I’m a big advocate of mentoring, and I’ve always done what I could to offer advice or make introductions when a young, passionate writer came to me with intelligent questions. So I was pleased to see a very instructive, positive conversation break out in our LinkedIn group, The Healthcare Design Connection, when a newly graduated architect posted a query about breaking into the healthcare niche.

Her post was focused and asked specific questions—for example, should she pursue a master’s degree right away?—and the responses were thoughtful, personal, and respectful. Many industry veterans invited her to contact them directly. Others offered to introduce her around.

Very generous, but also very smart. As I’ve mentioned in the past, encouraging the next generation of designers and architects to understand and consider a career in healthcare is important to the health of the field. We want the best and the brightest, the most passionate, the most visionary. Lives may literally depend on it.

For those in a similar position as our young architect, here’s some advice culled from the forum:

·         Understand your motives. Are you inclined toward healthcare? Awesome. But why? What draws you to this niche? Think about what specifically interests you—beyond “I want to help people”—and how you can see yourself using your particular design skills within a healthcare setting. The better you can articulate your passion, the better impression you’ll make in an interview.

·         Education is important, but experience may be better. A couple of posters recommended waiting on a master’s degree until you get some real-world education under your belt.

·         Start where you can, and be a sponge. If you think you want to specialize, consider getting into a firm that covers a broad range of specialties, including healthcare, so you have a real basis for comparison. That kind of experience will never be a waste.

Networking within groups like this is an excellent strategy for newcomers to the field; just make sure to be focused, respectful, and targeted with your queries and self-introductions. Many industry professionals are happy to lend a helping hand, but if they don’t know anything about you, remember that there’s only so much they may be willing to do.

P.S. If you’re not a member of The Healthcare Design Connection yet—newcomers and veterans alike—you really should be. It’s not an open group (the editors approve every single member and keep a close eye on the discussion topics), so you won’t be subjected to hundreds of sales pitches or lots of irrelevant chatter. Instead, you’ll find important news, meaningful dialogue, and a fantastic resource for getting specific advice and questions answered from among more than 10,000 of your industry peers (and growing).