Five Key Questions Nurses Must Ask Themselves to Move Their Career Forward in 2017

Nurses Need to Keep Learning, Growing and Challenging Themselves to Master Something New

AURORA, Colo. – February 15, 2017 – One of the best things about a new year is that it offers individuals a chance to stop and assess how things are going in their life. The usual targets for improvement are health and finances – but American Sentinel University’s career coach Kim Dority says focusing on career growth is equally important.

She encourages nurses to answer the following questions to help get their careers moving forward in 2017.

1 – What went well last year – and why?

“Reflect on all the aspects of your job or career that went well this past year, from the small and seemingly unimportant to the big and perhaps crucial,” says Dority.

She says speaking up at a staff meeting for the first time and contributing a new idea, or adding value to the ideas of others is often overlooked, but incredibly important.

Other activities that often go ignored are volunteering for an interdepartmental committee that let you meet new colleagues or perhaps demonstrating or learning a new skill. Another challenge you might have aced was overcoming the fear of public speaking and giving a staff presentation.

“Don’t assume that your performance in any of these types of situations had to be to count as having ‘gone well.’ Just the fact that you made an effort to do something for the first time, or do it better than the last time, means that you did great,” says Dority.

When it comes to your career, Dority says the ability to move past the obstacles of fear, lack of confidence, and self-doubt we all experience means you’re ready to overcome all sorts of hurdles in this coming year.

“Thinking about positive events and outcomes gives you an opportunity to identify the actions you took to create good results, so you can make them a part of your regular behaviors,” she adds.

2 – What went badly last year – and why?

When it comes to mistakes and failures, it’s smart to pay attention to the words of two entrepreneurial titans: Henry Ford and Richard Branson.

Ford, who invented the automobile industry as we know it, stated that “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” And Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic airline, and hundreds of other successful companies, says “do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and try again.”

Dority says if this mindset works for them, it can work for everyone else as well.

“To grow, you’re going to have to stretch beyond what you already know, know how to do, know how to manage. And when you stretch, there’s a good likelihood that you’re going to fail now and then,” says Dority. “But your job is to congratulate yourself for the fact that you tried to do something new or different, then figure out what went wrong and what you can learn from it.”

Dority compares growing a career to learning to ride a bike.  

“You may have taken a few spills, but you figured out after each one how to get a little steadier, a bit better balanced, and how to gain a little more traction,” she says. “Your career is just like that, and your goal is to pay attention to the lessons learned from missteps, mistakes, and failures to keep getting better…and better…and better.”

3 – What do I want to learn this year?

Whether healthcare professionals work in nursing, healthcare management, allied heath, or any of the other medical/healthcare disciplines, lifelong learning is going to be a big part of their life. In fact, CE requirements may already be lined out, depending on the state where an individual is employed.

Dority encourages nurses, even if further education isn’t required, to keep mastering new information and skills on a regular basis.

“The broader your skill set, the more extensive your professional opportunities and job options,” she says.

Given the increased use of workplace robotics, smart technologies, and advanced automation, Dority says it makes sense to learn as much as possible about these trends to be prepared.

Dority recommends asking yourself these questions:

Is there a skill I could learn that might open up promotion opportunities?

Might this be a good year to learn more about a specific specialization, such as project management, or medical data systems, or patient-centered productivity technologies?

“You don’t have to focus your learning solely on nursing,” she adds. “Keep in mind that soft skills will be as important to your career advancement as your ‘domain’ or nursing-specific skills, so this may be the year to take that course on change management or leading diverse teams or emotional intelligence in the workplace.”

Dority’s action item: ask yourself what you want to learn, how and when you’ll learn it, and how you’ll apply or practice your newly mastered skill.

4 – Who do I want to meet this year?

Your Network Is Your Net Worth is both the title of a book by Porter Gale and the focus of countless business articles that all make the same point. The broader, deeper, and stronger a person’s professional network, the more quickly they meet their career goals.

“As you think about your network, consider what connections might help you take your career and job options to the next level,” she says.

Dority suggests healthcare professionals consider getting involved in the local chapters of professional associations to meet people who could provide insights about other local employers or even career paths. Or consider volunteering in an area of interest – for example, volunteer at the local community clinic to connect with people who can help you learn more about health issues among underserved populations.

Another option is to become active in the American Sentinel Alumni LinkedIn group and reach out to fellow grads to learn how they’ve successfully navigated their career challenges.

“Your network connections are often the best way to find out about and land jobs, but they can also be a great source of professional advice and insights. So ask yourself who you might like to connect with this year, and how you might accomplish that,” says Dority. At the same time, don’t forget to consider how you might be able to help others in your network achieve their career goals.

5 – How do I want to challenge myself this year?

“You already know how to do what you do well, you’re confident in your skills, and you’re well past the anxiety that comes with starting a new job or responsibility. It’s tempting to feel like you’ve hit your professional, sweet spot and coast from now on, but it’s important to get out of your comfort zone,” Dority says.

Nurses and healthcare professionals risk slowing down while the rest of the nursing and healthcare profession is speeding up and being left behind.

“If you want to keep your career moving forward, your only option is to keep learning, growing, and challenging yourself to master something new. That might be a new nursing procedure, a new professional specialization, or even a new behavior or attitude.”

But most important, “Keep focused on just developing and maintaining a habit of continuously challenging yourself to grow.”

Check out American Sentinel University’s nursing professional series blog for more tips.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online nursing degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNP program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Accrediting Commission of DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.