The field of health information management (HIM) comprises a small, niche community of professionals. Students who want to integrate themselves into this community have a number of ways to go about achieving that goal. Here are some tips for HIM students to enter into the field through volunteering, job shadowing, networking, researching, résumé-building and interviewing.
It can be a challenge to land an entry-level position in health information management. But a great way to start is by volunteering at a hospital or a physician’s office. As with many fields, part of the battle of getting a job in health information management is making connections and building a professional network. Volunteering provides this opportunity, and also helps to build on-the-job skills.
Health information management courses offer necessary training and knowledge in the field, and internships are a good way to gain experience and learn more about the ins-and-outs of the profession. However, seeing the job from the viewpoint of a practicing professional is an indispensable way to absorb the real, day-to-day experience of the job.
You can gain this experience through job shadowing. Once you’ve established a professional relationship with somebody in the field through volunteering or other manners of networking, ask them if you could shadow them on the job for a day. Every person has a different way of organizing and performing their daily tasks, and you will surely develop your own, but seeing the practices of one professional is a crucial way to spur you toward owning the job.
Most jobs are obtained through networking. Your contacts — anyone from professionals to professors — can help you land jobs more effectively than going in blind.
Networking is not the ‘first and foremost’ of job seeking. It might rub people the wrong way if they feel you are reaching out just because you need a job. Instead, networking is simply about developing a list of contacts and professional relationships within a field. Health information management is a still a niche occupation, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good list of contacts by asking your professors or mentors.
Researching What Companies Want
Once you have a foot in the door for an interview, it is important to understand what a prospective employer is looking for. A cursory Google search is not enough, but it’s also not necessary to know absolutely everything about a company. Rather, you should research what information you can and use it to your benefit. This will help you hone your interview and with tailoring your résumé to the company.
It’s especially important to know and emphasize what sets the company apart from others, what makes it special compared to its competitors. This information is usually prominently displayed on a company’s website in the “About Us” section. Besides showing your enthusiasm for the specific company, this allows you to also explain why you are a good fit; in other words, how the company’s uniqueness relates to what makes you unique as an applicant.
Building a Résumé
Any past experience can be translated in a way that shows you are a good fit for the company you are applying to. Playing on a sports team can show you have cooperation and leadership skills; a past job in service or retail can show problem solving, orientation to detail and communication skills. But it is not enough to merely list the occupations you’ve had. You must also communicate to potential employers the specific ways in which these experiences make you uniquely qualified for the position.
Another important part of showing your qualifications for a position is to show how your unique personalities and passions make you a good fit. These can be listed on your résumé under your skills and hobbies, for example. A cover letter is also a key place to develop these ideas. How did you arrive at health information as a passion? What was your unique path? Show how your specific trajectory into the field would make you uniquely qualified for, and passionate about, the position.
Keeping in mind all of these details about yourself and the company, develop these ideas during your interview. Your story and your passions make you different from all the other applicants for the job; it is important to show how and why this difference makes you the right person for the job.
The University of Illinois at Chicago delivers some of the most innovative and comprehensive Health Informatics and Health Information Management programs in the country. Our advanced degree and certificate programs can prepare you to make an immediate impact within your organization and play a vital role in the evolution of the healthcare industry as a whole.