When we first introduced our blog readers to Pam, she was a freshly-minted Epic consultant starting her very first assignment. Her advice to other new consultants ranks as one of our most read posts. Now Pam has over a year and a half of consulting experience and a couple of client projects under her belt. So we asked her to update her advice and offer some new tips based on lessons learned from her time on the road.
"In the 19-months that I have spent working as a traveling Epic consultant, I've learned a lot that others in the profession or considering a career change may find beneficial," says Pam.
Downsize and pack light. "Consultant travel is so much easier with a light carry-on that helps you avoid baggage claim. I pack neutral colored clothing that can be easily mixed and matched so I only need to pack one pair of shoes, one purse, one belt, etc. I also buy travel-sized health and beauty products and use small containers to house these products so everything fits into a quart-sized Ziploc bag (per FSA requirements for carry-on luggage)."
Invest in TSA Pre-check. "At first, I was resistant to pay for this travel perk, but the $85 application fee is worth every penny. Unanticipated traffic or long lines for car rental return are enough to knock you off schedule and put you at risk of missing a flight. The shortened, speedy lines in TSA Pre-check have definitely saved me more than once."
Rest and take vacation in between your contracts. "Life as a traveling consultant can be taxing, so when I was between contracts, I took advantage of the downtime by resting and taking a small vacation with my spouse. I have zero regrets about getting the rejuvenation I needed, but wish that I had taken a longer vacation. As someone who was new to contracting, I was anxious about being between projects for too long, but I had several opportunities come down the pike pretty quickly. So my advice is not to be afraid to take an extended vacation. You've earned it; you need it."
Review Epic training materials to stay current. "I've found it extremely helpful to set aside time to review and study Epic training companions and materials. A long-term contract often focuses you exclusively on a single module, but if you have multiple certifications, your skills and knowledge in those other areas can go stale. Reviewing training materials while you're in the airport or in flight will help ensure you're ready for your next contract no matter what the module or assignment. This is especially important in light of Epic’s new CEE requirements."
Don’t prejudge a job by the description or contract length. "Initially, as a new consultant, I didn’t want to consider short-term (three months or less) contracts. What I now understand is that short contracts often extend, especially if you prove you can do the work and are a good fit with the client.
I've also learned that you can’t always a judge a job by the published job description. If you have some of the qualifications, be open to an interview; even if you aren't certain if you're the most qualified candidate. I wasn’t a perfect fit on paper for my first contract, but I told the client I was willing to learn on the job and grow into the role. I got hired and the client ultimately sponsored me to obtain 3 new certifications."
Network with other consultants. "I find my peers onsite are a great support system. No one understands the life of a traveling consultant better than another traveling consultant. From a career perspective, other consultants are a valuable resource to learn about new job opportunities. Exchanging contact information and being open to referrals—and referring others—creates goodwill and improves your odds for landing your next role."
Not all consulting/staffing firms are the same. "I've heard horror stories from other consultants about how cumbersome their firm's expense report processes can be, how uninformed and unresponsive their firm's recruitment staff can be when they have questions or are in need assistance, and how their firm sees them as 'just a number.'
In contrast, my experience with Healthcare IT Leaders has been nothing but positive. Their recruiting staff is experienced, well-informed, and quick to respond to my questions and needs. They work diligently to ensure that I have everything I need to make my experience with each client the best it can be. Finally, as a consultant firm, Healthcare IT Leaders has made me feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued as part of their team. They have truly made a great difference in my experience as a consultant. It is a partnership that I value and appreciate."