When I’m coaching nurses and healthcare professionals to go hold their heads held high out in the world, I wonder why so many people want to hide their light and dilute the power of who they are.
Just the other day, I was speaking with a client, and it felt like he was making excuses for himself, even as he was preparing for an interview. Sure, if you’ve had ten jobs in three years and been fired from many of them, maybe there are some excuses to create for your work history. But if your history is strong, and you believe that you’ve walked a solid path as a nurse, why not wax poetic about how amazing your career has been?
Your career is what you’ve made it. Let’s say you’ve been an ICU nurse for ten years, you’ve taken part in research, you’ve written a few articles, and maybe contributed to some very interesting projects along the way. This career trajectory of yours is your alone, and if you feel that you have a level of expertise and authority in your chosen area of specialty, there’s nothing wrong with owning that expertise and being willing to talk about it with a positive attitude.
In episode 7 of this show, I talked about nursing thought viruses, and the reason that i felt it was important to address is because so many nurses buy into thought viruses that attempt to diminish who they are what they’re all about.
Thought viruses tell you that you’re “just” a nurse, and they try to convince you that there are other healthcare professionals who know more than you, have more education than you do, and who are much more deserving than you of jobs, promotions, praise, or recognition. However, none of that is even the slightest bit true, so put on your antiviral cloak of protective self-esteem and move on.
If you’ve carved a particular niche for yourself as a nurse, own that expertise. If you’re the holder of information and expertise that makes you an authority in your field, claim that authority.
I don’t why nurses feel the need to hide their pride and accomplishments, but it’s time for us to do exactly the opposite.
If you listen to RNFM Radio, you’ve probably heard Kevin Ross and I mention time and time again that nurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States according to the last 13 years of Gallup polls. We’re seen as the most honest professionals in the country, and there’s a reason for that: people trust us with their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. After a hospitalization, a patient may not remember a nurse’s name, but they certainly remember the amazing care that they received.
If we’re so trusted by the public, we need to begin to trust ourselves; we also need to value ourselves. Nursing self-esteem is an important aspect of elevating our profession and our professional standing. If you can hold high self-esteem for yourself, your colleagues, and your profession, you’re taking a giant step towards owning who you are as a nurse.
Raise Your Flag
When you’re preparing for a job interview, it’s important to personally review all of your strengths, experience, and skills, and make a list that you can reference as a way to encapsulate what it is that’s special about you as a nurse.
Recently, another client of mine was getting ready for an interview, and she couldn’t quite see how to “spin” the many aspects of her career in order to paint a positive picture of how she was the perfect fit for the position for which she was applying. So, we reviewed her resume, and we discussed how every skill and attribute that was part and parcel of the position she wanted was somehow reflected in her resume and experience. Sure, she may not have had the specific experience that the recruiter said was preferred, but there was a clear way to talk about her experience so that it fulfilled every requirement of that position.
If you have a level of expertise and authority that you feel comfortable claiming as your own, then feel free to raise the flag of your expertise as high as you can!
Never Say “Just”
When you say “I’m just a nurse“, or “I was just a volunteer“, or “I just have a bachelors degree“, you’re immediately expressing that whatever you did or whatever you are isn’t as good as it could be. Using terminology and phrases that belittle your expertise or experience do nothing for you, and they belie the expertise and professionalism that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Whether you’re networking with a new colleague, sitting for a job interview, writing a cover letter, or editing your Linked In profile, it’s your job to realistically represent the totality of who you are and what you’re all about. If you try to hide your light under a bushel and make excuses for your education, experience, or skills, you’re doing yourself and others a terrible disservice.
Here’s an exercise for you: take out a piece of paper and make a list of every skill you know as a nurse, no matter how minor it may appear. Next, make a list of all of the positions you’ve held and the responsibilities you’ve managed and navigated in your nursing career. If you care to, take a wild guess at how many lives you’ve touched, how many patients you’ve comforted, how much knowledge you’ve shared with others, how many meds you’ve administered, and how many hours you’ve spent honing your craft as a nurse.
Now, once you’ve made whatever length list you’re going to make, read it aloud. Next, look in the mirror with that list in your hand, and say, “I’m just a nurse.” How silly does that sound? How utterly ridiculous does putting the word “just” in that sentence seem to you right now, taking into consideration everything that you’ve accomplished in your life and career?
If you’re a new nurse with little nursing experience, you may need to add to that list the many hours you’ve spent becoming a nurse, learning, studying, crying, and sweating over exams and clinicals. You earned your professional status, so why not talk openly about the gifts that you bring to the table?
Represent Your Personal Brand With Clarity
Again, when networking, applying for jobs, or otherwise speaking with others about your status as a professional nurse, you are your own representative. In fact, Kevin Ross and I often go to the extreme of saying that you’re the CEO of your own personal brand.
When Nike talk about their shoes, do they make excuses for their products? When Apple launches a new product, do they say, “Oh, it’s just a phone, or it’s just a tablet?” Hardly. They boast about its quality of manufacturing, the results it delivers, the happiness to be experienced by those who interact with it.
The same goes with you. When you’re in the job marketplace, you’re selling your brand, no manipulatively, but in the sense that you’re actually trying to convince your interviewer that you have the goods, and you can deliver them.
If you’re the CEO of your career, what type of culture are you creating? How do you want your brand represented? How will you communicate what’s special about you, your skills, and your experience?
Be clear about who you are. Be clear about the many gifts that you bring to the table. Be confident in the professional that you’ve become, and represent yourself without using the word “just” in front of anything about you. If you have tendency to downplay yourself and belittle yourself, you have some work to do, my friends. And if you’re already skilled in representing yourself with clarity and purpose, you’re already on your way.
Own your expertise and your professionalism, and use language that clearly communicates the totality of your awesomeness. You’re not “just a nurse”, but you are just awesome!
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.