I talk to travelers all day long. It’s what I do. Some travelers get into the “game” because they want the adventure, some get into it for the fun or change of pace, and some just get into it because they don’t have great options in their home location. Whatever the reason you got into the game, it’s important to understand what your exit strategy is going to be when you want to jump off.
Did you know the average traveler only travels for about 18 months? At three months at a time, 18 months is going to go pretty quick and might only be 3-4 contracts, assuming you get extended or take time off in between contracts. It’s important that you have a strategy of not only what you are going to do but also how you are going to get off the merry-go-round. After all, you don’t want to jump off, trip, and do a couple dozen somersaults and end up on a Youtube video that goes viral!
How do you interview for jobs when you are on a travel assignment? Where you want to work and what you want to do all come into the equation. As a traveler, you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to entire new hospital systems and gain invaluable experience in different PACS and EMR systems, equipment, and techniques.You should take advantage of every single one. Did you know as a traveler, even though you are not technically an employee of that hospital system, you usually get “entered” into its system because of logins and other items? That means you are now able to check that box that asks if you have worked in this system or at this hospital before. This is a powerful tool when it comes to looking for your next job. Are you keeping track of the equipment you are using, EMR and PACS systems, and contact info of fellow employees and managers?
It’s no secret that many travelers get job offers at the end of an assignment and a lot of travelers call me up and ask how to turn it down. Universally I tell every single traveler to be gracious in your turn down and always tell your manager that you may be open to it in the future. You never know where you will be in the future and what life will bring and having people who want to hire you is an invaluable option that you should always keep close by. That being said, I’ve come up with a top ten list of things to do on your travel assignments so when it comes time to jump off the merry-go-round, you land gracefully and get the permanent job of your dreams.
- Keep a record of the equipment, systems, EMR and PACS, techniques, and types of scans you did. While you may perform the same job at each assignment, the environment, equipment, techniques, and styles can change drastically from assignment to assignment. Put this info on your resume and keep track of it. Don’t try to keep this in your head as you may forget. Be specific.
- Befriend everyone at the facility. This is your chance to network. The new grad Sonographer you gave the cold shoulder to because they asked a lot of questions could be the supervisor reviewing your profile in five years. The shift lead who talks too much may be the director at your next job. Did you know that according to LinkedIn, 85% of jobs filled are filled not because you applied but because you knew someone that worked there?
- Befriend HR, especially in large health systems. As I mentioned before, at some point you get entered into the system and once you are in, they can make notes about you. Think of it as your “permanent file” you were threatened with in school. Trust me – if you befriend HR, they are going to put positive notes in there. But, remember the opposite is also true.
- Ask your manager if they would be a reference or write you a letter of reference. A lot of candidates assume that someone is ok with being a reference when sometimes they really don’t want to be. If you ask someone if you can use them as a reference, it gives them the chance to say no if they are not comfortable with it. If they say no, you don’t want to use them as a reference. If they say yes, make sure to get a cell phone number. They may not work at that hospital two years from now.
- Cookies and donuts. If you want to make friends at your new facility, be the cookies and donuts person. Bring a dozen cookies every Monday and everyone will love you. Do you feel as if the full-time staff resent having you there? Cookies go a long way to curing any hard feelings. A dozen cookies at the local grocery store cost no more than $5 and usually you get some other points off of gas or what not. They essentially pay for themselves.
- Be strategic. Hospital systems are merging constantly. The health systems are getting bigger and bigger while the number of health systems gets smaller and smaller. Keep track of which hospital you were at and what system they were a part of. If you don’t know, go to its website and there is always a logo or an about us page that will tell you. If you worked at the HCA facility in Idaho and are applying to an HCA facility in Miami, mention it.
- If you are thinking of working in San Diego when you are done traveling, research what hospital systems are down there. While you may not be able to get a job in San Diego as a traveler, get into the health system for the reasons mentioned above.
- Take a deep breath and take in all that your city has to offer, both in a recreational stand point but also in a networking stand point outside of the facility where you are working. Talk to the doctors who you are working with. Chances are they have privileges at the facility across town and can probably introduce you to the manager or director. Again, the idea here is networking.
- Keep your own health records. You can request copies of all of your health records as they are YOUR health records. I meet a lot of travelers who do not have their health records.
- Go outside your comfort zone. I talk to travelers who come from the southeast and have never thought of going to Idaho and Wyoming. Why not? The entire point of traveling is to try something new. You may come to find you love it. Or you find out you hated it, but at least you tried it.
There you go – my unofficial top ten list of things to do on your travel assignment that will help you get the permanent job of your dreams. Now, for my last piece of advice: Don’t forget to have fun on your assignment. Not everything has to be career related. It just doesn’t hurt to have a plan in the back of your head.
Andy Hanneman is an Account Manager in the Diagnostic Imaging division of Aureus Medical Group. Andy and his wife are celebrating their twins 1 year birthday. When not working, his life is filled with feeding and changing diapers. (He would also like to mention the tireless efforts of his wonderful, beautiful, patient, and understanding wife who takes care of the girls full-time. Without her, his sleepless nights would be much worse.) Being a parent is an awesome power and responsibility and at the end of the day, his girls bring a huge smile to his face. Plus he wanted to mention, he has not yet dropped them, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice!