By Angela Lima, BS, CCS, CDIP, COC, CIC, AAPC-Approved Instructor

It is a classic ‘Catch-22’: How does one get a job without experience; how does one get experience without a job? This is the challenge facing new coders but also anyone looking to move up the career ladder to their next coding position.

At this time, we are seeing strong demand among employers, both healthcare organizations and consulting firms that serve these healthcare organizations, trying to hire enough skilled coders to do the work they need done. In the past these employers could set the bar high and demand coding credentials and many years of experience before even looking at the candidate’s full package of attributes and skills. In this current employment market, employers are finding the need to be a little flexible on what they hope to get so they can get someone in the job at all.

If you are a new coder with coding training but no actual work experience, trying to get that first job, or a current professional, ready to take their career to the next level, now is a great time to position yourself for success. So what can you do? We have suggestions!

Know thy self!
Get a clear picture of what skills you offer that are relevant to the position you are seeking. Don’t discount the things you know and the skills you possess because they are not exactly what is being asked for.

  • Create a list of your soft skills, such as communication and teamwork. These soft skills are what make you a great team member, someone everyone will want to work with.
  • Create a list of your hard skills such as types of coding you have done, experience with EMRs, abilities in data analysis, etc. You mastered these skills and know you will master the next set of skills as well.

Backfill Your Skillset as Needed!
All coders had to learn the skills necessary to do their job at some point in their career. Structured learning, on-the-job training, and mentoring are all paths to a successful career with each new opportunity, new challenge layering on additional skills and levels of understanding. If you have a career goal in mind but don’t now possess those skills, go get them. There are plenty of training opportunities available. Through your employer or on your own, pick up the skills you need for your new job.

Be Enthusiastic!
Every job requires new skills. In fact, the ability to learn new skills is an important skill in and of itself. Don’t be shy about offering to learn a new code set, a new service area, or a new role. Let the employer know you are both interested and motivated to undertake any additional training that will help you to become an even more useful employee for them. Your willingness to dive in and master what needs to be done is a strong signal to the employer that you will be able roll with whatever changes occur in the future.

Plan Your Future and Work Your Plan!
Jobs are 9 to 5; careers last a lifetime. Career paths can be straight or circuitous, but you become smarter with each position, more nuanced in your thinking, and more interested in work that is both challenging and meaningful. Consider where you are in your career, identify where you think you want to go, and start making plans.

Good luck!

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