By Sheng Wang
When it comes to careers, there is no universal formula for a success. However, there are plenty of things that you can do to stay focused, avoid pitfalls, and increase your chances of leading the professional life of your dreams.
Perform a thorough career assessment at least once a year. Even if you're perfectly happy with your job, it's still important to plan for the future. What new skills have you learned? Are your career goals compatible with your personal life and future plans? Do you still want to be doing your current job in another year, five years? For an outsider's perspective, discuss your current situation and future plans with a mentor, coworker, family member, or friend.
After your self-assessment, write down your career goals, the actions you need to take to reach those goals, and the amount of time required. Consult your list periodically to make sure that you're staying on track. If you have a specific job in mind, look up the necessary skills and qualifications, and start acquiring the qualifications you need. If you already possess some of the skills needed for your dream job, take on some projects that will allow you to demonstrate your abilities. You can also discreetly observe someone who's already working at your dream job, and note the traits that make that person successful.
Learn the Rules and Follow Them
Make sure that you know and follow all the policies and guidelines set out by your professional organization, along with the specific rules of your workplace.
Of course, there are also plenty of unwritten rules in the workplace. The most important one is to be professional at all times, which means behaving and dressing appropriately, watching your language, and respecting your coworkers and patients. Enjoy yourself at staff parties, but remember that you're still among coworkers and don't do anything that could tarnish your professional image.
Bringing a patient back from the brink of death isn't the only way to impress your boss. Instead of aiming for spectacular accomplishments, focus on being punctual, cooperating with others, and doing your best work every single day. When promotion time rolls around, your track record as someone who's competent, reliable, and easy to work with will not go unnoticed.
Go Above and Beyond
However, to really stand out in the crowd, you'll need to do more than what's listed on your job description. Make yourself helpful by working overtime when needed, training new staff, and participating in committees … but don't take on more than you can handle, and don't make yourself a doormat!
It's also a good idea to be selective about where to devote your time and energy. Find out your supervisor's priorities (e.g. patient advocacy, implementing the latest technology, securing funding for the hospital) and focus your energy on projects that will further those aims.
Commit to Learning
In healthcare, learning about new drugs, procedures, and technological developments is already part of the job description. But don't just learn the minimum amount you need to get by! Be proactive and take additional courses to increase your repertoire of procedures and skills. Also read up on the latest research, and attend lectures and conferences to learn about new developments.
Some skills that are not directly related to your job duties can also give you a competitive edge. Examples include being unusually computer savvy, speaking another language, or having conflict resolution expertise.
Look at the Big Picture
As we mentioned in Moving On Up!, developing a broader understanding of your clinic or hospital's inner workings is crucial to your advancement. Similarly, it's important to keep abreast of changes within the healthcare system and understand the forces that drive them (e.g. R&D, organizational development, public policy, population trends, and funding). Not only will you be able to predict future trends, but also how to turn them into opportunities for yourself.
Be Considerate of Others
Be polite and respectful towards all your coworkers, including (and especially) your subordinates. Avoid personality conflicts, malicious gossip, and chronic complainers. When conflicts arise at work, focus on solving the problem, and not on placing blame.
Remember that you're part of a team, and think about the consequences your actions will have on your coworkers. When you go on vacation, minimize the amount of work you leave for others, and be sure to thank them for their help. Working well with others not only boosts your likeability, but also demonstrates leadership potential.
Networking is not only the best way of finding jobs, but also a great way of getting career-related advice, staying up-to-date on employment trends, and making yourself visible inside and outside your workplace.
Within your own workplace, lunchroom chats can help build camaraderie with your coworkers and keep you updated on the latest happenings in the hospital. Since it will help you gain a better understanding of how the hospital operates as a whole, it's also a good idea to socialize with staff from other departments.
Outside work, stay in touch with your old professors, classmates, and colleagues. Also take advantage of the networking opportunities presented by conferences, association meetings, and other gatherings. Attend career fairs, even when you don't plan to change jobs, since they are a great place to learn about the latest employment trends and – you guessed it – network.
Joining and being active in a professional organization can provide you with career guidance and a valuable network of contacts. Online professional forums can also be a useful source of information.
Be Open to Unexpected Opportunities
What if a tempting opening becomes available, but isn't quite everything you've dreamed of? Consider all the merits and drawbacks of the position without any preconceived ideas, which can blind you to excellent opportunities. Could this job help you develop important skills, and function as a stepping stone towards your dream job? If the job doesn't fit your current career track, does it lead onto a different path you'd like to explore? Keep your mind open to all possibilities. Many people have found their dream jobs by because they were willing to try something new.
Also see our earlier article: Moving On Up!.
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