The time has come. You’re about to enroll in a new healthcare program. Or, perhaps you’re transitioning to a more advanced position in healthcare. Either way, you’re excited because you’re about to embark on a new venture. Suddenly, fear creeps in, as you question whether you’re truly ready for this journey. You wonder whether you’re up for the challenges that will accompany your new role.
It’s normal to second-guess yourself. I’ve been there, too.
When I first started out as a registered nurse, I dealt with numerous challenges that caused my confidence to fluctuate. But with perseverance, I overcame these obstacles. Over time, it became clear to me that my journey would have been less frustrating had I been more prepared. Besides obtaining a degree in nursing, I had no real strategy in terms of my career.
I’ve learned that you can increase your chances of success in healthcare by building a career strategy based on goals, guidance, and networking.
1. Goals keep you grounded
American poet and historian Bill Copeland once said, “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
So, the first order of business is to create long- and short-term goals for your healthcare career.
Long-term goals take at least one year to achieve. When setting them, ask yourself: Where do I want to be one, five, or even 10 years from now?
For example, do you want to:
- Attain a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree in a healthcare field?
- Become an executive or leader for a healthcare organization?
- Be a top healthcare keynote speaker?
- Earn at least six figures?
To reach your long-term goals, you will need to set incremental goals, which are essentially building blocks or stepping stones. You can also break down your long-term goals into a series of short-term goals.
Short-term goals are accomplished in less than one year, and should be aimed at helping you achieve your long-term goals.
Examples of short-term goals include:
- Joining a public speaking group
- Improving your work performance
- Strengthening your team-work abilities
- Gaining insider industry knowledge via an entry-level or volunteer position
Be SMART when creating goals
The SMART goal setting model lets you establish Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based goals, whether for the long or short term.
Let’s say you’re a registered nurse (RN) on the verge of becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP). Using the SMART goal setting model might look something like this for you:
- Specific: Be clear about what you want to achieve, e.g., I want to become an FNP who works in a rural health clinic.
- Measurable: Establish milestones for reaching your goal, e.g., I will finish this semester, which will bring me another step closer to graduating. Additionally, I will shadow at least two rural health providers to increase my clinical knowledge.
- Achievable: See if you have the resources (such as money and time) to meet the goal now, or whether it needs to be postponed. Also, make sure the goal is realistic, e.g., I will change my work status to part-time, which will allow me to focus on my RN-MSN program as well as networking opportunities.
- Relevant: Ensure the goal aligns with your long-term objectives, e.g., Finishing my program and networking with providers will help me get my dream job as a rural health FNP.
- Time-Based: Prioritize your goal by setting a deadline to achieve it, e.g., I will successfully complete my RN-MSN program by the anticipated graduation date. Further, I will have a job offer waiting for me when I pass my board exam.
As you set out to achieve your SMART goals, you may face obstacles that provoke self-doubt and insecurity. Fortunately, you don’t have to battle these hurdles on your own. A mentor can support you and help fast-track your journey to success.
2. Guidance keeps you confident
Research has found that employees who have mentors are five times more likely to be promoted than those who don’t. Why? Because a mentor can tell you what to expect, relate challenges they’ve encountered, and provide guidance on how to avoid costly mistakes. Ultimately, a great mentor can help you boost your performance at work.
The best mentorships occur naturally
As a new registered nurse, I gravitated towards the leadership style of my charge nurse. She had a unique way of motivating her staff and negotiating with other nursing units. I always felt comfortable seeking her input on professional matters, including challenges I was facing. Her insight enhanced my decision-making skills and my confidence as a nurse.
Our mentorship developed organically. In fact, when I told her that I considered her a mentor, she chuckled, “That’s so formal! I’m just happy to help.”
Finding a mentor
It’s important to seek mentorship as early as possible in your career journey, to avoid feeling lost, frustrated, and alone. For example, if there’s a colleague or leader whose expertise you admire, do not be afraid to ask them for guidance.
See if your employer offers a formal mentorship program and, if so, consider joining. If you’re a student, you can speak with your school’s career advisor. The advisor may be able to connect you with a healthcare professional who can help you better understand your desired role.
Making the most of mentorship
It’s a privilege to have a great mentor who invests time and effort into your professional development. Return the favor by being an amazing mentee.
- Show genuine interest in your mentor’s professional life, such as their current projects.
- Offer your input on certain workplace or industry issues.
- Give sincere compliments or small gifts as tokens of your appreciation.
- Ask if you can help them with any tasks.
- Keep in touch regularly.
Equipped with solid goals and a supportive mentor, you’re well on your way to a successful career in healthcare. All that’s left is a strong professional network to keep the flow of opportunities running.
3. An expansive network keeps you competitive
Often, people think of networking when they’re actively looking for a job. However, networking is also about maintaining and expanding your professional connections throughout your career.
You can form business connections through:
- Healthcare associations
- Social media platforms
- Online discussion groups
- Industry conferences
- Your degree or certificate program
Stay active in your professional network by contributing valuable information. You might, for example, share how a workplace project you spearheaded has helped improve patient satisfaction.
The people in your network are likely to hold you in high esteem if you consistently deliver credible information that might benefit them in some way. Moreover, healthcare leaders in your network may view you as a viable candidate for future career opportunities.
Congratulations on making the decision to transition into a new healthcare role! But remember, to make the most of your career and reduce stress, you’ll need solid goals, a supportive mentor, and a growing professional network.
10 non-clinical healthcare management jobs in demand for 2021
Are leaders born or made?
What is academic burnout and how can you avoid it?
The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) are aligned in their mission to increase access to high-quality education and equity in healthcare