You can take a page from the nursing process to map your career—assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate.
Ask yourself where you want to go in your career. These questions might help with self-reflection.
- What conditions or activities must I have in my career to feel fulfilled, happy, and challenged?
- What are my current skills? (If you’re having difficulty identifying your skills, ask colleagues for help.)
- What obstacles are standing in the way of what I want and can they be eliminated?
Decide if you need to change jobs, change specialties, enhance your skills, or some combination or other option. For example, if you love working in critical care, but are looking for a change, consider travel nursing or advanced practice nursing. Then establish a goal, such as becoming certified in your specialty.
If you’re not sure of your next move, explore other options and read about career opportunities.
Decide on next steps, including how to eliminate obstacles such as limited finances (hint: research scholarships and student loans). You’ll also want to consider tactics such as updating your curriculum vitae (see page 21) or returning to school for more education. Include due dates for action items, or they’ll likely be pushed aside by more pressing issues.
Put your plan into action. To avoid losing momentum, ask a colleague, friend, or relative to hold you accountable to your due dates.
Check in with yourself frequently. Are you moving forward with your plan? Do you need to make adjustments? Evaluate your career status annually.
Exploring new career options
Are you thinking of changing specialties? Follow these suggestions for exploring your options.
- Network. Attend association meetings in the specialty area that interests you, and network with members to find out what’s happening in that field, what the trends are, and what educational opportunities exist.
- Go on an informational interview. Meet with a nurse who practices in the specialty area you’re interested in and ask a lot of questions. What does this nurse like the most—and least—about the specialty? What recommendations can he or she offer?
- Volunteer. Use a week of your vacation time to shadow a nurse practicing in your area of interest. This will give you an up-close and personal look at that career choice.
- Create a support group. Gather supportive friends and colleagues to cheer you toward your goal and hold you accountable for taking the necessary action steps.
- Find a mentor. A mentor—especially one in the specialty you’re exploring—can be a valuable guide who supports you and helps you avoid pitfalls.
- Seek opportunities right under your nose. You can probably find nurses in other specialties in your workplace. Try those specialties on for size.
Adapted from: Borgatti J. Plan a career, not just a job. Am Nurs Today. 2010; 5(2).