Are you a new medical assistant (MA) who's ready to dive into the working world but can't seem to get off the starting block? Jump-start your job hunt -- and land your first MA position -- with these tips.
Ace Your Externship
Excelling as an extern can greatly improve your chances of finding a job after graduation. "Many, many students are hired at their externship sites just by showing they have a good attitude, are eager to learn and get along well with the existing staff," says Mary C. Dyer, a certified medical assistant-specialization in administration (CMA-A) and president of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
Even if your externship site doesn't hire you, you still need to make a good impression while you're there. Externship colleagues will be your best references when you apply for other jobs and can alert you to openings elsewhere.
Talk It Up
Besides checking classified ads for positions, talk to career counselors at the school where you completed your medical assisting program. Networking with established MAs at monthly meetings of your local AAMA chapter is another good way to learn about opportunities, Dyer says.
Present Yourself Properly
Follow all the standard advice when applying for an MA job:
- Keep your resume and cover letter direct and concise, and be sure to spell-check both.
- Address your letter to the proper person at the hiring organization, usually the office manager or practice manager.
- Be slightly early for interviews.
- Listen carefully to questions, and don't interrupt.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Dress appropriately.
"Little things tell you a lot about a candidate," says Dyer, who in her 25 years of experience has interviewed dozens of aspiring MAs.
Clarify Your Credentials
Because of the wide range of educational paths to becoming an MA, hiring managers may be unclear about what your degree encompasses or what you're trained for. Make those facts clear on your resume and in the interview.
AAMA-certified MAs should emphasize their versatility, Dyer recommends. "Explain to the interviewer that you are multiskilled and that you have learned how to function interchangeably on the administrative and clinical ends," she says. "Showing you have a good attitude, are excited about what you do and have a love of the profession will be factors" in an employer's hiring decision.
Question Your Questioner
Be sure to ask questions during an interview, says new-graduate CMA Tonya Tabor, who began working for two Virginia physicians specializing in pain management in 2005. "Find out about the practice and what they do," she says. "If you pick a specialty you don't like or don't care about, you're not going to give 110 percent to the practice."
Look for Other Ways In
If you aren't getting job offers or interviews, apply for positions in medical assisting-related fields, says Cathy Kelley-Arney, CMA, institutional director of healthcare education at the National College of Business & Technology in Bluefield, Virginia.
"Many times an LPN position is posted in an ad, but the employer is more than willing to talk to a medical assistant," she says. "And on the other hand, if you see an ad for a receptionist job in a medical office, don't be afraid to apply for that."
Broaden Your Horizons
Kelley-Arney sometimes advises graduates who are having trouble finding jobs to take a few additional courses -- such as medical coding -- to become more marketable to physicians.
Also, graduates may have to venture to a new location to find their first job. "You may be able to get a job if you move 50 miles down the road or are willing to drive further to work every day," she says.
Believe Someone Will Give You a Chance
Lack of experience won't necessarily doom new grads, says Sabine Von Metzger, a Colorado-based CMA who has been in the field since 2000.
"Be honest," Von Metzger says. "Tell a prospective employer, ‘Yes, I am fresh out of school, but I'm willing to learn.' A lot of employers out there will give a fresh grad a start. After all, someone gave them a chance."