How Can I Transition from Finance to Sonography While Finishing My Degree?

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Anthony from Tacoma Community College asks:

“I am a financial manager that recently went back to college to pursue a technical degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. I just completed my EMT Basic certificate and want to gain experience in the medical field to acquire patient care hours. What is the best way to transition out of banking and into the healthcare industry, but still be able to continue my education and financially survive?”

Thanks for your question, Anthony.  Congratulations on completing your EMT basic certification.  This is a great step forward towards both your technical degree in diagnostic medical sonography and interest in transitioning from finance to healthcare.

I am certain with a full-time work schedule as a financial manager and college coursework that you are exceptionally busy.  It sounds like you are able to currently meet your financial goals through your current position.  Great news!

Obviously, transitioning from finance to a new field like healthcare will likely result in you taking a step back to eventually move forward.  When you start as a newcomer with no experience in a new field, you’ll be competing with candidates who already have experience and education so recognize the competitive nature of the job market.  You’ll need to figure out a way to gain experience in your desired job to build your marketability and experience base to position yourself for landing entry-level jobs within this career path.

Your career transition will be an exciting journey, but one that will require lots of upfront work before you can successfully move out of finance and into healthcare as a sonographer.  Also, never quit a job without a job unless it is compromising your health or ethical codes.  It is always easier to land employment when you already have a job.  And, in your case, your question indicates that you need the income from your current job to meet your expenses.  Simply put, don’t quit until you land a full-time position as a diagnostic medical sonographer.

It may be harder for you initially as you are working two jobs, but the work will be temporary as you’ll be well positioned in the near future to land the start in your new career.

Below are some suggested action items that can expedite your career transition.

Conduct Informational Interviews

Identify individuals who are already doing the type of work you aspire to do and contact them to line up an informational interview.  Individuals, especially those working in your desired field, are the greatest resource to help you advance your career.  Connecting with established professionals in your field through an informational interview can allow you to get some great advice to help you build your career plan.  Who better to be talking to than someone doing what you’d like to do?

Informational interviews can be conducted in person, via telephone or Skype, via email, or anywhere someone can provide you with meaningful advice.  Develop a list of questions to gain the information / advice you are seeking, but let the conversation evolve through a relaxed, spontaneous discussion.  Be respectful to honor the time frame the individual has allotted.  Lastly, send a thank you note after the information interview to thank them for their time and professional courtesy.

Be Creative to Gain Experience and Build Your Marketability (Volunteer & Internships)

Obviously, you are interested in gaining additional patient care hours.  If your degree program allows for it, pursue an internship in sonography as this will help you gain some hours, build your skills, strengthen your resume, and enhance your professional network.  Additionally, your internship could lead to a full-time job upon graduation. Additionally, if you are finding it hard to find internships, consider volunteering within your field to get your foot in the door.  Volunteer experience can be just as valuable as internship or paid job experience.

Join Professional Associations in Sonography / Healthcare

Another way to build your network, reputation, and circle of influence is to join a professional association in your industry.  There are a few sonography professional associations including the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Intersocietal Accreditation Commission, and others.  This is a great way to connect with leaders in your industry and learn of employment opportunity.  Most professional organizations post their available positions through the association’s website or possibly through word of mouth at meetings.  Don’t just become a member and do nothing either.  Get involved and volunteer for a board or steering committee.  This will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your skills and ability to produce results.

Build a Strong Job Search Campaign (Even for Volunteer or Internship Opportunities)

Most students targeting jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities mistakenly assume employers post all jobs online through various job boards and company sites.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data shows that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers, rather than waiting for an internship or job to be posted.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have employment opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  Then, be proactive and send off your marketing letter and resume to the decision maker.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Recognize that companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Introduce yourself to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for internships to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Target marketing as described above can be very powerful.  Consider adding other job search methods including:

  • Networking – Engage your network to build your own marketing army filled with individuals who can potentially provide tips, leads, referrals, introductions, job placement, and more. Additionally, ask your employed network connections if their company has an employee incentive referral program.  If so, humbly ask if your connection would be willing to provide your resume to the decision making team.  Employers love to hire employee referrals as the candidates are pre-qualified initially by their own employees.
  • Job Leads Via Job Boards Using Double-Hit – After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.
  • Contact Your ProfessorsMake sure to get to know your professors, especially those teaching your healthcare and diagnostic sonography classes.  These professors are likely to have connections within your desired field.  This is especially true at most community colleges as many adjuncts (and even professors or instructors) likely also still work other jobs too.  You likely won’t find any better individuals who can offer you meaningful guidance and assistance.  So, take advantage of their office hours by visiting occasionally as needed to ask for their advice and guidance.  If they get to know you, they might be willing to serve as a mentor, or at the very least, offer valuable insight and advice along with introductions that can be a springboard to landing an interview for the job or internship you desire.
  • Invest Significant Time in SearchInvest as much time as you can into your search. While you might not have 8+ hours a day to dedicate to this effort due to work and school commitments, make sure to fuel your effort with as much time as you possibly can.

Utilize Your Career Center

Most colleges and universities offer services to recent graduates for at least a year after graduation at no cost.  Simply put, you should leverage your career center as it is a student resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, they likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alums featuring jobs posted with the institution.  Contact your campus career center to up an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Putting It All Together

Transitioning from your current career to a new career will take a great deal of work, which requires commitment.  Once you’ve set the goal and built your plan, fuel your plan with consistent effort until you achieve your goal.  Recognize that there are a myriad of things you can do to help you build your marketability base that can position you as a viable candidate in the near future.  Take a step forward every day towards your goal.  By the way, if you feel overwhelmed, try to remind yourself that each day you are closer to your goal of landing an entry-level job in your new field.  You’ve got this!  Good luck and best wishes to you!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon

About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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