Networking can lead to exciting career opportunities. In fact, some estimates that show that 70 to 80 percent of jobs are secured through networking, according to the American Health Information Management Association. Making contacts with professionals and experts in the health information management field can connect students to job vacancies, mentors and other ways that they can learn and grow their knowledge and experience.
Here are some tips for effectively networking as a student:
Tap into the knowledge of your professors
Professors in the HIM field have a wealth of expertise and insight concerning not only topics within health informatics, but ways to advance your career. The faculty of the HIM program at the University of Cincinnati is committed to preparing students to excel in their careers, and are active thought leaders in the health information management field. In addition to regularly meeting with their advisors, students can talk with their professors to learn more about their experiences. With a faculty of skilled and accomplished experts in HIM, students can learn valuable tips for advancing their careers from their professors, and can also help determine if there are particular specialties in the field that they would like to focus on.
Mentors, whether professors or other individuals working in HIM, are a valuable resource for students to grow their networks.
“Bonding with a mentor facilitates the sharing of skills and knowledge, which is beneficial to enhance professional growth and development,” as a panel of experts writing for the American Health Information Management Association noted. “Mentors provide support, which enhances a mentee’s confidence in pursuing a job. A relationship with a mentor can lead to opportunity and, in some cases, employment.”
Don’t hesitate to ask your mentors if they can introduce you to professionals they know in your field – as AHIMA noted, many mentors are happy to help. And in addition to possibly connecting students to opportunities that could progress their careers, mentors also provide valuable support and guidance along the way.
Look into the alumni network
A great way to find a mentor or make industry connections is for students to learn types of jobs alumni have secured after graduating from their university. Career services departments can connect HIM students to alumni, and talking with these alumni can help students learn how to advance their career and what types of skill expectations currently exist.
Prepare your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a 30-second statement about graduates’ skills, what they currently do and their career goals that they can share with new contacts that they meet. It should be short, sweet and to the point. Practicing an elevator speech is important so that individuals can introduce themselves smoothly and confidently and tweak the pitch whenever necessary depending on the audience.
Seek out contacts on social media
LinkedIn is a valuable tool in exploring professional networks in HIM. Students can join industry-specific discussion boards and identify individuals at positions similar to those that they aspire to, viewing their profiles to learn more about their background and qualifications. Students can also set up casual, informational interviews where they talk with a professional in their field to learn helpful advice and insight into advancing their careers.
“[Informational interviews] can lead to more information and contacts that may lead to a job,” said Sara Sutton Fell, chief executive and founder of Flexjobs, in an interview with Forbes. “It’s also great practice for job interviewing, helping to make you more comfortable and confident in situations with industry professionals.
Commit to attending a certain amount of networking events each month
A smart strategy is making networking a regular activity. Students can identify a number of events that they would like to attend each month – for example, a workshop, networking dinner or job fair – and then mark the events on their calendars. Webinars are also great options for individuals who are not usually able to attend networking functions in person or who have busy schedules.
Join professional organizations
Joining or following professional organizations in health information management can help students stay up-to-date on important issues in the field and grow their professional networks. The American Health Information Management Association is one major organization to follow, and many states run their own chapters of the association. Other groups to check out include the American Medical Informatics Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the eHealth Initiative and the American Academy of Professional Coders.
Focus on relationship-building
Networking is not just about finding a new job – it’s also about adding value to others, noted Ryan Raver, founder of popular blog The Grad Student Way. Think about building positive, fruitful connections, not just discovering a job opportunity. Though students may have one specific company in mind or be focused on a specific next step in their careers, being open to all types of possibilities can lead students to unexpected but rewarding new paths.
As Raver put it, “You never know who might be a potential business partner, referral, or your future employer.”
The online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management from the University of Cincinnati prepares HIM professionals to be the leaders of tomorrow. The program connects students with experienced faculty who have made strides in the health information management field. Learn more about faculty of UC’s HIM program here.