Ask A Consultant

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Q: What factors should be considered in determining if an opportunity is the right fit – if I’ll succeed?

A: (from Stephanie J. Underwood, Senior Vice President) This is an insightful question, as we sometimes become engulfed by the excitement of a new opportunity that we optimistically downplay certain make-or-break factors. These factors can make the difference between happiness or frustration; success or redeployment. As you consider your next opportunity, or reflect upon your current role, keep these in mind:

Your career goal: Throughout our careers, many of us take detours from our initial course. If the opportunity does not exactly fall in line with your aspirations, think of it as an educational detour. Just be sure it allows you to grow resume-worthy skills and experiences needed for your potential next position and end goal.

The role: 
Do you have the knowledge, skills and experience needed to take this new opportunity by the horns? Additionally, are you comfortable with how you will be compensated? For example, you are used to a flat salary, but your new position is highly leveraged and based on meeting goals. Think about whether you are truly able to reach the goals and whether you are being held accountable for things that are not within your control.

Employer type: There are tremendous differences in employer types, such as for-profit, not-for-profit, academic, rural, urban, independent, physician led and so on … with various combinations. If you have not worked in the given type of environment, don’t be blindsided by differences in mission, achieving bottom-line results and culture. What stresses one person can energize another.

Organizational structure: 
Research your potential employer’s organizational chart and reporting structure. Based on your experience, is the design collaborative, siloed, matrixed or simply confusing? If change is in the air, such as a merger, acquisition or retirement, inquire as to how it may affect solid or dotted lines.

Digging deeper into your potential role and org structure, will you be provided with the authority to make effective decisions and changes? 

Consider your ideal work-life balance, often referred to as work-life effectiveness, as we tend to weave work into various facets of our lives. Will you be provided with the resources – e.g., personnel, equipment, materials and time – to be able to accomplish your primary employment-related tasks within a timeframe that allows for your physical and psychological well-being?

Ask for a list of your interviewers, and research your potential boss, peers and subordinates. (You’d be surprised what you find on the Internet, including the organization’s website and LinkedIn.) What are their backgrounds, expertise, experience and skill levels? Is this group positioned to make strides? Pay close attention to their questions, demeanor and concerns as you may unearth a nonverbal red flag or a team ecstatic to embrace change.

Culture and politics: 
Although you may get a feel for the organization’s culture during the interview stage (i.e., how people dress and casually relate to each other), it may not be that you fully understand shared assumptions, beliefs and values (as well as political factors) until you are offered the role and get your feet wet. On the interview, keep your eyes and ears tuned to body language and dialogue staff is willing to share. Don’t forget that mostly everyone is welcoming and on his/her best behavior toward a potential new teammate. But even before the interview, consider everything from the time it took the hiring manager to respond, to the orchestration of your visit. My CEO candidates often visit their prospective employer‘s facility unannounced just to walk public areas or visit the cafeteria to get a better sense of the patient-staff interaction.

While there are hundreds of values, the majority of us share a core set. For employers, these include respect, professionalism, collaboration, commitment, innovation and trustworthiness. Since we work in healthcare, knowledge / education / experience, compassion, quality and transparency also rank highly. We tend to achieve and be most happy working in cultures with values that mirror our own. For example, if you have obligations after normal business hours and encounter a team that prizes working above all else, consider your fit and acceptance by others. I will often ask obvious Type A workaholics if they expect others to mirror their behaviors.

Your reputation:
 Know and be truthful to thyself, and understand your value. Get to the bottom of why you want to make a change and qualify if this new opportunity will improve your situation. If you find that it will be an uphill battle to be successful by analyzing the factors above, and it could damage your well-earned reputation, carefully determine if you should accept the offer, negotiate changes or politely decline. While many leaders enjoy a good challenge, the true test is finding the one that’s right for you.

Stephanie J. Underwood, Senior VP, leads the firm’s Children’s Hospitals Practice. Her career spans more than 20 years, concentrated in healthcare executive recruitment among systems, hospitals, academic medical centers and physician group practices. Reach Underwood at 610-558-6100 or