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Job Seekers' Guide to HIMSS10 (and Psssst - We're All Job Seekers!)

January 29, 2010
by Gwen Darling
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HIMSS10. Unless you’ve spent the last month in a deprivation tank, you probably know that the biggest, baddest, Healthcare IT conference extravaganza is right around the corner. In fact, as I write this, according to the countdown calendar on the HIMSS10 Web site , there are officially:

Therefore, for the next four weeks, I’m going to lay out the Job Seekers’ Guide to Maximizing the HIMSS10 Experience. Before we begin, a brief note about the definition of “Job Seeker.” Unless you are sorting through the RSVPs for your retirement party next month (and I’m not talking about the Brett Favre kind of retirement), you are a job seeker. Even if you’re happy as a lark in your present position, you just never know what tomorrow may bring. Trust me on this one. I hear these stories every day. So let’s go!

HIMSS10. Is it worth the investment? Short answer? Yes. Even if you are currently unemployed and every penny counts? Yes. Even if, if, if? Yes, yes, yes. There is no single event during the year that will allow you to mix and mingle with so many potential employers in the course of a few always hectic, sometimes overwhelming, but decidedly worth it, days. So this week, let’s get the painful financial logistics out of the way. From personal experience, and that of others’, I recommend taking the following steps:

1. Join HIMSS if you haven’t already done so. I won’t go into all the different kinds of membership levels they offer, but it’s a bargain considering all the resources you’ll have access to once you join. Find the details here.

2. Register for the conference. At this point, the Early Bird registration is over, so members will need to pay the standard registration fee of $740.00, which ends February 1. HIMSS10 registration includes entrance to all education sessions and the exhibit hall, the Sunday Night Welcome/Opening Reception on Sunday, Feb. 28 , and registration tote bag (while supplies last - you had me at tote bag. . .). If you can swing the registration fee, by all means, register. However. . . if you’re unemployed, that’s a lot of money (well, it’s always a lot of money, but especially painful if you’re unemployed). Many candidates have asked me if I thought it was worth making the trip anyway, even if they couldn’t register and take advantage of everything the conference has to offer. Yes. It is. There are two other ways to go. First, HIMSS offers an Exhibit-only pass for $295 that will allow you admission for one day only (Wednesday). This would give you the ability to strike hard, and strike fast, strategically hitting the exhibits of all the potential employers on your list. Or, if that investment is still too rich for your circumstances, you can take advantage of all of the inexpensive and/or free social opportunities that are planned during the week, and just network the hell out of them. More on that in a few weeks.

3. Make your travel arrangements. Here’s where I can be particularly helpful, since I did a (thankless) stint as a travel agent in my early 20s. Although that was, well…many years ago (careful!) I can still give you great advice. Bottom line? Shop around. HIMSS has a full service line-up of travel resources on their site. Start there to get a baseline of what you know is available. It’s not too late to get a good deal, but as of today, it looks like many of their recommended hotels are Wait List only (through their site, but that doesn't mean that other reservation sites don't have rooms still available), so it’s time to get crackin’. From there, use a travel aggregator site to quickly compare rates. My personal favorite is Kayak, for a quick view. Then, book your air, if necessary. Personally, I don’t mess around on a “luck of the draw” site like Priceline or Hotwire for my air travel. I want to know when and how I’m getting to my destination, but can usually find a good deal going the Kayak route.

Hotels, however? Completely different story. This year I saved $100/night on the widely-advertised price on my hotel by designating my required amenities (Internet access, fitness center and a hotel bar) and general location and letting Hotwire choose. The hotel where I landed is not on the shuttle route, but is one block from a hotel that is. Perfect. Plus, my personal preference is to book my hotel a bit out of the fray, so I’m free to head down to the gym at 5:30am and not wait in line for a treadmill. Not to mention the fact that I’d prefer to meet my colleagues looking a bit more. . . let’s just say . . . put together than I usually do at 5:30am headed to the treadmill. And yes, I know. The gym at 5:30am could be the perfect networking opportunity. In this case, I’ll take the risk of a missed opportunity.

If you’re flying in, you can reserve a spot on the Atlanta Link shuttle to take you to and/or from the airport. Before you say, “No thanks, I’ll take a cab,” think about it. Everyone else on your shuttle is probably headed to HIMSS10, as well. Perfect networking opportunity! Keep in mind, too, that HIMSS is offering complimentary airport transportation provided from the Georgia World Congress Center to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport every 30 minutes, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. So you may only want to book the Atlanta Link shuttle one-way.

Okay! So you’re reserved, perhaps registered, and ready to go! Next week we’ll look at how to strategically plan every minute of your HIMSS10 experience, to maximize your job seeking ROI.

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