At Greythorn, we place high value on becoming subject matter experts in niches within the IT industry. Long-term success is defined by the ability to be different and exceptional. As a candidate, finding your niche and portraying it to clients and peers will define your value.
Recently, we worked with a Cerner consultant who shared that they increase their rate by at least $5 per hour every time they begin a new contract. In that case, what new skills or expertise are you bringing to the table from your most recent contract that we can share with our client? The consultant replied that it is merely industry standard to increase one’s rate with each contract. What makes you irreplaceable? What fresh, cost-saving ideas will you provide to the next client? Most importantly, what is your niche?
As the Healthcare industry approaches Meaningful Use 2 requirements, many clients are extending contracts for HIT consultants in order to retain their resources for 2013. Clients are inundated with the resumes of consultants with the same skill set everyday. What will make your resume stand out to hiring managers, in order to land that perfect contract? As a consultant, you should run your career like a small business. We are all trying to do business in a competitive market and unpredictable economy. We each need to figure out what our differentiator is and have the ability to sell it into an overcrowded market. From conversations with colleagues, peers, and HIT consultants- finding your niche may not always be easy. As mentioned earlier, there are other people that can do your job. If you can define your niche and be able to complete the following steps, not only will your clients see a difference, but so will your paycheck.
1) Know your worth and be able to sell it.
The obvious and best choice when choosing your niche is a role that relates to your professional background. In most cases, HIT professionals chose their current career after working in a hospital setting. If you can create a personal brand by embracing and enhancing pre-existing skills, you will come off as confident and capable.
Many consultants have chosen their niche based on the information others want to learn from them. If your expertise covers a variety of modules and specialties within an EMR system, then your resume should depict your ability to fill multiple roles. When a hiring manager notices that you have worn many hats in the past, their initial thought is cost-efficiency. If you appear to be a valuable, cost-efficient resource to an implementation, then your resume automatically lands itself at the top of the pile.
Understanding your own skill set and motivators are necessary in order to sell your services to clients. You have to make the decision between being a generalist or a specialist. Generalists attempt to gain basic knowledge of a large variety of tasks while specialists prefer to focus on the specific details of a task. Generalists are capable of fulfilling the task at hand while a specialist will attempt to bring fresh ideas and creativity to a project. Choosing to be a specialist in your field may limit the scope of your responsibilities, but it ensures that the final product will be thorough and accurate. Focusing on details that others usually would not will depict to your colleagues and supervisors a perceived confidence in the subject.
2) Know your client.
Ask questions. Clients will have confidence in you if they know that you are familiar with their unique concerns. Researching and discovering the reasons behind their apparent need for your skill set will jump start you into a leader on their team. When looking for a new contract, find the client whose products and goals are in line with your niche. Once you have that information you can specify to the client how you will fill their current void. Clients prefer consultants with a broad-based skill set. They are looking for professionals who have deeper experiences, who can provide input that is distinct from what is already available. Once you have established your reputation as an expert in one area, clients will recommend you to other potential employers who are looking for a similar resource. The relationships that you build with supervisors will give you an edge on the competition.
3) Learn from trusted peers that you would consider subject matter experts.
"Can you tell me about a time during your most recent contract where you did not know how to carry out a required task? What did you do and why?" A potential consultant shared that it had taken her almost two weeks to figure out why a function that her team had built would not work. After numerous conversations with Cerner, even they were not able to pinpoint where the error was occurring. She then called a colleague from a previous position to ask for advice. The subject matter expert on the other end offered her advice that resolved the problem. This transfer of knowledge builds your expertise in a field. The more questions you ask and the more information you retain, the more you will have to offer your next client. No matter which type of business you are in, finding a network of peers that understand your skill set and motivation is crucial to learning and growing into a leader in your field.
Learn more about our seven niche areas of practice