Cindy has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 10 years. Prior to having her first child, she worked as a medical technologist at a hospital in her home town. She is now looking to re-enter the workforce in a similar position that she left.
Julie Stiak, MEd, MT(ASCP), program director, Phoenix College, Phoenix; and Jeff Wolz, MEd, MT(ASCP), director, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, offer Cindy advice.
Q: Will Cindy need any education/certification prior to obtaining a job similar to her last job? Please discuss.
Wolz: If Cindy had previous certification, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a new program called the Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) that establishes that a technologist has attained ongoing competence. If she had no prior certification, it would be advised to obtain it by meeting the criteria of the certifying agency.
Stiak: It is important for Cindy to validate that her professional practice competency is current and relevant through continuing education (CE) provided by various laboratory organizations and publications.
Q: What would be the fastest way to obtain the requirements mentioned in the first question?
Wolz: Some schools offer re-entry programs, where the individual takes a portion of the didactic program and may or may not participate in clinical rotations (practical experience).
Stiak: If a local school does not provide a re-entry program, contact the program director for a local school and request consideration for acceptance into a course or two within the Medical Laboratory Science program. Contact a local laboratory to become a volunteer as a method to become reoriented to laboratory operations.
Q: What other skill sets might Cindy want to master while job hunting that would give her an advantage over other candidates?
Wolz: Cindy may want to partake in some online CE programs or attend workshops in the field. Providing documentation of the CE credits or workshop attendance would be advantageous.
Stiak: Reconnecting with professional contacts or networking is essential to understanding the current laboratory environment and fostering potential job opportunities. Cindy could employ a professional development coach to evaluate her skill sets to ensure alignment with today's laboratory practice setting. She can become familiar with online application and resume submission hiring processes. Community colleges offer free training for updating resumes and applying in the online employment domain.
Q: What should Cindy expect as far as the job hunt--will it be easy to find the ideal job or hard to find any job in her field, particularly given the fact that she hasn't worked in a lab in 10 years?
Wolz: There is a relative shortage of qualified professionals in clinical laboratories, and a significant number of the workforce is expected to retire in the near future. She would likely have some opportunity to find a job in the field. There are changes in testing and methodologies within the last 10 years, but a lot of the same principles and fundamentals that Cindy used previously would still be applicable to current laboratory requirements.
Stiak: Cindy could readily find employment particularly if she maintained her CE credentials. She might consider contacting her previous employer especially if she had an impeccable work history as her past would be a great indicator of her future employability despite the 10-year absence from the work environment. Potential employers may review Cindy's CE profile to evaluate her potential for re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence.
Q: What type of salary should Cindy anticipate compared to what she earned 10 years ago?
Wolz: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2009 the national mean annual wage was $55,620. In 2000, it was $41,260 annually.
Stiak: Salaries can vary by region and often state organizations post salary data on their Web sites. Universities and colleges with Medical Laboratory Science programs also post salary ranges for the locality or region.
Karen Appold is an editorial consultant. Visit www.writenowservices.com for more information.