Home > The Practice of Nursing > Career Development > Career Planning

Career Planning

If you don't know much about career planning, it might be best to work through the learning sections in order.

Self-awareness enables you to know who you are, where you are now, the skills you have and where you would like to be.

Opportunity awareness involves using networking and research skills to find out about current opportunities in nursing, as well as potential future options.

Look at ways of matching who you are and where you want to be to potential career options. This stage involves action planning — developing measurable objectives and a plan for how you will meet these objectives, with realistic time scales and evaluation.

Self Awareness 

In order to plan your future career in nursing, it is helpful to know who you are. This requires you to consider some fundamental questions.

What is it that motivates you in life and in your career, and what do you need from work?

What do you like or dislike about your current role?

What do you want to achieve in your career and what are your strengths?

The answers to these questions are fundamental to helping you get on the right track. Being self-aware will help you become confident in your decision-making because you’ll know you are being true to yourself.

The self-awareness learning materials will help you examine your skills, attributes and values — those beliefs that are important to you in life — as well as priorities for your ideal job. After completing the section, you should have a clearer picture of where you are now and where you wish to be in the future. 

Values

At the heart of self-awareness is an understanding of your own values. Values are beliefs about what is important to you in life. You could start by asking yourself why you became a nurse in the first place. Are they the same reasons that you remain in the profession?

Values change over time and are influenced by factors such as age, social status, your role within the family and career decisions.

Some researchers suggest that some values could be ‘introjected values’ – these are unquestioned beliefs that you may have received from other people (such as your parents) in earlier life. Your values may be based on what you think you should believe, rather than what you really want. For example, you may believe that you should:

  • be perfect
  • make upward progress within a hierarchy
  • have a respectable job
  • be more successful than your parents.

Career Values Feedback

You may find that your values fall into similar categories – for example Achievement, Independence and Power and Influence. This may lead you to explore leadership or management roles.

Alternatively, you could find that certain values conflict. For example, your desire for a balanced Lifestyle or to express your Creativity may conflict with your wish or need to have Security of employment. You may therefore have to decide which values you are prepared to sacrifice and those on which you will not compromise. A solution may be to think about how to satisfy those values that cannot be fulfilled in work through hobbies and social activities.

Or you could consider a ‘portfolio career,’ which involves undertaking more than one role – for example working as a complementary therapist for half the week and as a palliative care nurse for the other part of the week.

Now spend some time reflecting on whether your current or most recent role matches your values.

  • If so, how?
  • If not, why not?
  • What do you need to do to help change or adapt to this situation?

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Five Magic Questions

Another useful values exercise is to consider the five magic questions:

  1. What would you do if you only had 12 months to live? (Assume you have already visited all the places you would like, have prepared your friends and relatives of your demise and made peace with your maker.)
  2. What would you do if you had $5 million to spend? (Assume you have sorted out your personal finances and the needs of your family, have given some to charity and you enjoy good health.)
  3. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
  4. If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be? (Consider arts, history, entertainment, politics, etc. You can be male or female, alive or someone from the past, or even someone from literature and films.)
  5. If you were an animal, what would you be and why? (This can include birds, fish, etc.)

Jot down your answers on a piece of paper.

Remember to keep things in perspective: consider the words of famed British author Oscar Wilde: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.

Magic Questions Feedback

What would you do if you only had 12 months to live?

Think about the significance of the answer you gave. What activities did you choose to undertake: is there any way you could incorporate these fantasies into your life? For example, if you chose to travel, could you look at nursing abroad? Could you take a career break to work abroad or undertake voluntary work overseas?

What would you do if you had $5 million to spend?

Think about ways of incorporating your interests and passions into your leisure time.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Ask yourself what’s blocking you from realizing some of your dreams. Are you worried about what other people will think? Are you too scared to take a risk? If so, how can you improve your confidence and self-esteem? What practical obstacles would you need to overcome?

If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?

What are the strengths of the person you chose to be? What can you learn from his/her behaviour and attitudes toward life? What would you choose to imitate?

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

What were the reasons for your choice of animal? With which aspects do you identify? For example, if you chose a bird, do you feel too constrained by your current roles in life? How can you spread your wings and incorporate more freedom into your life – for example, would you rather work outside a hospital environment?

Visit your portfolio and record what you have learned.