Q. I was recently hired as an RN! I read your blog and find it helpful. I have some ideas about what I should keep in mind and I want to translate them into goals but I would like to hear from a seasoned person. Any suggestions?
A. Congratulations! Your first job out of college is an accomplishment: you have achieved your goal and are launching a career you dreamed about for so long! It's great that you are already setting goals. Here are some suggestions:
1. Arrive 15 minutes early: You will have time grab a coffee, take a deep breath, and adjust what you are wearing. Your punctuality will pay off, and gradually earn you respect. Best of all, once you make this a habit, you will be the one person they can count on to get there on time, even when a traffic jam or bad weather delays your co-workers.
2. Smile and show gratitude: Everywhere you go, there are people who are suffering, especially in a healthcare facility. We often don't know the burdens our colleagues carry (a sick child, financial woes, anxiety and depression). Take time to smile and acknowledge your co-workers and the people you serve.
3. Find a mentor: Take some time but get to know someone on your shift who is doing it right. Let them know what you admire about their work and ask if they would be willing to give you some pointers. Be respectful of their time but don't be shy about asking questions.
4. Hold your cards close: It's tempting to complain or gossip with co-workers, especially on days you feel insecure or upset. You will want to have someone who you can lean on, but it's important in a competitive or high-stress work place to keep it professional. Find a confidant outside the workplace who is willing to be your sounding board.
5. Dress your best: You will probably wear a uniform, but aim to look more like you are about to give a presentation than someone shuffling around in bedroom slippers. Hair, jewelry, tailoring and makeup will all make a statement about you. Not to mention your polished appearance can brighten a patient's day.
6. Expect you will make mistakes: Give yourself lots of positive reinforcement when you are learning a new job and things go wrong ("It's OK, life isn't perfect"). Know there is always more to learn.
7. Seek out training: You will have continuing medical education requirements, but if you discover an area where you need additional skills, look for an opportunity to get them -- perhaps online, through human resource training programs, or your professional organization.
8. Hold back and step up: Balance is key in a new job. You don't want to show off, but if you get asked to take on a special task, or see an opportunity to make something better, go ahead and, as Sheryl Sandburg would say, lean in to it.
9. Know where you are going next: You mentioned you are setting some goals for yourself. It's a good idea to start looking up the career ladder -- know what your skills are worth and what options exist for you on the next rung.
10. Work hard: I probably should have started here, but if you strive to be the best nurse you can be, all the rest follows. You are there to do the job that you, and only you, can do. You go!