These days, moving up is less like climbing a ladder and more like picking your way through a maze. How to navigate that maze? Go back to the basics: the tried and true methods that make for a successful career.
So then…why do we refer to the following “tried and true” tips as “secrets?” They must be, because so few of your fellow nurses use them!
What do high-powered nurse managers often have in common? A higher degree or certification. Look into higher education and/or nursing certification programs in your field that give you a leg up. Not only will you be educating yourself, you’ll be learning from seasoned professionals and interacting with others in your field. If going back to nursing school isn’t your thing, consider taking certificate classes and attending conferences that increase your awareness of healthcare industry trends. Getting yourself seriously educated sends a strong message that you are invested in what you do and that you have a genuine interest in staying on top of your game. You don’t have to stick to industry-specific classes, either! Consider learning a new language or taking up a musical instrument. By diversifying yourself, you are staying ahead of the competition and widening your range of skills.
Find a Mentor
What better way to move up at the hospital than to turn to an experienced nurse who’s been through it all? Mentors have not only been in your shoes, they also know a little something about the business you’re in. A mentor is like an anchor, grounding you when you are lost. They offer career advice, listen to patient complaints, or just lend an ear in a moment of crisis. The right mentor can drastically change your career path for the better.
How can you get promoted if nobody knows who you are? It’s not just about showing up every day and doing your rounds. Smart nurses go beyond their job descriptions. Speak up and get noticed! Make sure you contribute valuable ideas and are confident in your work. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
Tip: Offer to BE a mentor or preceptor to show how willing you are to help others.
Ask for More Work
Taking on more responsibility shows that you are taking an active interest in the hospital andoutgrowing your current position. It also makes your boss look good and eases the workload off somebody else. Making others happy brings you one step closer to making yourself happy! One thing to note: When you ask for more work, you’d better be able to handle it. There’s nothing worse than not completing your charts on time or backing out because you didn’t realize how difficult a patient would be.
Network, Network, Network
Unfortunately, the reality of life is that it’s not what you know, but who you know. That means you should make networking a priority. It should be a natural habit, part of your daily routine. Make small talk with different nurses and check in with past colleagues and other professional connections via email once in awhile. Attend hospital happy hours and special events to get to know the higher ups in a less formal environment. Conferences are a great place to network outside of your healthcare organization and connect with experts in your field. Networking doesn’t have to be in person — get a LinkedIn profile and keep track of all your professional contacts. You’d be surprised at how many new connections you can make! Just be careful about coming off as a brown-noser. Nobody likes a suck up.
Find a few reputable healthcare trade magazines that professionals in your line of business read. Once you’ve got a feel for their editorial tone and content, try pitching out a few article ideas. Getting published in a trade magazine sets you apart from the crowd and makes you into a reliable nursing expert in your field. Who knows, maybe your boss will start taking advice from you!
Start a Blog
If print publication isn’t your thing, go online! Pick a blogging platform like Blogspot or WordPress and have at it. Find a theme or niche subject that you have some experience in and begin writing about it. If you do it right and do it well, you’ll find your audience growing. But be careful — beware of badmouthing fellow nurses, patients, or your hospital. A professional blog shouldn’t turn into your personal rant.
The bottom line? You have to take control of your nursing career. No amount of networking, LinkedIn connections, or mentors is going to get you anywhere if you take the back seat. By showing initiative, taking responsibility, and being innovative, you are guaranteed to be noticed by the Powers That Be. Take the first step. Don’t be afraid! If you wait to get acknowledged, hope you’ll be praised, and wonder if you’re up to the task then you’re wasting your time. A little confidence goes a long way. Now, go forth and kick butt! You’re ready to see beyond the end of your shift to the life of your nursing career.
Now it's your turn. How'd we do? Share your own tips on how to get ahead in nursing in the comments section below.
This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.