How a sudden departure can affect your job prospects — & what to do about it

So far in 2018, approximately 12 hospital and health system executives have suddenly left their roles. While there are myriad reasons for the departures — ranging from being ousted to personal issues — most of them occurred with little or no notice. Whatever the reason, the question remains: How can executives mitigate the potential fallout?

According to Cody Burch, executive vice president at healthcare executive consulting and search firm B.E. Smith, any potential fallout from a sudden departure can be mitigated if executives remain positive and transparent.

"It doesn't necessarily have to have a negative impact on [a] healthcare executive's chances of landing another job," he says.

There are several reasons behind a healthcare executive suddenly stepping down from their role. Common ones include burnout, termination for cause, personal issues and structural changes in the organization, says Mr. Burch. More recent reasons include consolidation, facility closures and demand for new skill sets. An executive may find they are not the right fit for the role anymore as the demands of the role or organization have changed.

An executive who has suddenly left an organization may find they have fewer opportunities in the job market. Mr. Burch says sometimes organizations looking to fill positions may only consider candidates who are currently employed, so executives who have recently left their roles may see a narrower job market than before.

Job seekers with a sudden departure on their resume may have to navigate challenging waters as they look for new opportunities. Here are five key considerations for these executives:

1. Remember honesty is key. Healthcare is very well connected. Healthcare executives and recruiters know each other, often having crossed paths over several years working in the same industry. The best strategy for executives who are looking for a new job after an abrupt departure is to be honest about their past circumstances.

"It is easy for people to find out the real story in an industry like healthcare," says Mr. Burch. "Communicate about it honestly."

2. Proactively address the one question every recruiter will ask. Most recruiters will ask the inevitable question, namely some version of, "Why did you leave your previous role?" Mr. Burch suggests healthcare executives expect that question and address it before the recruiter can even ask it. This gives the executive control over the messaging and narrative.

Mr. Burch says executives need to prepare their response to the question carefully. As much as possible:

• Try to disconnect the reason you are no longer in your previous role from the future.
• Communicate what you learned from your previous experience.
• Keep your answer short and focused on the positives.
• Reiterate your qualifications for the current opportunity.
• Explain why you are great fit for the new organization.

3. Stay positive. Although an abrupt departure can be a negative experience, it is important not to lose your positivity and perspective. "I think there is something to be said for either [the executive] or the employer identifying that the fit just isn't there in the current organization," says Mr. Burch. "Being able to come to a conclusion and reflect, truly reflect, on why it didn't work."

Finding an organization that is a better fit for the executive is a good thing for both the executive and the organization. It is important not to become bitter or emotional. Take the high road regardless of how things ended with the previous employer.

4. Keep networking. Keep your CV up to date and leverage your relationships within the industry, Mr. Burch says. Networking is always critical, but especially so at times of sudden change. Don't be afraid to ask for help with your CV and partner with a recruiting firm if needed, he adds.

5. Leverage interim leadership. Executives looking to get back into the industry after a sudden departure can look for interim leadership roles. Use these roles to build confidence and demonstrate their value, says Mr. Burch. This will also help connect you to new people within the industry and potentially, new advocates for your leadership expertise.

"If you handle that transition well and get into a good opportunity for your career, the transition no longer matters," says Mr. Burch. "People aren't going to look back at that situation unless it happens commonly and frequently [in your career]."

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