Career detour decisions require introspection and research
Look before leaping when changing jobs
EDITOR'S NOTE: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is the former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning. Williamson continues to write for Nurse.com and serve in an advisory role.
If you’re thinking about changing jobs, there are questions you should ask yourself and decisions you have to make. Is this the right time to make a move? Is a new job my next best career step? Am I leaving my job for the right reasons? Am I ready to start a search? The good news is you’re not the first person who has had these questions and the answers aren't too hard to find.
We all worry about tenure and the negative connotation of being a “job hopper,” but it seems the days of having one or two employers in our careers, or staying long enough to earn the gold watch and be toasted at a retirement dinner are over. In 2016, the median number of years wage and salaried workers had been with their current employers was 4.2 years — down from 4.6 years in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Each job you have during your nursing career is not the sum-total of your work history, but an important building block of what will be your nursing story. We need to give each one our best, then know when it’s time to move on. As you consider making a change, it’s important to know all people don’t make job changes for the same reasons. For some, it’s dissatisfaction with salary, benefits or advancement opportunities. For others, it’s bad hours, bad bosses, too much stress or too little recognition. Some leave because of poor work-life balance, changing family responsibilities or relocations. With all the possible different reasons, one of the first things you need to ask yourself is, "Why do I want to leave?"
A good way to start is to sit down, take a deep breath and clear your head. Take a look at what you’re doing at work each day and ask yourself some questions about your job’s positives and negatives.
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Should I stay or go?
Taking stock
Is it helping you grow and develop; gain experience; move your career forward?
Is it a job you’ll be proud to have on your resume or CV in the future?
Is it helping you learn new things and increase your knowledge?
Have you given it your best and has it made you a better nurse?
Are you bored or dissatisfied or is what you’re doing no longer challenging or fulfilling?
How you answer these questions should help you decide if the time is right to move on. A recent U.S. News & World Report article said it’s best to start looking for a new job while you’re still happy in your current one, so being honest in your answers will help you know if it’s time to start looking.
Once you’ve made your decision, focus on what you want and don’t want in the next job and start the hunt. Remember, nurse recruiters are there to help you get the job that’s best for you. Talk with them; tell them how you feel, where you are in your career planning, what you’ve been doing and what you’d like to see yourself doing in the next few years and beyond. In interviews, you’re being evaluated and you need to do some evaluating of prospective new employers, too. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions.   In the end, the facility you want may not have the job that’s right for you, but the more interviews you go on, the better you’ll get at interviewing. Recruiters work hard to attract the best hires to their facilities, and you need to be attractive to the best facilities.
Starting the hunt
  • Be optimistic about your move if you're convinced it’s for the right reasons at the right time.
  • Be honest at the outset about problems or barriers that may preclude making this change.
  • Be committed to the change and to investing the time, work and emotion it will require.
  • Be willing to give the job search your best and do all you can to make it a successful one.  
  • Be sure you know all the financial issues you may encounter during the job transition.  
  • Be clear on the facility, location, role, salary, benefits, etc., you want and be ready to articulate them.
  • Be prepared with an updated resume or CV and a list of professional and personal references at interviews.
  • Be ready with questions you want to ask in interviews and prepared for the ones you’ll be asked.
  • Be informed about the things you need to question or agree to before accepting a job offer.
  • Be positive about your decision. Don’t let worrying and angst overtake you and don’t give up.
Some final advice
Each job you have during your nursing career is not the sum-total of your work history, but an important building block of what will be your nursing story. We need to give each one our best, then know when it’s time to move on. ”
— Eileen Williamson, RN

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By Eileen P. Williamson
MSN, RN
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© 2018 OnCourse Learning Corp. All rights reserved
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