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I am struggling with mapping out a career plan. Where do you think I should start?

Tuesday January 22, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I have spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out where I want to go in my career, whether it is in nursing or not. The environment in which I work is very toxic and is turning me off of nursing altogether, but because of my personal circumstances, I'm stuck in it for now. I am struggling with mapping out a career plan. My facility offers no room for professional growth, beyond technical skills. Because of this, I am considering nursing informatics and nursing administration. I have a telephone appointment with a local university to discuss my options next week.

I know about your "Career Alternatives" series, but what advice do you have in terms of traditional career plans? I've looked for your seminars, but there are none in my immediate area and travel is not an option for me right now.

I have looked into my state nursing association, but there is very little information available. They don't seem to be very active at all, so I don't know that joining would be beneficial at this point. I am not a member of any professional organizations. Although my technical and people skills are strong, I am struggling professionally in many areas right now. This is mainly because of the toxic work environment, but I feel at this point, the career map may help. I have no idea where to start. What do you think?

Feels Stuck

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Feels Stuck,

Clearly you need to move in a new direction. Read “Knowing when it's time to move on” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Move-On) and “How to find your forte” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Forte). Both of these articles provide steps and strategies for moving forward.

When you are in a time of transition, it is important to attend local events on a regular basis, such as career fairs. See what's coming up in your area at www.Nurse.com/Events/Career-fairs/. Read “How to get the most out of attending a career fair” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Career-fair).

Also, it's important to attend local nursing or healthcare association meetings. You don't have to join anything right now, go as a guest. Bring business cards and schedule some informational interviewing (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Interviewing). You never know from where the idea, the spark, the information, the contact or the opportunity will come. Other than the American Nurses Association, consider contacting the American Organization of Nurse Executives (www.aone.org) or any other specialty association.

My book “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career” walks you step-by-step through the career transition process and helps you decide where to go (www.Nurse.com/CE/7250). If you are interested in learning more about career options beyond the bedside, Career Alternatives for Nurses also is available in a home-study version (CE.Nurse.com/Professional-Development).

Beyond all that, you might consider working with a nurse career coach (as opposed to a non-nurse coach). Coaches can help you identify transferable skills, beef up your self-marketing skills and help you create a long-range career plan. Find a nurse coach by doing an Internet search, getting a referral from a nursing association (whether or not you are a member) or by asking around.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.