Finding a Medical Coding Job…Staying the Course

newspaperStay the course” is a phrase used in the context of a war or battle meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism.

Sometimes finding a job, any job, can feel like a battle and medical coding jobs are no exception. In fact, medical coding jobs are often perceived to be among the most elusive job opportunities known to mankind. It seems these jobs are posted just to tempt recently certified coders with offers of better than average wages, good working conditions, and desirable benefits—only to dash their hopes with experience requirements that are just out of a newbie coder’s grasp.

And yet, somehow, coding jobs continue to get filled. I’ve worked in many health information management departments, and I can testify that there are no 150-year-old coders chained to a desk in the corner assigning ICD-9 codes. So I know for a fact that coders retire at some point. Retirement in combination with other forms of employee turnover means lost coders have to be replaced by someone new. That someone new is likely a newly certified coder. Will the new coder replace the retiree directly? No, not usually. A more experienced coder will probably move up, making room near the bottom of the career ladder.

If this is the case, you may wonder why then finding job opportunities is sometimes such a daunting task. The issue lies in the fact that the employer who is moving the more experienced coder up to replace the retiree would, given their preference, would like to replace the more experienced coder with someone of an equivalent skill set in order to maintain the skill level of their department. However, by the time a job posting hits the general public, the employer has likely exhausted every easy option for hiring and in some cases may even be desperate if the job has been posted for several months. Still, they are going to post the requirements for their “dream” candidate—that coder who can replace the more experienced coder’s skill set.

Does including those requirements for higher levels of experience always mean these are the only candidates they will consider? In some cases, depending on the situation, maybe. But, in many cases, No! Employers are going to “shoot for the moon” and try to get the best candidates they can but will often consider less experienced, but well qualified candidates who present themselves the right way.

So, what does that mean for a newly certified coder who is looking to find a job and running into “closed doors” due to every job requiring more experience than they have? Below are a few things to remember when trying to get your foot in that closed door:

Apply, apply, apply – If there is a job you are interested in, apply for it, even if you don’t have all the experience listed. You never know what the employer might be willing to consider if you don’t even try. The worst that can happen is that they will say “No.”
Experience does not necessarily equal qualifications – Just because someone has been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean they are doing it right. A lot of employers still have uncertified coders. Use your credential to help you show your skill level. Ask for the opportunity to prove your coding skills.
Be persistent and present – Often submitting an application or a resume alone is not enough. You need to follow up in person—this can really, really help you stand out in today’s digital age. Show interest in the organization and not just the job. It may take more than one visit to show you’re really interested, but be respectful of the employer’s time.
Stay the course – Don’t give up and lament that all is lost if you haven’t landed a job after just a few tries. New coders who successfully find employment are often those who submit dozens and dozens of applications/resumes, use every job search website, and attend countless networking events. They make finding a job their job until the right opportunity comes along.

So there you have it! Those are my words of wisdom on conquering your job search. Let’s hear from a few graduates who have been there before too—what would you add to our list? Leave your advice in the comments below.

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