Career advice

Has your career taken a wrong turn?

Sometimes it’s good to take stock and check you’re on the right path

Sometimes it’s good to take stock and check you’re on the right path

Picture: iStock

While chatting recently to a former colleague – a woman who I always admired for her knowledge, professionalism and integrity – I was saddened to hear that she now feels somewhat stuck in her career.

She said she still enjoyed her job and acknowledged that she’s good at it, but as the years have passed she has watched people move on to seemingly more exciting roles and has been left wondering ‘is this it?’.

The skills you take for granted

Our conversation highlighted how ‘success’ means different things to all of us. But the most important thing, whether in your career or your personal life, is to create and follow a path that is right for you – not your colleague, friend or neighbour.

There are so many different career paths to choose from as a registered nurse. And just because you start out in one specialty doesn’t mean you can’t make changes along the way.

We are all different – some of us may get great pleasure from being part of a long-standing team and knowing our specialty inside out, while others may feel that doing the same thing for a long period of time narrows their choices and holds them back. As my former colleague described, this can make you doubt your abilities when outside your ‘comfort zone’.

‘From time to time it can be useful to stand back and reflect on the skills you use in your current role’

Regardless of whether you are looking for a change or not, from time to time it can be useful to stand back and reflect on the skills you use in your current role. This might be particularly useful before your appraisal or during your revalidation process. I guarantee you will be surprised by all the qualities and skills you take for granted.

For a start, go through a typical working day and list all the different tasks you contributed to, then break down the steps involved and the skills you used. If you are struggling with this, think how you would describe a task to a student.

As well as emphasising what needs to be done to ensure a smooth process, try to think of how you would do it. What skills would you use? You may come up with a range of organisational, clinical and ‘soft’ skills initially, but dig a bit deeper – for example, how did you document the process? Oh yes, you have IT skills as well.

Where you excel – and areas to develop

To take things a step further, think about the past couple of weeks and ask yourself:

  • When have I felt most confident in the workplace? What was happening at the time and how did I contribute to the situation? What skills did I use? Did it involve leadership, communication, decision-making and clinical skills, for example.
  • When did I feel least confident at work? What was happening, what was my role in it and what skills did I use? What would have helped me feel better about my involvement?
  • Were there situations I would have liked to contribute to but felt I couldn't? For example, I wanted to speak up at a team meeting but thought no one would want to listen to me. What skills would help me do things differently next time? 

Doing these exercises can help you to appreciate all that you achieve, often without realising it, as well as highlighting areas you want to focus your development on. The process may even help you see doors to open that could be the start of a new journey.

Mandy Day-Calder is a life/health coach and former nurse 

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