10 Tips for the Early Career Enthusiast

Climb your way up the corporate ladder by positioning yourself as a leader.

by Lanaya Sandberg, MBA, CPCO

The beginning of your career is an exciting time: You are ambitious, energetic, and the world is your oyster. You have a good idea of where you see yourself in the long term, but are unsure of how to get there. The following 10 tips will help you in clearing a path toward success.

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1. Express your interests.

If you have not clearly expressed your interests and goals to your direct manager, do not assume he or she knows them. Share with your manager your goals and your game plan for achieving them. Let your colleagues and external business partners understand your goals, as well. The more people who know about your career interests and goals, the better off you are. These people may look to you when opportunities arise in the future.

2. Network, network, and network some more.

Although creating a LinkedIn® profile may seem like a mundane task, it’s a great way to network. Your colleagues and business partners do not necessarily know all of your skill sets, work experiences, certifications, and education, so creating and maintaining a LinkedIn® profile serves as a valuable opportunity for others to get to know you better. You also can endorse the skill sets of others and make recommendations—which you may receive in return, thereby boosting your credibility. By keeping your Linkedin® profile up-to-date, you can easily create a resume when a new opportunity presents itself.

Attending AAPC local chapter meetings also is a great way to build relationships with colleagues and learn valuable information that will make you an asset to your employer. In this business, it’s both what you know and who you know that gets you ahead.

3. Seek a supportive mentor.

A mentor can provide an objective assessment of your career development. A good mentor engages with the mentee and does not take the relationship lightly. He or she recognizes that a strong mentoring relationship requires dedication, time, support, and an open exchange of information. Think of a mentor as a synonym for a lifelong supporter.

Jean Garten, MHA, FACHE, principal at JG Consulting, has been both a mentee and a mentor. As a mentee, she has benefited from relationships with superiors, peers, and more experienced executives from various healthcare systems. While pursuing her master’s degree in healthcare administration, she benefited from a mentor’s wealth of knowledge about the healthcare industry. Garten said, “A successful person is one that surrounds themselves with wise advisors and actively listens and learns, which can make the difference between success and failure.” Conversely, as a mentor, she has enjoyed sharing her experiences and insights with others. “To teach is to learn twice, and I have certainly found this to be true,” Garten said.

4. Request constructive feedback.

In “Deliver Constructive Criticism the Thoughtful Way” (AAPC Cutting Edge, June 2013, pages 30-31), author Brandi Tadlock CPC, CPC-P, CPMA, CPCO, explains that it can be challenging to give and receive constructive feedback. For example, in the beginning of my career, I was very defensive, and I thought I knew everything. Then, during one of my annual reviews, a light bulb went off in my head. I realized that if I wasn’t able to receive, process, and act on opportunities for improvement, I would never reach my professional goals. If you have the ability to apply constructive criticism, you bring value to the organization.

5. Write down your goals.

Write your professional goals down on a piece of paper and post them in a location you visit every day, such as on your refrigerator. On an annual basis, review your progress and reflect on the reasons that prohibited you from achieving any of your goals. Having a constant reminder of your goals and visualizing yourself achieving those goals will increase the likelihood of accomplishing them.

6. Learn your colleagues’ personality types.

To achieve set desired outcomes, you may have to work with people whose opinions and perspectives differ from your own. This can be difficult, I know. The “Quick Guide to the 16 Personality Types in Organizations” (Linda V. Berens et al., 2011) provides a framework for how different personalities can work together successfully.

Berens recommends learning the personality types of those with whom you work to better accommodate their preferences. If you do not have the time to learn your co-workers’ personality types through observation, just ask them. For example, you might ask what skills they bring to the team (e.g., one co-worker may be great at speaking, while another may excel at writing), what their work habits are (e.g., Are you a rabbit or a tortoise?), and what their preferences are when working as a team (e.g., Are you a leader or a follower?). Often you’re thrown quickly into a team; taking time to get to know and understand each other will serve to create a more harmonious environment. And where there is harmony, there is success.

7. Improve your social intelligence.

In 2008, Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis first coined the term social intelligence in Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership.” This concept recognizes that truly respected, effective leaders possess traditional technical skills, as well as the soft skills of compassion and concern for the wellbeing of others. Socially intelligent leaders benefit from greater performance yields than their counterparts who solely possess traditional skill sets. If you want to learn about social and emotional intelligence leadership skills, I recommend you read this article, as well as “What Makes a Leader” (Goleman, HBR, 1998).

8. Do your homework.

When you have identified your long-term, ideal job, research the credentials and experiences of someone who holds this position. For example, if you are interested in becoming a hospital administrator, research and study the work experiences, achievements, education, and certifications of someone who works as a hospital administrator. This can help you to develop a personal road map that will guide you to achieving your professional goals.

9. Set yourself apart.

Focus on differentiating yourself from your colleagues. Consider taking on projects that no one else is interested in, volunteering to participate in workgroups, or pursuing certifications relevant to your interested line of work. Remember: Just because no one has offered it to you doesn’t necessarily mean the opportunity doesn’t exist.

10. Be accountable.

In your professional life, you almost always have at least some involvement in how things are. In “How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work,” Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (2001) provide the following quote on page 38:

“Leaders who take an interest in fostering the language of personal responsibility are likely to find themselves in far more productive conversations with their employees and are likely to foster more productive conversations among their employees.”

It isn’t always about being right. More often, it’s about being responsible for what you say and do.

Lanaya Sandberg, MBA, CPCO, is a network manager and responsible for the integration of healthcare mergers and acquisitions. She is a member of the Hartford, Conn., local chapter.


Renee Dustman

Renee Dustman

Renee Dustman is executive editor at AAPC. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a long history of writing just about anything for just about every kind of publication there is or ever has been. She’s also worked in production management for print media, and continues to dabble in graphic design.
Renee Dustman

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Renee Dustman is executive editor at AAPC. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a long history of writing just about anything for just about every kind of publication there is or ever has been. She’s also worked in production management for print media, and continues to dabble in graphic design.

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