Six Steps to Getting the Most from Your Job

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Every job you have holds opportunities for personal and professional development. You can go to work each day, put in your time and follow your job description to the letter, or you can look for ways to maximize your opportunities and experience. There are many ways to make your work more interesting, exciting, and rewarding without changing employers. Here are six ways to get the most from any job.

1. Accumulate experience.

Look for the chance to try new things and learn something. Offer to work on the schedule, budget, or special projects. You never know when you’ll use that knowledge and those skills in the future. Volunteer to work at health screenings or do community education.

You might wonder, “Why should I do more for my employer than is in my job description?” I’m not suggesting you do it for your employer. Rather, do it for yourself. Adopt the attitude of “What can I learn while I’m here?” Consider your current post as a training ground for your next job or position, even if you don’t know where or what that will be. Accumulating experience is a way to build a great resume, boost your self-confidence, discover what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at, and make your job more interesting.

2. Get on interdisciplinary committees.

Many committees exist in every facility, such as ethics, recruitment and retention, policies and procedures, and patient care evaluation. Choose one or two that interest you and volunteer to represent your department or unit. Talk to your nurse manager or supervisor about it. While some nurses feel they don’t have time to do committee work, the occasional meeting you have to attend gives you a break from your usual routine. Committees keep you visible within your facility and give you an opportunity to influence the bigger picture. Committees are often the place where new ideas are initiated and implemented. Many facility problems are solved here, too.

3. Participate in social gatherings.

Whether it’s a retirement or award dinner, a holiday party, a summer picnic, or a department get-together, work-related social events offer many benefits. They give you the chance to develop closer ties with your coworkers. In any relationship, it’s the good times that help you get through the tough moments. Plus, these events offer a chance to rub elbows with higher-ups in the company whom you might not otherwise have access to. Although social events are not the time to discuss work-related issues, you can have friendly conversations and make valuable contacts with influential people. Social events are a good way to let off steam, too. Of course, dressing and acting appropriately at these events are key. There are many books available on workplace etiquette that can help with this.

4. Look for opportunities right in your own backyard.

Some people believe they need to change employers to seek new opportunities and challenges. Why not look for them in your own facility? Ask nurses in other departments what they do, and also ask them to let you know about openings.

If a new department or division is opening, let your manager know you may be interested. Don’t wait for a job to be posted — it may be too late. A former colleague had worked for the same facility for more than 20 years, and in that period she had about eight different positions within the organization. She simply availed herself of numerous opportunities as they presented themselves. Often, there’s much that’s right under your own nose.

5. Develop special talents and interests.

If you’re a good teacher or have always thought you’d like to do some teaching, offer to be a preceptor, present at grand rounds, or be responsible for your department inservice. Do you have an idea for a patient-teaching tool? Draft something and present it to your supervisor. If you’re a good writer or want to develop those skills, consider becoming a roving reporter for the employee newsletter. If you’re good at organizing, look for projects to highlight your strong points. All these things make your job more interesting and fun. They’re also a great way to highlight your talents and show the higher-ups what you can do.

6. Get to know people from other disciplines.

Professional relationship building is something often overlooked by nurses. We work with a lot of people each day, but often don’t take time to get to know them. Have lunch with pharmacists, social workers, physical therapists, and lab professionals. Don’t forget about people in the finance and marketing departments, as well as others. Get to know them and more about their profession. Rather than building territorial walls, break down barriers. Learn how you can work together for better outcomes.

Wherever you are right now, and wherever you find yourself in the future, make the most of any position you have. You’ll be happier, more fulfilled, and better prepared for your next move. And that’s the key to career success!


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