The growth of your career as a nurse can be consciously self-generated or simply a result of happenstance and a laissez-faire attitude toward professional development. Neither of these options is necessarily bad in and of themselves, but a thoughtfully sculpted career is definitely fodder for a much richer, more satisfying, and rewarding trajectory.

Whereas employment can often feel like a means to an economic end (i.e., survival), there is also the notion that work is an avenue to self-awareness, a sense of personal pride, contribution to the community and society, and a full engagement in life.

Work, Fear, and Struggle

It is true that, at specific points in life, work serves a particular purpose. But, especially at a young age, before professional training or advanced education, work is often a utilitarian exercise. Yet, at the same time, it can also feed our sense of pride and purpose—and, perhaps, aspirations for more.

Many work ethics are out there, and many of us may be familiar with the so-called Puritan Work Ethic,” which espouses hard work and a frugal lifestyle. But, then, there are also the 21st-century pop culture notions of “The Four-Hour Work Week” and get-rich-quick plans.

Meanwhile, fears and anxieties are frequently experienced by those who grew up during the Great Depression.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, many households have struggled to survive, with breadwinners working multiple jobs in the face of a rising cost of living, frozen wages, and increased difficulty finding health insurance (the Affordable Care Act notwithstanding) or planning for retirement.

Yes, work can feel like something we need to do to survive. But we can also consider how work doesn’t just pay the bills and put food on the table but also how it feeds us on the inside.

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The Continuum of Consciousness

Considering these suppositions, where do you fall on the continuum of consciousness vis-à-vis your nursing career? Are you “sculpting” a career that’s truly meant for you to embody? Or, to the contrary, are you gliding along a track that, while more or less acceptable, seems like it was created for you by those who feel they have the right to dictate your professional pathway?

Along these same lines, is your career driven by something akin to the Puritan Work Ethic, or are you driven by fear, whether it be fear of not having enough, fear of losing status, or fear of being without work?

This continuum of consciousness vis-a-vis our nursing career trajectory can frequently change, perhaps even daily. Some days, you may feel completely connected at work, aware of how you make a difference in the lives of others. On other days, work may feel like a total slog, a chore to complete as quickly as possible, with your blinders fully in place so that you go through your day without much sense of connection or purpose.

The larger arc is what we’re after, no matter what happens daily. Even though it’s no fun to survive those problematic workdays that feel like they’ll never end, if the majority of your work life is positive, growthful, and adding meaning to your life, you’re on the right track.

Sculpting A Nursing Career That Fits

When you consciously sculpt your nursing career, you are the driver, and your decisions create the path ahead of you. And if you’re not exactly sure where you’re going, don’t worry; the path can be created with each step of the journey.

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Sometimes, we follow our intuition, applying for a job because “something” tells us we should give it a try. At other times, a potential position comes into our awareness, and we “know” that the position is the best step towards a future that we’re creating. Our intuition can guide us, and we can consciously seek out opportunities that we feel are the strongest choices for us at this particular time.

The main question is this: are you consciously creating your career, or is your career just happening to you? While it may be OK to coast along from time to time, a consciously created career is the most potentially satisfying.

Paying Attention to Career Arc

So, dear Reader, pay attention to the arc of your career. Have you made good choices? If not, is there a way to remedy that situation? If your current position has you feeling stuck, what can you do to get unstuck? Who can you turn to for advice or support? What action steps can you take to get back on track?

Paying conscious attention is a powerful way to feel like you’re taking the reins of your career. Others’ opinions don’t need to matter much unless you value their opinions. Do you feel like there’s something you need to do because “they” say you “should”? Well, who are “they,” and why do you need to listen to what they say.

Some people function from that above-mentioned place of fear, and others operate from a place of abundance and grace. Which lens would you prefer to look through?

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Take the reins of your career path. Find your place on the continuum of consciousness. Create a career that works for you, and make your nursing career a work of art of which you’re proud.

Water and feed your nursing career with conscious creativity and attention, and it will feed you from the inside out.

Minority Nurse is thrilled is welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column. 

Keith Carlson
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