It takes a lot of hard work from the moment you decide to become a nurse to the day you are hired for your first position as an RN. First, there's school; then there's the state licensing exam; and finally, there's the actual job-hunting process.
But there comes a time when that nurse -- who has worked so hard to get to a particular post -- wants something more or different. Change can seem daunting, but the desire for change can often trump any hesitation one might feel around making changes.
Here are seven tips for nurses who want to improve their careers, and make the changes that will advance them or give them new skills and new experiences.
1. Ready Your Resume
If you know you're going to be on the job market, the first step involves updating your resume. Nurse.org has an eight-step guide to creating a resume that contains excellent advice, starting with the idea that you're creating your own brand when you make a resume and selling yourself to an audience of prospective employers. It also makes the excellent point that the initial audience for your resume will be bots (software programs), not people, that scan resumes for job keywords.
2. Build Your Network
It's likely that nurses are meeting in your city or in nearby cities -- you can find events and get-togethers via local and state nursing associations, as well as Meetup.com, a website that allows people with shared interests to announce the get-togethers they've organized. Meeting other healthcare professionals where you live can help you get a sense of the job market you're in.
3. Build Your Online Network
In addition to meeting other nurses in person, you can visit online sites that allow nurses to connect with one another. Aside from enjoying the obvious advantages to this kind of networking, you can have a great number of conversations that help you expand your knowledge of various nursing topics, as well as share your knowledge with others.
4. Work on Your Image
Your resume communicates an image of you built on your credentials and accomplishments, but when you arrive at a job interview, how you look, dress and speak all communicate the image that makes the difference between landing a job and continuing your search. Once you honestly assess your image, you can take steps to improve it. They don't need to be radical transformations; simple steps, like getting enough sleep, being conscious of making eye contact and nailing your pleased-to-meet-you handshake will all help with good first impressions.
5. Set SMART Goals
New Year's resolutions often fail, but not for lack of willpower. They lose steam because the desired life change isn't clearly defined. The SMART acronym is helpful in goal-setting: it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Saying you'll read a book a month and blocking out the time and space to do that sets you up better for success than just saying, "I'll read more." As you look to implement career-advancing changes, do so in a way that allows you to gauge your progress. Short-term goals over a couple of weeks or months can move you toward your long-term goal of a job change.
6. Track Your Time
Obviously, you'll be investing time and energy into this process, and it can feel like too much to take on. A good first step in this process is to look at how you spend your typical week by logging what you do each hour of the day for seven days. You might be surprised by the time you spend online or on Netflix. Getting that perspective might help you carve out a few hours a week to work on making changes.
7. Get Educated
Education is the cornerstone of change. In nursing, RNs with BSNs are no longer the future of nursing -- they're the present. If you're an RN without a BSN, going through an online program can deliver a career-changing curriculum for an investment of less than $8,000 in as few as 14 months. In addition to boosting your competitiveness in the job market, it will give you knowledge to help you navigate modern healthcare practices -- in whatever new, exciting role you find.
Learn more about LSUA's online RN to BSN program.
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