Being a nurse is a wonderful career and avocation. In the course of attempting to build an amenable lifestyle and workstyle, things can get confusing, but there are plenty of resources for the earnest nursing professional who wants support in taking their career to the next level.

(Note: content from this podcast episode is based on a previously published blog post.)

In 1970, author and career guru Richard Nelson Bolles self-published the seminal book, What Color is Your Parachute, and it’s now available in a 2019 edition — and in 22 languages!

The updated edition for 21st-century job-seekers of all stripes, Bolles waxes poetic about the many changes to the job market and the job search process have changed. In fact, his recommendations and advice are actually quite aligned with my own outlook as a holistic career coach.

These days, when a resume or application is submitted online by an applicant, they often enter a digital black hole. So many nurses tell me stories of how their resumes and applications are completely unacknowledged by the companies to which they’re applying. They say the rings of Saturn are made of lost airline luggage and socks that disappear in the dryer, but perhaps they’re actually made of resumes and electronic job applications.

According to Mr. Bolles, trying the same old thing when it has ceased working makes no sense. Here are his words on the subject:

If you’ve tried as hard as you can to find a job and nothing is working, stop looking for explanations. The remedy is staring you in the face: you need to switch approaches. 

Bolles calls the old way of looking for a job “The Traditional Approach.” This entails:

  1. Looking at job postings online or in print
  2. Sending in an application or resume
  3. Wait for responses
  4. Rinse and repeat

Bolles’ calls his fresh way of looking for work “The Parachute Approach,” which closely aligns with the opinions I’ve shared on this blog and on my podcast, The Nurse Keith Show for the last number of years. This entails the following paraphrased steps:

  1. Figure out who you are (with or without the help of a coach or other professional)
  2. Identify your gifts and strengths
  3. Look for organizations that match you
  4. Don’t wait until they have a vacancy — find a “bridge person” to get you in the door

My approach to the job search process is much like Mr. Bolles’s. My recommended job search and career growth process is like a three-legged stool (no, not that kind of stool) — and remember that a stool with only one or two legs will fall over and be an unsafe place to sit. 

Leg 1: You make sure that the tools in your nursing career toolbox are sharp and ready to use at all times. Your career toolbox includes:

  • Your resume
  • A skeleton cover letter that can be edited and tweaked as needed
  • A business card (yes, yes, you need one)
  • Your LinkedIn profile
  • Your robust professional network
  • Your personal and professional skill set

Leg 2: For this leg of the “stool”, you find job postings, submit applications and resumes, and repeat the process — this is where most people usually stop, but it’s only the beginning.

Leg 3: This part is multifaceted, as should be expected. To wit,

  • You learn how to use LinkedIn and other social media platforms to meet like-minded professionals. 
  • You expand upon Mr. Bolles’s idea of finding a “bridge person” to help you get a foot in the door of an organization or facility you’re interested in. This involves learning how to request informational interviews (another strong suggestion by Bolles) and find out how to make yourself the most attractive candidate possible for the employer you’re targeting. 
  • If you’re wanting to make a change in nursing specialties or go back to school to accumulate  more credentials, knowledge, and/or skills, interview people who do the thing(s) you’re interested in and pick their brain to find out if, 1) you really want to do that thing, and 2) what they learned from the manner in which they went about getting to where they are now. This can help you learn from others’ mistakes, not reinvent the wheel, and avoid entering an academic program or pursuing a specialty that won’t be what you think and may not provide the fulfillment and satisfaction you’re hungry for. 
  • This is all about doing your due diligence, saving yourself unnecessary effort, and setting yourself up for success rather than disappointment. Remember that information is your friend — gather data and find out as much as you can rather than making a blind choice. 

None of the three legs will likely do the trick entirely on its own since it’s generally a some combination of aspects of the three that will move the needle for you and your nursing career. While one step or strategy may end up being your silver bullet, that’s generally an unlikely outcome for most people. Leg 1 is usually absolutely essential except for certain rare circumstances, and it’s my belief that some parts of Leg 3 are going to be essential for the majority of job seekers.

Bolles’s shares:

Use this opportunity. Make this not only a hunt for a job, but a hunt for a life. A deeper life, a victorious life, a life you’re prouder of.

Please tune into the episode for further reflections and advice.

This episode of The Nurse Keith Show is brought to you by Rasmussen College and their online RN to BSN nursing program, which is designed for working registered nurses who want to earn their BSN while balancing family, work, and school.

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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

In case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses.

From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at NurseKeith.com.