4 Steps to Jump-Start Your Nursing Career
You've studied nonstop for nearly three years. You can do medical calculations in your head. You're on your way to graduating and becoming the nurse you have always wanted to be.
As you approach your final semesters of nursing school, it's important to take some time and really examine your career goals and aspirations, says Sarah Vollmer, senior career services advisor at Chamberlain. "Think critically about where you are in your career, what’s important to you and where you want your career to go."
Sarah offers the following advice, derived from Chamberlain’s Career Care Plan, to help you develop your nursing career and achieve your goals.
1. Create your professional identity
This first step helps you define the qualities and characteristics you want to be known for. Start by thinking about what you consider to be two or three “ideal” jobs in nursing. Next, consider your skill set. Do your skills align with the responsibilities that these jobs require? What can you do to learn new skills or further cultivate the ones you have?
As you work to define the various aspects of your professional identity, you should consider getting involved on campus and joining national nursing organizations. Becoming a part of these groups will help raise your profile and highlight your commitment to nursing.
At this time, it’s also important to audit your online identity and set proper security and privacy levels for all of your social media accounts. If you don’t already have one, consider creating an online professional profile and connecting with at least 25 people on LinkedIn. You can also join groups, participate in discussions and follow industry leaders via the platform.
2. Analyze and explore your opportunities
Now that you’ve assessed the skills you need for the job you want, begin researching potential job titles, companies, departments and salaries related to it.
There’s a lot of information on the web you can access, but nothing will give you insight into the job like connecting with someone who already has it. Try reaching out to five to seven professionals in the role you want to find out more about their work and what they enjoy about their job, as well as what they may find taxing. Use these personal experiences to get a well-rounded and realistic idea of what the job could be like.
You’ll also want to make sure to update your resume. If you haven’t created a resume yet, see our post on how to create your nursing student resume. Having an up-to-date resume is important for sharing new skills and calling attention to your accomplishments.
3. Reach out and build your network
Aim to expand your list of networking contacts to 75. To reach this number, start attending networking events and career seminars on and off campus. You never know who you may meet and how they could impact your application to the job of your choice or change your perception of the position you want.
This is also the time to begin conducting mock interviews. You can take part in mock interviews with friends and family or members of your school’s career services or academic staff. Putting yourself in different scenarios and facing potential interview questions can help prepare you for the real experience. You’ll learn how to approach questions you may find difficult, and begin to feel comfortable in this kind of professional setting.
Lastly, if you know someone in your field who has had an influence on you, consider reaching out to them about becoming a coach or mentor to you. Having access to the wisdom and insight of an experienced professional can prove to be invaluable.
4. Execute your plan
Once you feel prepared, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Begin by following your preferred employers on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to hear about job openings. You can also use job sites like Indeed and Google Alerts to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities.
You should also attend career fairs and hospital expos. Both will afford you opportunities to expand your professional network. Ideally, you’ll want to have 100+ contacts at this time.
Lastly, collect at least three professional recommendations. It’s important to be able to provide the names and contact information for individuals you have worked with. This allows potential employers to contact them to find out more about you and your work style.
No matter what, be patient. Hard work and determination will get you on your path to success.
For more helpful career information, check out the following articles:
- 4 Strategies for Setting Successful Career Goals
- Taking the First Steps to a Career in Nursing
- Who to Ask for References and Letters of Recommendation