How to do it ... Upward mobility plans

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1. The long-term care market today is candidate-driven, says Jennifer Scully, RN, BSN, CCM, CHRM, president and CEO of Clinical Resources LLC. Still, those seeking higher-level roles should make every career change count. 

It's OK to chase after positions that pay more, but hiring managers are looking for candidates who take purposeful, meaningful steps in their career for very good reasons, she stresses.

“Patience can be a virtue,” adds Peter Corless, executive vice president at OnShift. “Trying to move up the ladder before truly being ready can come back to haunt you. A common mistake is jumping at opportunities too quickly. Too many jobs held in a short span of time can make you look opportunistic or leave an employer questioning whether you leave a job before your shortcomings become evident.”

So-called “job jumpers” often are viewed negatively. 

“There's a difference between a job jumper and one who has progressively moved their career,” Scully explains. 

When hiring, watch out if the reasons for wanting the promotion or job change don't add up, warns LeaderStat Executive Recruiter Anthony Gamache.

“If a Director of Nursing says that he is interested in taking on a regional role because he doesn't like dealing with state surveyors in his building, that's a concern,” he says.

2. Resumes will likely always play a role in successful career changes, but they carry less weight than ever before.

Keen hiring managers have spent so much time reading resumes, they typically know in three seconds whether to keep or kill them, Scully says. Common big mistakes include poor spelling and grammar. Employment gaps are even worse, but less so if they are explained in a believable way, Scully adds. The same holds true with experience gaps. 

“Approach your current employer asking to take on additional projects which will fill in those gaps,” Corless advises. 

Positives that significantly enhance a chance at an interview include resumes demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning, both Corless and Scully say. This can mean everything from attending conferences to taking online learning courses. Certification is another plus. 

Remember to fully document all notable accomplishments, particularly those that positively impacted the organization.

3. Engagement is a highly valued trait as people move toward positions of greater responsibility, according to officials with Vikus, a hiring-software developer and supplier. Others include self-motivation, curiosity, insight (problem solving) and determination (not allowing challenges to go unsolved).

Scully believes networking is one of the most essential tasks needed to advance in long-term care. 

“Positive networking relationships are critical,” she says. “Doors open from those kinds of relationships.” 

But remember: Don't expect peers to do you a favor just because they're your friend. Smart people will never refer someone for a job if they sense that person would end up not being a good fit or messing up, because it reflects poorly on them.

Corless believes mentoring is another success factor for those climbing the higher rungs in long-term care. He also urges seeking a mentor outside a current employer for “an external perspective that can be especially helpful if your company has limited career growth opportunities or if your career progression is blocked by someone who has no plans to move on.”

4. Few things demonstrate more commitment and sincerity than efforts to connect with people and places in your designated career path. Conferences are a great way — but not the only way — to enrich your contacts list. 

“If you are targeting a specific position, a great first step is to talk to a number of people currently in that position,” Corless says. “They likely got there through different career paths. Learn from them what helped or hindered them from getting to the position and emulate the career path that most interests you.”

If you aspire to a position of greater responsibilities, consider a “pre-survey,” as Martha Abercrombie, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, vice president of strategy for Vikus, suggests.

“This could really be applied to any area in long-term care,” Abercrombie adds. 

One way is to volunteer for additional responsibilities or projects in order to grow, learn from others and get noticed by the decision makers.  You shouldn't overdo it with shallow gestures, or overextend so that current job duties suffer. But an eager, yet balanced approach will work.