are there exceptions to this rule? Are there times when taking less money may make more sense?
Can you just walk into your manager's office and tell them how much demand there is for your skills and request, or demand, an increase in salary? I guess you could, but what if your manager says, "I would love to increase your salary, but we just don’t have it in the budget."
Many people who get into pharmacy informatics/pharmacy IT consulting are motivated by the additional income they can earn. However, there's one factor that keeps many more from transitioning into the market space: the required travel. In fact, the travel makes demand for qualified people that much greater. Still, most people probably wouldn't do the required travel without some additional financial incentive.
When a pharmacy IT or pharmacy informatics professional is looking to get into consulting, they’ll realize that they have essentially two options: They can work as an employee of a consulting firm or as an independent contractor. Without going into the details of each here (for more information on both, download our free eBook), many people choose to join a consulting firm because of the paid bench time. The advantage of having their salary paid while they’re between projects is perceived as a big benefit. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of bench time first.
I realize a lot of companies have had bad experiences with staffing firms, and I am not asking the above question to prompt memories of being burned one way or another. I am asking more to find out if you have enough faith in the firm you are working with to allow them to make your life easier.
When following up on an interview, what's your strategy? If the opportunity is your dream job and there's heavy competition, what are you doing so that you'll stand above the competition? Many years ago, I learned a technique that, when put to use, has resulted in many job offers for candidates. It's called "the job description close" and here's a brief description . . .
Some companies prefer filling positions on a contract-to-hire basis. These are full-time positions within an organization, but rather than hiring someone straight into the role, the company opts to hire the candidate on a contract basis first. Then, if things go well, the company converts the person to FTE (full-time employee) status.
That’s just one of many questions we addressed with Ron Burnett in our latest Healthcare IS Podcast. Ron has been a practicing pharmacist for the last 29 years. Primarily working in hospital pharmacy practice, he has also done work in home infusion and the retail space. With 14 of those 29 years spent in the informatics space, Ron comes with immense insights from all angles of practicing pharmacy and our country’s implementation of informatics in hospitals.
Most people who get into Healthcare IT consulting come from a career spent, primarily, in hospital IT or informatics departments. By the time they seriously explore such a career move, they have five-plus years of industry experience and have worked for multiple organizations.
More often than not, losing your job comes as a complete surprise. In my experience, when people get news of their termination or a contract ending early, they find themselves in an uncomfortable position - hit with a sense of urgency to find something new.
Recently we interviewed 7 pharmacist who trasitioned into pharmacy IT. All of the seven pharmacists we interviewed for career-transition insights felt as though they’d made a good decision. Obviously, though, not every pharmacist who makes this career transition ends up feeling like it was a great move. We did not speak with any pharmacists who transitioned into IT/informatics and felt like they’d made a bad move, but the group with which we spoke has seen a number of pharmacists come and go. As a result, we felt they could also provide insight into aspects of the profession that caused their colleagues to leave.
I tell contractors that when the next recession comes around (and it will), the rate they’re able to charge for their work will likely drop. Most of them understand why. During a recession, there’s less work. When there’s less work (i.e. less demand) with the same number of consultants looking for projects (i.e. same supply), contractors are likely to see the amount they can charge go down.
Although we are primarily a contract staffing firm, our clients often have needs for a full time employee to fill a permanent position. And although this is not a focus of our firm, we can certainly fill these positions as well. But first we ask, "have you considered bringing on a consultant while you look to find the permanent employee?"
Most candidates who have more than ten years of professional experience cannot list all of that experience, not to mention their associated accomplishments, in the concise format of a professional résumé.
Every contractor has his or her dream contract envisioned, usually before they even begin consulting. In today’s podcast, Managing Partner David Kushan examines the perfect contract — what happens when it’s found and what it means when the second contract needs to be secured.
Imagine this familiar feeling. You’re in a new city and a new airport. You know you have an hour to kill before your flight begins boarding. The rows of black chairs are filled with only awkward spaces left between wayward travelers.
As a traveling consultant, your job description contains more duties more than just your Health IT project. Working independently or for a firm means that you need to be tracking your own hours and recording your own expenses. Finding a rhythm to staying organized takes time, but with these helpful apps you may find that tracking, and exporting a time and expense report, may be as simple as a few taps on your phone or tablet.
Once Health IT employees gain a certain level of experience working at a hospital, they have the option to consider working as consultants. As Health IT consultants, they would have the ability to increase their income by 25-70%, depending on their specific skills and the type employment or contracting relationship they put in place. Now, I understand that money isn’t everything, but it’s a motivator for many people who get into consulting. However, what keeps most people from getting into consulting is the amount of travel required.
The concept of blogging is nothing new but as the application process turns digital and fewer and fewer paper resumes are passed around.. One thing is for sure, taking advantage of the electronic era can only further your candidacy for the job you want.