In the world of journalism, the phrase “bury the lead” means that the writer offers secondary details first, ostensibly “burying” the important facts or “hook” of the story deeper in the article. This means that many readers may not read far enough in order to get the gist of the story, and the newspaper or magazine loses readership based on poor writing practices.
So what does this have to do with your nursing career? Pretty much everything.
In our careers, we can erroneously “bury the lead”—consciously or unconsciously—in various aspects of our professional lives, and I want to bring to your attention some of the ways in which we do just that.
When you’re looking for a job, you may bury the lead in several areas that can truly hurt your prospects.
First, I’ve seen resumes that make egregious errors in this regard. Just the other day, I was reviewing the resume of someone who applied to our home health agency. She was a new nurse just out of school. While mentioning 400 hours of clinical rotations on the second page of her resume without any details about her accomplishments or skills, she chose to use the first page of her resume to detail her non-clinical work experience, including such skills as “making change for customers from the cash register”.
While customer service experience is important to mention on a resume (especially if you don’t have a lot of nursing experience to list), this person essentially buried her lead on page two, bringing my focus to the wrong credentials and skills. She should have highlighted what she learned in her clinical rotations, listed her areas of focus and special interest, and buried her other experience on page two.
I’ve also seen resumes where the individual fails to list their credentials (RN, BSN, etc) after their name on the top line, and I’ve had to search through the resume to page two or three to find out exactly what degree the applicant has. Very bad form.
Cover letters are yet another place where job seekers bury their lead by including tangential and extraneous information that doesn’t strengthen their case in any way. A solid cover letter supports the accompanying resume, and plays on your strengths, accomplishments, and what you have to offer. Too many cover letters miss this opportunity, using information that simply reiterates what’s already in the resume without adding anything supportive. Also, some cover letters weaken the applicant’s case, like trying to explain a gap in employment or making excuses for the applicant being an older nurse.
Cover letters needs to be strengthening of your case, not weakening!
There are plenty of ways for nurse entrepreneurs to bury their lead, so they are not immune from such errors.
Many entrepreneurs—including nurse entrepreneurs—create websites that lack essential information on the home page. If your website doesn’t include a free download in exchange for visitors’ email address, links to your social media links, and a clear call to action, your lead is buried elsewhere. That home page needs to say it all quickly and succinctly, and many websites fail in this regard.
Many promotional materials also lack a clear call to action, and they include more extraneous information that doesn’t serve the purpose of that material, whether it be a business card, brochure, etc. If the card doesn’t include your credentials, your name, and a clear notion of what it is you do, your lead is sadly buried—or sometimes completely missing.
Just last week, I was looking at the business card of a local entrepreneur I know. She’s not a nurse, but she works in the holistic health field as a provider of a particular type of treatment that sort of esoteric and hard to quickly grasp because it’s unusual. Unfortunately, the back side of her card is simply an artistic pattern with no information—a total waste of valuable real estate. On the front of her card, she makes no attempt to explain what she does or what result the client might receive from her work. In essence, her lead is buried, but so deeply that her card reveals nothing whatsoever.
Meanwhile, some nurse entrepreneurs fail to make it very clear right up front that they’re a nurse, and this is, in my view, a terrible oversight. You see, if nurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States (and other countries, as well), why not make it crystal clear that you’re a nurse? Those initials after your name carry a lot of weight, so why not cash in on it at every opportunity? That, my friends, is burying one of your most valuable leads.
So, how could you possible bury the lead in your professional networking? Believe me when I say there are many ways in which this is done on a daily basis.
When someone asks you what kind of nursing you do, it’s prudent to not first launch into a long diatribe about what type of nursing you used to do. Worse yet, don’t regale the questioner with all of the types of nursing that you never want to do. Stay positive and current, focusing on what you do now. If you’re a new nurse, explain what you love about nursing and what professional goals you have on tap.
When networking with other professionals, burying your lead means not identifying who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for in a clear and succinct manner. If you’re meeting another professional at a crowded event—like a conference—you have thirty or sixty seconds to make your case, leave that person with a lasting positive impression of you, and communicate what you need to say. This is not meant to be manipulative. If you’re at a big event where everyone wants to connect with a large number of people, your ability to cut to the chase and identify what’s special about you is paramount.
Some of you have heard me talk or write about Linked In before, and I consider myself the only nurse entrepreneur on the Internet who is also a Linked In expert.
If the top section of your Linked In profile fails to include a high-quality head shot, your full credentials, and a headline that succinctly explains what you’re about, you’ve buried your lead. If you visit someone’s profile on Linked In, they can later see that you were there, so the top of your profile needs to really make a clear statement about you.
Many Linked In users also fail to include a summary in their profile, and that is certainly burying your lead. If there isn’t a well-written summary of your qualifications and skills on your profile, you’ve definitely buried your lead in your Linked In profile.
So, if you’re burying your lead in your resumes, cover letters, Linked In profile, promotional materials, networking outreach, or other areas of your professional life, there are things that you can change in order to make them more effective.
As they say in the Bible, you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel, and you certainly don’t want to bury your lead under mountains of extraneous information.
Whether you’re a clinical nurse or a nurse entrepreneur, consider the ways in which you can be more clear in your communication and descriptions of who you are and what you do.
However you interact or communicate with others about your professional life, make sure to not bury your lead, and others will connect more deeply with your passion, and understand who you are more readily.
Communicating what you’re about is key to your career, so be sure to learn the skills that will help you do just that.
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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.