By Ray Marden, CBET, CHTM

In order to advance anything in any direction, you need a clear goal.

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing…no wind is favorable,” the Spanish-Roman philosopher Seneca observed 2000 years ago. It’s just as true today.

It may seem obvious, but you’ve got to know where you’re going if you want to get there. The destination may change underway, but to get anywhere, you must first know where you’re headed. Otherwise, nothing but luck or fate can help you get there.

So, you’ve been at your Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) position a while, and you’re proficiently carrying out your current responsibilities. You begin to get an idea of what you want to do in the HTM career field. At this step, be realistic. Are you relatively certain that you can deliver service and add value to your team by acquiring the training you desire? If not, put that school on your long list and find a more co-empowering opportunity for growth.

A career is a personal thing; training is an operational thing. Make the distinction in your being. It’s devastating to a team to use training resources on someone who is only chasing a raise, or a training cert, or worse, is only looking to jump ship for more money after training. Bridges are hard to burn in HTM. Jumping ship under these circumstances is guaranteed to burn at least one bridge on your path. HTM is a small career field, and it is full of good people that appreciate and respect one another, especially if you follow a few incredibly empowering and elegantly simple rules. More on that later.

Leaving an employer with a $20,000 training bill and a specialist spot open is one of the very few ways I’ve seen to get blacklisted as a candidate. Many HTM programs have been burned this way and are shy about sending techs to desirable schools. Some managers won’t even hire someone with fresh training from elsewhere. It jumps right off your resume.

Advocating for your overall career progression while considering your team and your employer’s immediate needs to get there can be a tricky issue. Emotional intelligence is key here. Be sensitive to the limitations of your organization. Remember that advancing your career is your job, not your employers. Stay businesslike in this process and avoid taking any setbacks personally.

“You earn a reputation by trying to do hard things well,” stated Jeff Bezos.

Alright, let’s say you’ve done your part. You’re handling your workload. Your operational responsibilities are being met. You are grooving! You find that you get energized when you think of advancing your skills. You’ve finally identified an opportunity for training that really aligns with your goals. It’s time to ask for the support you need. A good manager will notice most of this long before you approach their desk.

But before you stroll in, read your training policy and understand it. Pay attention to what training is coming up. Talk with your immediate supervisor about any specific training that you’re interested in attending. Take a minute to explain a little bit of your big picture to them. Give them an ROI analysis if you can. In many cases, you can save your department substantial revenue by insourcing modalities that have been under contract. Bear in mind, this is time to talk about your technical or educational goals, not the time to tell your supervisor that your goal is their job!

I asked former regional director of HTM for Adventist Health Rick Walston, CBET CHTM, to lend his take. His answer was four simple steps.

I asked, “What do you need your techs to do and know if they want your full support in their career progression?”

Rick answered, “Show initiative, get certified, ask for training, be willing to take it when it’s offered and, mostly, just do your job.”

He did not elaborate nor did he need to. In his more than 25 years in the HTM field, he knows that few will do these simple things, yet many ask for so much. If you do these four things, consistently, someone in this business will help you grow.

Many say it isn’t what you know but who you know that counts. In this business, that’s largely untrue. In HTM, it’s who you are over time that leads to success. If you have a leader like Rick, who trusts you and will stay in your corner and advocate for you as long as you do your part, your career is set! Stay with that manager until they help you outgrow your situation. No need to read on!

Unfortunately, we are not all working for managers who are so straightforward. So, what can you do once you’ve done your part and dead-ended at your supervisor’s desk?

First, make sure they have the administrative authority to say yes. If they do not, you are wasting both of your time.

I learned in the military not to take a no from someone whose job title doesn’t allow them to say yes, even if they wanted to. In all cases, this is a delicate matter. For issues that affect operation, always use the chain of command or org chart, but I’ve found that most managers don’t mind handing you off to their boss if your issue isn’t operational or within their scope of authority. Often the higher-ranking person will have more authority to hear your business case or make exceptions. If you were handed up to them, they will know that your situation is unique. This can be a great time to show senior leadership your initiative…Remember Rick’s #1?

If you dead-end within your organization over time, you may want to consider a more fertile place to advance your career. They exist.

In the meantime, remember career progression is a long game. And there are lots of resources to boost your skills without attending specific tech schools. Remember, too, that consistent training, regardless of modality, shows your employer that you are trainable and a good investment.

There are free web-based training resources out there. Consider filling your personnel file with certificates of training from local, regional, and national seminars, AAMI University and others. Consider adding IT credentials or project management training. Get your ACI certifications. If you are new to the field, register for a new CABT certificate, which will show leadership that you are taking…what was that word? Oh yeah, initiative!

As Victor Hugo said, “Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.”
Initiative is one thing you are always in control of. Take it.

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