Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and contractors all have toolboxes. So, as a savvy  professional who doesn’t work in those skilled trades, do you need a toolbox for your career?

Here on The Nurse Keith Show, we’ve talked about some important career-building tools and skills, but now I want to share with you a concept that recently emerged on my blog, Digital Doorway. This concept is the nursing career toolbox.

Do You Need a Career Toolbox?

If you’re a nurse or a professional of any kind, you need a career toolbox. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, partially employed, overemployed, or underemployed, the tools in your toolbox need to be fed, watered, oiled, cleaned, checked, and updated on a regular basis—no questions asked.

Your career toolbox doubles as a job search toolbox, but even if you aren’t presently looking for a job, you need this toolbox on active duty, not just gathering dust in the shed.

Jobs come and go in this volatile healthcare climate, and you need to be ready for anything. And even if you’re happily employed, the very ground beneath your feet can shift at any moment.

Also, if a promotion or exciting position comes up at your job, you’ll probably need certain tools at your disposal, so why not have them ready to go, instead of having to stay up all night to meet the application deadline?

Moreover, even if you’re happily and gainfully employed, the job of your dreams may come into your life at any moment, and being able to jump to it and apply quickly and easily would put you in the running much more efficiently.

What’s In Your Toolbox? 

You may want to know what tools you should be honing for your nursing career toolbox, so here are some ideas to ponder…….

Your resume:

No matter how happily employed you are, you should be reviewing, editing, and updating your resume every six months, without fail. If you need reminders, set it in your calendar for every spring and fall when the clocks get turned back or ahead for Daylight Savings Time. This way, when you change the batteries in your smoke alarms, you’ll also hear an internal alarm reminding you to update that resume and charge the batteries of your career. To read a blog post about resumes and hear my podcast about the subject, click here.

Your cover letter:

You need to have a basic cover letter and thank you letter in your computer files so that you can adapt them for a specific position at a moment’s notice.

(Please note: Your cover letters, thank you letters, and resume should be printed using a laser printer on high-quality resume paper. They should also have a matching letterhead with the same contact information.)

Your Linked In profile:

My recent podcast and post regarding Linked In can be found by clicking here. You can also find another blog post here.

Linked In is the 21st-century professional’s window on the world, and you can rest assured that anyone who’s savvy enough will look you up on this platform when you apply for a job or promotion. (They’ll likely also Google you, so make sure those embarrassing vacation pictures on Facebook are hidden from public view.)

If you need to know how to create your own “vanity url” (web address) for your profile, sign up for my newsletter over at the home page of and you’ll receive my 13-page Linked In Profile Makeover, and it contains instructions on how to do that tweak!

Your business card:

Yes, you heard me, nursing professionals—you, yes you, need a business card! Whether you’re employed or not, your business card is a piece of career-building real estate whose importance cannot be overstated. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, and you can have it printed at a local shop (highly recommended in terms of keeping your money as local as possible), or on one of those ubiquitous cheap printing websites. Your card needs to contain your name, credentials, email address, phone number, and the above-mentioned “vanity url” for your profile on Linked In.

Professional contact information:

This is often overlooked, and it drives me nuts. We’re professionals, aren’t we? And you notice that I said “professional contact information”, not “amateur contact information”, right? I said that for a reason.

On your business card, Linked In profile, letterhead, etc, your contact information should lead to sources of contact that are professional in nature, and that include your voicemail and your email. We already discussed a special url for your Linked In profile above, so let’s move on.

An email address stands out on your business card or resume, and potential colleagues or employers may contact you there. Make sure your email is professional, like ““, not ““.

Your email address needs to look professional, and I recommend using Gmail for this purpose, especially since it’s easy to forward to any other email where you want it sent. If you have a common name and Gmail says it’s taken, try adding your middle initial, placing your last name before your first name, or placing a dot between the names, like You can also try, or any combination therein. Also, make sure you have a professional “email signature” at the bottom of all outgoing emails, with contact information, etc.

If you like to have ring-back tones, music, or silly sayings on your outgoing voicemail message, that’s fine, but then don’t use your personal phone for professional reasons. If you open a Gmail account like I recommend, you’ll also have access to Google Voice, and this allows you to have your own free Google Voice phone number. You can create a very professional outgoing message on that number’s voicemail, and you can easily program Google Voice to send you transcriptions of your incoming voicemails (these are pretty funny to try to make sense of). Google Voice will also text and email you with an alert that you have a new message. These messages can then be archived like emails for future reference.

Other tools:

Kevin Ross, my friend, business partner, and intrepid co-host over at RNFM Radio loves to talk tech, and he’s very fond of certain apps. I also have my favorite apps, and we frequently recommend the ones we like best.

I personally recommend using Evernote for archiving links related to nursing, your career, facilities you want to research or visit, articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and other media. If you create that aforementioned Gmail account, I also recommend using Google Drive, where you can have your own personal cloud-based drive where you can store documents, spreadsheets, and other important information for your career development and management. Finally, I also recommend Azendoo, a project management app that works in tandem with Google Drive and Evernote. On Azendoo, you can keep track of career-related tasks, your professional to-do list, and even your networking process and contacts.

Your robust professional network: Just like you need a resume, cover letter, and complete Linked In profile for your optimal career mobility, you also need a solid network of professional contacts. Your network can be comprised of current and former colleagues, connections from Linked In, professionals in other fields, as well as friends and family members. Every professional needs to be consistently building a network throughout their career. My post and podcast about networking can be found at this link.

Your skill set: Your nursing skill set is continuously updating and improving, and this multifaceted skill set is an important aspect of your career (and I don’t just mean clinical skills). Other skills include management and communication skills, computers and technology, networking, your clinical knowledge base, and so much more. Nurses generally don’t rest on their laurels, so build your skills in multiple areas, and make sure your resume and Linked In profile reflect what you’ve learned.

A Career Toolbox Without Limits

Your nursing career toolbox has no limits, and you can perpetually add to it. This toolbox has no physical weight, and it can be carried in your brain (or on your computer hard drive and cloud-based storage).

Nurses’ toolboxes are both literal and figurative. Your resume is a tangible thing when printed, while many of your other skills can’t really be touched or weighed. These tools are equally important at all stages of your career.

A Toolbox for the Present

This toolbox isn’t for later. It’s not something that you plan for the future. You need to construct, populate, and tend to your career toolbox now.

Someone like me or another career coach can always help you with fine-tuning some tools (like your resume or interview skills), and there are lots of free online resources, as well.

Get your nursing career toolbox in order, sharpen those tools, keep them oiled and ready for action, and remain prepared as an intelligent, mobile, and nimble 20th-century nurse.

Please consider leaving a review of The Nurse Keith Show over on iTunes; this helps more nurses and healthcare professionals find the show and benefit from the information being shared. Just visit iTunes, click on the iTunes store, search for The Nurse Keith Show under podcasts, and leave a review, and voila. Thanks!

Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!


Nurse Keith photoKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.



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