Perhaps you decided to stay home to spend more time with your young children for several years. Or your elderly parents began to need more attention from you and it’s compromised your ability to work full-time. Or you’ve had a major health setback, and recovery is likely to sideline you for a substantial period of time.
These are all very reasonable (and not unusual) types of career timeouts. You’ve made a personal decision to commit your time and energy to something or someone(s) outside of your career, and that’s most likely a great decision on your part. It’s important to realize, however, that you’ve made a choice to prioritize personal commitments over professional engagement for the time being, and this doesn’t mean that all your hard work building your career has been wasted.
Career timeouts, although they can sometimes be frustrating, don’t have to mean career derailment. By staying professionally engaged and connected within the nursing/healthcare management profession, you’ll be able to keep doors open for you when you’re ready to return.
Regardless of your reasons for stepping away from your career, here are five steps that will keep you professionally viable…
1 – Stay current with industry trends and issues in the nursing/healthcare management field
Set aside a regular time to read about what’s going on in your field. Whether print or online, there are dozens of resources available to help you stay abreast of your professional discipline and maintain your understanding of changes that impact how you’ll work when you step back in.
2 – Maintain your professional memberships
Membership in at least one professional nursing/healthcare management association is key your key to maintaining your network, staying current with issues and emerging trends in your field, and finding potential volunteer opportunities that will signal your ongoing career engagement. Consider them your re-entry lifeline – the knowledge, connections, and potential visibility they can help you maintain while you’re taking your timeout will provide the path back into your career when you’re ready to re-enter.
3 – Stay professionally visible
Attend conferences if you can (especially local/regional ones) and the meetings of the local chapters of your professional nursing/healthcare management associations. Your goal here will be twofold: 1) to stay abreast of current events, topics, and issues by hearing about them being discussed by those “in the trenches,” and 2) to introduce yourself to other attendees to make sure you continue to grow and strengthen your professional network. These people will likely be your best source of job-opening information when you launch your job search. Also, if possible, volunteer to serve on virtual committees for the national nursing/healthcare management associations you belong to in order to keep up your national visibility.
4 – Do occasional projects if you can
Are you a “timing-out” oncology nurse? Health informatics specialist? Nursing trainer? Whatever your nursing/healthcare management skill, consider undertaking occasional fee-based or volunteer projects that use your professional skills. This offers multiple benefits: you’ll be able to point to professional-level work when speaking with an interviewer, you’ll keep your confidence level up, and you’ll be continuing to build your professional network and career brand.
5 – Take courses to maintain the currency of your existing skills, or expand your value with new skills
Check out the degree and certificate programs offered by American Sentinel University for the easiest way to keeping your nursing/healthcare management skills current, then make sure you add the information about your coursework to your LinkedIn profile. But also, consider taking some courses outside the field in order to add unique expertise to your resume, for example, courses in project management, marketing, Spanish, and similarly useful skills to expand your career value. You can usually find these through your local community college or even online through providers like Lynda.com or Udacity.com.
Your goal is to devote just a small, but consistent, amount of time to keeping your career active so that when you do decide to return to the workplace, you haven’t lost all that professional equity you’d built up before you stepped out.
Remember – it’s not a career dropout, it’s a career timeout. You’ve got skills, and we need them!
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.