Five Questions to Move Your Career Forward in 2017

Five Questions to Move Your Career Forward in 2017

One of the best things about a new year is that it offers a chance to stop and assess how things are going in your life. The usual targets for improvement are health and finances – but how about this year focusing on your career as well? The following questions will help you get things rolling!

1 – What went well last year – and why?

What were 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 really important.

Did you speak up at a staff meeting for the first time and contribute a new idea, or add value to the ideas of others? Did you volunteer for an interdepartmental committee that let you meet new colleagues and perhaps demonstrate (or learn) a new skill? Did you overcome your fear of public speaking and give a staff presentation?

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

Why? Because when it comes to your career, your 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.

Plus, thinking about positive events and outcomes gives you an opportunity to identify the things you did to create good outcomes, so you can make them a part of your regular behaviors.

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 basically 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, 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.”

Hey, if it works for them, it can work for us as well, right?

The point for all of us is that in order to grow we’re going to have to stretch – 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, everything from a small flub to a major face-plant. Your job is to first 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.

In some ways, growing your career is similar to the process you went through learning to ride a bike. Yep, you may have taken a few spills (okay, some of us took a lot of spills!), but you figured out after each one how to get a little steadier, a little better balanced, a little more traction. Your career is pretty much just like that – your goal is to pay attention to the lessons learned from missteps, mistakes, and failures in order to keep getting better…and better…and better.

3 – What do I want to learn this year?

Whether you’re in nursing, healthcare management, allied heath, or any of the other medical/healthcare disciplines, lifelong learning is going to be a big part of your life. In fact, CE requirements may already be lined out for you, depending on the state in which you’re employed.

However, even if further education weren’t required by your state, it’s still smart to keep mastering new information and skills on a regular basis.

Why? Because the broader your skill set, the broader your professional opportunities – and job options. For example, given the increasing implementation of workplace robotics, smart technologies, and advanced automation, doesn’t it make sense to learn as much as you can about these trends so you’ll be prepared (and ready to step up)?

Is there a skill that might open up promotion opportunities for you? Might this be a good year to learn more about project management, or medical data systems, or patient-centered productivity technologies? You don’t have to focus your learning solely on nursing. Also 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. And it’s always the right time to learn an additional language.

Your 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 basically make the same point – the broader, deeper, and stronger your professional network, the more easily you’ll meet your career (and financial) goals.

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

Would getting involved in the local chapter of your professional association introduce you to people who could give you insights into other local employers or even career paths? Would volunteering at the local community clinic connect you with people who could help you learn more about health issues among underserved populations, if this were an area of interest for you?

Would becoming active in the American Sentinel Alumni LinkedIn group and reaching out to your fellow grads help you learn from others how they’ve successfully navigated their career challenges?

Yes, 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.

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

Staying in your comfort zone is, well, pretty comfortable. 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.

The problem is, you’ll be slowing down at the same time the rest of the nursing and healthcare profession is speeding up…and you’ll be 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.

The specific challenge you decide on is less important than simply developing and maintaining a habit of continuously challenging yourself to grow. What if you aren’t perfect, no matter how hard you try? See numbers one and two above!

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips. 

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