Here’s a scenario I get asked about often:

You’re in the acute care market. With COVID-19 challenges and hospitals only just now starting to hire again, you look outside the acute care market for job opportunities. But you know from watching colleagues take time away from acute care and attempt to return, that it isn’t always possible.  You’re concerned that if you pursue an opportunity outside the acute care market and want to come back, recruiters will pass over you because you’ve been out more than a year. What if you leave, and in so doing, destroy any opportunity to return in the future?

This scenario is a real concern—it’s not easy to leave the acute care market for even a small amount of time and then make your way back in. If you’re considering a career opportunity outside acute care, but hope to return down the line, you must have a plan in place for how you will remain competitive and desirable in the acute care market.

  1. Be successful in what you’re doing now.When the time comes to look at acute care opportunities again, you have to be able to justify your career move and demonstrate concrete successes in your new field.  Keeping a business diary can help.
  1. Invest in your network.Maintain a deep and wide network in acute care during your time away.  Those relationships will matter when/if you want to return. You have to be active to keep doors open. You also have to be selective in who you stay in touch with.
  1. Turn the (perceived) negative into a positive. The fact is, some people will see your time out of acute care as a waste of time. But you need to take your new experiences, knowledge, success, and relationships, and build a case for how it makes you better in acute care. Perhaps your work outside of acute care has made you a better person, a better leader, more compassionate. These things matter, and you need to be adept at communicating these positives to recruiters and leaders/managers that may only see your time away as a negative. Your job is to “change the air filter,” so to speak.
  1. Stay current.Get involved with organizations, news feeds, professional groups, etc., that keep you up-to-date on the acute care industry. Talk with colleagues about new developments or challenges they are facing. You need to know what is going on in acute care if you plan to break back into it later in your career.
  1. Be visible.Keep your name and expertise out there. Put out articles on acute care topics. Seek out opportunities to speak or be on panels in front of acute care professionals. Have a clear vision for how your new opportunity is related to the acute care market, and educate people to see those advantages (without being too obvious).

It is challenging to come back to the acute care market after time away, but it’s not impossible. With a plan for how to stay active, connected, and up-to-date in that industry, and a clear understanding of why you left acute care and why you want to come back, you can gain experiences outside acute care that will make you more effective in that industry when you return. This does not only apply to this scenario but to any situation where you want to potentially return to the industry niche you were in. It’s all about being intentional.

Author: Jim WiederholdJim believes his 39 years of experience--particularly his more than 26 years in healthcare--has prepared him well for what he does. His wealth of experience spans key areas, including finance, operations, management, leadership, sales and sales management, corporate, contingency, contractual and retained recruiting, outplacement and transition work and executive coaching.