The world of medical imaging is a very unique place to find yourself. It is a small community compared to other job fields. Anyone that has been around for any length of time has stories of when they ran into someone they used to work for or with at training or in an interview. But there seems to be very little information on how to build a career within the field. Most often the story is about how someone fell into the field through a series of seemingly unconnected events. Ask someone that has been working at this for some time and they are, likely as not, unable to explain how they built a career in imaging. While there is no one path that everyone can follow, there are things you can do to make the most of your opportunities.
Network within the world of imaging. Manufacturer Field Service, Independent Service Organization (ISO) Field Service, X-ray technicians, Radiology Directors, Parts distributors, even the much maligned Salesman should be contacts within your network. You really cannot tell who will be able to make you an offer that will move your career forward ten, five, or even one year from now. They may simply know of an open position before it is publicly posted.
When networking, do not just gather names. Build relationships and be of value to the people that you network with if possible. Don’t burn bridges within the industry. Without violating any rules, guidelines, or regulations of your organization, help out those that may need your help when you can. Let others know of open job positions or possible business even if it is not with your organization. You may find that when you are in need of a technical solution or a new job opportunity that all of that selfless assistance may pay off.
Become a specialist. The equipment that is most difficult to troubleshoot and work on, the equipment that is most expensive to contract out, or the equipment no one likes to work on is the best place to become an expert. By taking on the least desirable job, you become more valuable. Never underestimate the value of being able to rebuild a workstation and take the hours of tedium reloading from cold instead of buying an entirely new workstation. The added value of the person willing to tear apart the collimator and second source the LED light that “will never go out” and saving the hospital thousands of dollars is where you become the dependable go to person that will be first pick when advancement or training opportunities arise. Really dig in and get to know the functionality and interfacing of every sub-unit of the system.
Become a Jack-of-all-trades. In direct opposition to the specialist, a career can be built on being able to do between 60% to 80% of the work on most or all of the systems in a hospital or hospital system. Being able to fix all of the high failure items and perform Preventative Maintenance on most or all of the imaging systems can be invaluable. This is really where you can shine in a small hospital or if you are the newest member of a shop full of experts. It is also vital in a system that has multi-vendor equipment.
Finally, as you work in the field you have to consider this a career instead of a job. That means a constant effort to do the best work and develop your skills to reach your full potential. Looking at what jobs are available within your organization as well as what others may offer. Being plugged in to the industry as it changes politically, financially, and technologically.
What have you found allows you to move forward within your career?