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Give Yourself a Career Makeover

Friday June 1, 2012
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In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a national makeover craze going on. People are getting their homes redecorated, their wardrobes updated, or their noses fixed. In keeping with that theme, it may be time for a career makeover. Here are five areas in your professional life that could likely use a “lift.”

1. “Resculpt” your image. In today’s image-conscious society, what you know isn’t enough to get ahead. You’ve got to have a professional image to match the professional person you are. That includes looking and acting confident and competent at all times. It involves being able to handle yourself in a variety of workplace and social situations. It also means representing the profession well in public and being able to articulate what nurses do.

How can you give your professional image a makeover? Visit the public library or get online and do some reading on communication, assertiveness, and networking skills. Start getting out to professional networking arenas, such as seminars, conventions, and career fairs, to polish your social skills. If you don’t already have business cards, have some made and carry them with you wherever you go. You need one to properly introduce yourself in professional circles and exchange contact information. Start shaking hands with colleagues and clients, too.

Be impeccably and professionally dressed and groomed at all times, regardless of your work environment. Master good body language. Invest in a business suit for interviews, professional networking, and important workplace meetings and events. When you elevate your image, you “plump up” your influence, your power, and your credibility.

2. “Flex and tone” your job muscles. Even if you’re happy in your current job, it’s important to periodically challenge and stretch yourself. It’s easy to get complacent and fall into a rut. Stimulate your career circulation by getting on an interdepartmental committee, working with students or new hires, or volunteering to do some teaching or work on a special project. The experience will allow you to showcase your abilities, find out where your special talents lie, and develop your skills.

If you’re not happy, then it may be time for an extreme career makeover. Do a self-assessment to identify your strengths and assets. Take an inventory of your experiences and transferable skills. Start exploring your options. Is there something else at your current place of employment that might be a better fit for you, or do you need to look elsewhere? Start talking to nurses working in different specialties. Make new contacts and get in touch with old ones. Go on a few interviews to test the waters, and see what else is out there. Change is always scary, but it can also be exhilarating.

3. “Supplement” your credentials. Have you been sitting on the fence trying to decide which college degree to go back for? It’s time to move forward. Get to the library or search online for degree majors and schools that interest you. Request some catalogs, confer with admission counselors, and talk to others who have been there and done that. Apply to a program that’s interesting and exciting to you. Open the windows of your mind and let in some fresh air and ideas.

If you’re planning to stay in your current specialty, look into getting certified. Find out what’s required and take steps to move in that direction. Certification is a tangible measure of competency and experience. It raises the bar in your professional life and gives you new, higher standards to work toward. It adds value to who you are as a professional.

4. “Exfoliate” your spirit. When you get rid of the dead top layers, you facilitate growth and renewal. Take some time off from work if you have it coming. Your department will somehow survive without you. Time away from work gives you perspective and a chance to catch your breath. It’s hard to see things clearly when you’re in the thick of it. Perhaps you’re at a crossroads and not sure where to go from here. Spending some quiet time alone can help to clarify your thoughts, generate new ideas, and help to decide what’s important to you.

Stimulate your enthusiasm on a regular basis with exercise, relaxation, and leisure activities. Consider holistic modalities, such as massage, meditation, and yoga. These activities reduce stress, increase your ability to concentrate and focus, and make you feel happier and more in control of your life.

5. “Nourish” your professional affiliations. If you don’t belong to any professional associations, it’s time to join. You can’t operate in a vacuum, and that’s exactly what you’re doing if you don’t belong to anything. Join your nursing specialty association or your state chapter of the American Nurses Association. At least get out to some local meetings as a guest to see what they’re all about.

If you do belong, but haven’t been active, get out to at least an occasional meeting. Get on a committee, make plans to attend a state or national conference, or consider running for office. It will energize and invigorate you.

Plastic surgeons, stylists, and interior decorators can make over your appearance and your surroundings. But only you can effect positive changes in your professional life. Take some simple steps to create a career makeover and feel professionally refreshed, renewed, and revitalized.


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.