All too often, I encounter nurses who are in the midst of change in their nursing careers, and they’re faced with the harsh reality that they’ve been altogether too complacent about their career development.
Some nurses are complacent about networking, building credentials, establishing connections, increasing their skills, or reading the writing on the wall of the healthcare industry.
Are you complacent?
When some nurses contact me for career coaching or advice, it might be due to the fact that they’ve been in the same job for quite some time, and they haven’t been paying any attention whatsoever to the bigger picture of their career. They may have been focused nicely on the micro, but they’ve totally lost site of the macro!
The macro view of your career involves the big picture, the 10,000-foot view, the overall arch of your career. You may know where you came from, and you likely have clarity about where you are, but have you given any thought for the future?
When we’re happy in our jobs and feeling like there’s nowhere we need to go and nothing we need to do, what we’re ignoring is the fact that our current workplaces could go bankrupt, be sold to another company and experience complete restructuring, or otherwise disappear. Some of the best nurses in the world still get laid off, and if you haven’t been laying the groundwork and building a safety net underneath your nursing career, you could find yourself feeling quite behind the eight ball.
Do you remember how the Achilles Heel got its name? Well, when Achilles was a baby, his mother wanted him to be immortal and protect from all physical trauma. So, she held him by his heel and dipped the rest of his body in the River Styx, an action that was said to have the benefit of complete immunity from physical injury. He survived many battles as a Greek hero, but he was eventually shot by an arrow in—you guessed it—his heel; he subsequently died.
So, nurses, what’s the Achilles Heel of your career? Where are you falling down on the job when it comes to managing your career and laying the groundwork for the future? All of the topics I’ve covered in the first 19 episodes of this podcast are salient to this question.
- Are you consistently building your professional network, expanding the tapestry of who you know in the nursing profession, the healthcare industry, and beyond?
- Do you update your resume on a regular basis, even though you’re not looking for work?
- Do you have a skeleton cover letter ready at a moment’s notice?
- How’s your Linked In profile doing? Do you have a strategy for meeting like-minded nurses and professionals on Linked In?
- Are you always reading the writing on the wall of the profession, assessing changes in the nursing ecosystem that are important to be aware of?
- Do you attend conferences, seminars, and meetings?
- Do you belong to a nursing association or organization that’s aligned with your personal and professional values?
- Are you keeping up with changes and advances in technology, both in communications and patient care?
- Do you practice good self-care?
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea. Staying relevant is about staying informed, and also keeping up with the changes occurring all around you.
If you’ve been at the same job for 15 years, what would it be like if you decided to move across country–or perhaps your spouse was transferred and you had no choice in the matter? What if you fell in love with someone in another state and decided to leave your beloved job for new pastures? If you haven’t been doing your career development homework, are you aware of how it could be an uphill battle in terms of getting ready for the necessary job search process that’s coming your way? Do you have a deep network of professionals to tap in the interest of your move?
Or let’s say that you’ve been working at the same hospital for 17 years, and you’ve never been happier. You’re 53 years old, and you figure that if you hold out for another 9 years, you could retire at 62. Everything’s going fine, and then you hear that a mega hospital corporation has taken over the hospital, gobbled it up, and the entire hospital is going to be restructured. Unfortunately, the bean counters in business suits don’t care that you’ve been there for 17 years; in fact, they prefer to lay you off since you’re earning more than the younger, less experienced nurses. Before you know it, you’re out on the street, out of a job, back in the marketplace, and you have no idea how to get started after almost two decades at your cushy job.
It’s human nature to rest on our laurels, coast whenever we can, and otherwise choose the path of least resistance. I get it; I’ve been there. However, in the interest of your career, it behooves you to keep your finger on the pulse of your career—as well as that of the profession at large—and consistently build the safety net that will help you if the professional waters become turbulent.
My friends, so many nurses come to me in times of duress, and their stress is more often than not related to the need for change in their career, oftentimes because that change has been thrust upon them.
Most professionals have this Achilles Heel; they’ve been too complacent, assumed that nothing was going to change, and then they’re caught short when the proverbial feces hits the fan.
Conferences, seminars, meetings, webinars, books, journals, blog, podcasts, articles, tweetchats and so many other forms of media offer windows onto the world of nursing and healthcare. There is a glut of information out there, and you can be a very savvy professional by curating that information in the interest of your career.
Please don’t be one of those nurses who ignores networking, eschews learning anything about the marketplace, and assumes that everything is going to be fine and no change will be coming down the pike. If things are stable for you, great, and maybe they’ll stay that way. But chances are, change is going to come, since, as they say, change is the only constant in the universe.
Be prepared, don’t be complacent, and use proactive, inspired action to keep your career moving forward, even at times when it seems like you should be standing still. The nursing profession and the healthcare industry are always in flux, undergoing an organic and ongoing process of change. Your career is also a potentially organic, changing entity. Enjoy that flux, and be like the willow that bends in even the greatest winds.
Career complacency can be your greatest nemesis and Achilles Heel. Resist the ennui and listlessness that can send you to sleep when you really need to be awake and aware.
So, nurses, put on your best running shoes, protect that Achilles Heel, and strike out into the world as the savvy, forward thinking nurse that you are.
The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by James Larson, and social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.
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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.