Stay Positive and Land that First Coding Job

by Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA

Over the past year, I welcomed several new Coders into our Medical Center’s HIM department. The last few hired were brand new graduates from a local coding training program. As new (really new!) coders, I thought that they might have some good insights into landing that first Coding job, so I asked each of them about their journey.

Two of my new Coders were hired initially elsewhere as Billers and mentioned the benefits of taking a job that might not be exactly what you want, but is a stepping stone to your ideal career move. One of them mentioned that ever-important aspect of networking, and all of them highlighted the importance of staying positive and never giving up on your goal of landing that Coding job.

Like many places, my department requires that applicants take a Coding test as part of the interview process. While we do some training, we expect a certain level of proficiency and an understanding of Coding guidelines as a foundation. I want to emphasize the importance for Coders seeking that first job to find resources to help them stay sharp on their Coding skills. Be prepared to come in for an interview and take a screening Coding test that shows you’re ready.

But Coding skills alone are not enough – staying positive is a critical component of any job search and cannot be overstated.

I like to use the example of the Peanuts character, Pig-Pen. Most of us remember Charles Schulz band of cartoon kids for their holiday shows on prime-time television (“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” etc.). Pig-Pen was the messy kid who appeared to be ever in need of a bath. His messiness was obvious to everyone around him by the clouds of dust and dirt that followed him around.

When we have a miserable attitude about our job search, we begin to create a “cloud” around us that is as visible to others as Pig-Pen’s dirt cloud. Make sure you’re not creating a cloud of negativity that will follow you throughout your job search.

It is also helpful to remember that we will all find different experiences as we seek that first Coding job. Some people land a job immediately while others will search for a longer period of time. Take care not to compare what others are experiencing with your reality. Each person is on their own individual path. Do your best with your knowledge, skills and abilities. Study, practice, network, stay positive and be flexible. There are lessons to be learned in all experiences. Learn them, think about how they help you grow, and keep moving forward.

Now is a great time to look at the goals we have for ourselves in the coming year. If that first Coding job is on your goal list, it’s the perfect time to start preparing. I look forward to hearing YOUR stories of success in the coming year! I hope you’ll share them with me here.

Related articles:

ICD-10-CM/PCS Guidelines
Learn how to correctly apply ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS guidelines to ensure accurate and complete coding:

ICD-10-CM: Selected Guidelines for Coding and Reporting
ICD-10-PCS Guidelines: A Case Study Approach

About the Author

Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA
Rebecca Harmon returned to HIM practice in a leadership role after spending many years as an HIM educator. Tapping her broad history of diverse healthcare experience that began with a tour of duty in the US Navy, Rebecca writes regularly and speaks on education, workforce issues, management and life. An energetic and engaging speaker, Ms. Harmon enjoys sharing her unique perspective with student, faculty, professional and community groups.

2 thoughts on “Stay Positive and Land that First Coding Job

  1. Stacy Yauger - March 13, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    My first job out of college was Administrative Assistant at a local Department of Health. From there I went to Release of Health Information and then to Outpatient Coding. I thought I had made it, but there was so much to learn being a new coder. It seems that college did not cover everything I needed to know. The disease process along with selection of the right code and sequence are so important to the job. I did not stay in that first coding job for very long because of being treated poorly by my manager and supervisor. I did get a second chance to code at a different company. They are treating me better and are letting me grow and learn more about billing and coding vs charges. I tried not to bring the “cloud of disappointment” from my first coding position with me. I am truly happy, and am coding from home now. I feel that you have to be a lifelong learner to be a coder.

  2. Rebecca J Harmon - March 14, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Thanks for reading & for your comment.

    I’m glad to hear you didn’t let 1 bad manager taint things for you! That’s the way you build a foundation for a long and strong career 🙂