Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Making the Case For Your Nursing Expertise

In nursing job interviews and other high-stakes career-related interactions, it's your responsibility to make the case for why you're an amazing nurse and the perfect fit for a particular position or healthcare organization. How do you make the case for who you are and what you bring to the table?

Make the case for who you are

Own Your Personal Brand

The first thing to understand is that you represent your own personal brand. In that context, when you're in the nursing and healthcare job markets, you're standing up and proclaiming the power and worth of your brand.

Every nurse or healthcare professional has a brand whether they know it or not, and the savvy ones actually think about and develop their brand over time. Some aspects of your brand include, but are not limited to:
  • Resume, cover letter, and other career-related documents
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Social media and web presence 
  • Networking style
  • Your network/tribe/community
  • Organizations you choose to belong to
  • Community service and volunteerism 
  • Educational background
  • Personality, communication style, etc
  • And so much more
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • What's the nature of my personal/professional brand? 
  • How do I identify myself? 
  • What do I say about myself in my resume and LinkedIn summary? 
  • What's my 30-second elevator pitch about who I am and what makes me tick?
  • How do I want to be perceived as a nursing/healthcare professional?  
  • Why do I think I'm a valuable employee? 
Knowing yourself and what you want to communicate to other professionals is crucial, especially in regard to those who might be your next employer, client, colleague, or collaborator.

It's About Sales

The use of the term "branding" may be a difficult one for some to digest in relation to their nursing career, but it's the best way to describe it. And in the context of personal/professional branding, we can consider the job market and career development processes as being very much akin to the process of sales.

I don't blame you for saying, "Me? A salesperson? But I'm a nurse, not a seller of used cars!" in response. However, when you apply for a job, submit your resume, write a cover letter, and attend a job interview, you're essentially selling yourself to that potential employer.

Remember that the thing you're selling is you, and that includes your knowledge, your life experience, your professional background, your expertise, and everything else that defines who you are as a human being, a healthcare professional, and a nurse.

In a crowded job marketplace with stiff competition, learning to be a successful and convincing salesperson is one specific key to nursing career success.

Own Your Value

One secret to making a powerful case about your nursing expertise is to identify, recognize, and own your value. If a potential employer wants you to explain why you're the best fit for a position with 56 applicants, you need to be able to clearly and effectively articulate what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Identify it:

In order to identify what's superlative about yourself as a nurse and a human being, you need to take a relatively objective look at who you are and how you came to be the person and nurse you are today.

Consider doing a 360-degree review of your nursing career, analyzing and compiling a list (or lists) of your certifications, training, education, knowledge and experience. Remember that so-called "soft skills" like communication, management, and emotional intelligence are just as important as "hard skills" like venipuncture and catheter insertion.

Recognize it:

Once you've identified, qualified, and quantified your nursing career profile, the next step is to recognize the very fact of your expertise, experience, knowledge, and ultimate marketability. You can have an alphabet soup of letters after your name, but if you don't see your own worth, those letters serve little purpose. For example, you need to not only acknowledge that you took the CCRN certification course, but you actually passed with flying colors and are a critical care leader in your institution.

Own it: 

After identifying and recognizing your worth and value, the next giant step is to own it. By saying "own it", I mean you need to find the presence of mind to internalize and "own" who you are -- this means that you choose to develop the ability to speak matter-of-factly about your accomplishments and skills, letting go of any shame, embarrassment, or self-defeating thoughts or beliefs that get in your way.

The Return on Investment

There are two returns on investment (ROI) that are important to discuss at this point. The first is the notion that you have to put something into the pot in order to produce a meal -- in essence, you need to do the hard work when it comes to earning those certifications, practicing your venipuncture technique, or honing some other crucial skill related to your nursing role(s) -- you invest in yourself and the return on that investment is yours to measure.

Once you've put that skin in the game, you must next convince yourself that these certifications and achievements mean something and that you actually believe what you tell other people about yourself.

The second aspect of ROI means that you can unapologetically look a potential employer or recruiter in the eye and tell them the truth about your amazing experience and expertise. They need to know that you're worth the many thousands of dollars that their institution will shell out in order to onboard you, train you, and integrate you into the organization's culture -- paint the picture for them.

In a job interview, you must have the wherewithal to make the case for why you're the ideal candidate -- this must first come from your own beliefs about yourself and then translate into your ability to say it out loud to someone sitting across a desk from you. Many nurses have trouble tooting their own horn, but this is what's necessary in order to make a forceful case for your own value and the ROI you offer a prospective employer.

You're Worth It

You are indeed the product -- the sum total -- of your experiences, expertise, knowledge, skills, education, and life experience. You also have intuition, your own feeling nature, and a particular brand of nurse-ness.

When you walk into an interview or otherwise attempt to market yourself for a job or promotion, you need to bring it in terms of tooting that horn of yours. These are not moments to be shy, modest, or withholding.

When the potential next chapter of your life and career are there before your very eyes, it's time to step into the limelight and wax poetic about just what a great investment you truly are. A little bravado and some bald-faced self-promotion are called for when you're trying to advance your career -- be an assertive communicator who isn't afraid to stand up and tell it like it is when it comes to what you're all about. Your future awaits you.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com.

Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for Nurse.com, Nurse.org, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, Black Doctor, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog, NursingCE.com, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George. You can follow George the Cat on Instagram using the hashtag, #georgethecatsantafe.

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