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Most employers want experienced workers, but even recent graduates can show they have the skills to qualify for their first medical assistant job.

How to Get Your First Medical Assistant Job

It's an age-old problem for recent graduates: How do you get a job when all the employers seem to require that you have a year or two of work experience before they'll hire you?

This catch-22 faces many recently graduated medical assistants. You know you're ready to work. You've learned the medical office routines and terminology, you're trained in common lab tasks and techniques, and you certainly know how to draw blood and set up a sterile field. But how do you convince a potential employer that you have the experience to succeed in their office? Consider these tips.

Internships, externships

Employers today are often looking for not just one internship, but two. What's more, they like those to be substantial internships lasting at least three months, according to Wake Forest University career counseling expert Katharine Brooks.

While some medical assistant program graduates go through an externship, many may want to take those experiences further and look for an extended internship as well. An internship doesn't have to be paid in order to be valuable; the key is to develop on-the-job experience and relationships with people in the medical field.

Not all internships lead to permanent jobs with that office, but they can result in recommendation letters, valuable experience to list on your resume, or referrals that will help you land a job elsewhere.

Volunteering helps

Another way to develop important connections and experience that can lead to a job is by volunteering for work that might let you utilize your training. Hospitals and medical clinics are always looking for volunteers.

Volunteer work alone is not enough, however; keep these tips in mind:

  • You have to show that you gained real experience, completed specific projects, and were able to work independently as well as on a team.
  • Get letters of recommendation from those with whom you volunteered or interned. Ask that they emphasize not only your character and enthusiasm but also your hands-on skills -- the kind of skills your future employers will find valuable.

Transferable skills from other jobs

It's important to examine your strengths and prior work experience to look for skills that might be transferable to a job as a medical assistant. For instance:

  • If you had a job processing insurance claims, which are similar to medical claims, your experience could help you stand out in the medical field.
  • Employers are looking for medical assistants who have a positive demeanor, work well on a team, and provide excellent customer service, so when applying for a medical assistant job, emphasize any experience that demonstrated that you have those abilities.
  • Get a part-time job or a summer job, and, if possible, show a track record of increasing responsibility in those jobs.

Networking and conferences

Develop relationships. Get to know your instructors, for example, and don't be afraid to ask them for letters or recommendation.

Attend professional conferences. Many offer scholarships for students, and they are a good way to meet people in the medical field and spread the word that you are looking for a job.

Here are some additional tips for showing you have the experience to start working right away:

  • Emphasize the classes that required you to complete projects -- such as lab experiments or research papers. Describe these to future employers as an example of a job you successfully completed.
  • Employers like to see entrepreneurial experiences on a resume. Did you design jewelry and sell it at craft fairs as a way to pay for school? That may have nothing to do with medicine, but it shows tactile skill and innovative thinking.
  • Employers may be willing to provide technical training but they can't teach leadership, initiative and problem-solving. If you have experiences that demonstrate these things, even if they are from another industry, include them on your resume and emphasize them.
  • Don't underestimate the practical, hands-on training you received in school. It wasn't all reading and test-taking. You had to draw blood and set up sterile fields, sometimes under the great pressure of a practical exam, so count that as experience.
  • Employers want less-tangible skills, such as a warm, caring demeanor and customer service. What over non-medical jobs have you had in which you demonstrated those skills? Emphasize those.
  • Be willing to take a lesser job in the medical office that might help you gain experience or show what you can do. Once in that job, look for opportunities to show what you can do.

The key to getting your first medical assistant job once you've completed your medical assistant education is knowing how to convey the experience you do have. If you're still in school, it's also important to set yourself up for success by gaining valuable experience before you graduate.

Sources:

"Experience Rules in Today's Job Market," Psychology Today, Katharine Brooks, Ed.D., May 14, 2012, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201205/experience-rules-in-todays-job-market

"How Do I Get a Job When I Have No Relevant Experience?," Lifehacker, Adam Dachis, January 3, 2011, http://lifehacker.com/5720706/how-do-i-get-a-job-when-i-have-no-relevant-experience

"When Asked Whether You Have Experience," Medical Assistant Net Blog, May 10, 2013, http://medicalassistantnet.blogspot.in/2013/05/when-asked-whether-you-have-experience.html

"When The Employer Requires Experience And You Have None," Forbes, Jacquelyn Smith, May 10, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/10/when-the-employer-requires-experience-and-you-have-none/

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