How Can I Change Course in my Nursing Career?

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Clarissa from Chamberlain College of Nursing asks:

“I am currently enrolled to obtain my MSN-FNP, but am having second thoughts. I want to change my career path to Nurse Educator or Nurse Executive, and then at a later juncture, obtain the FNP. What should I do?”

Thanks for the question, Clarissa.  It is your career so you can do whatever you wish. However, as a career coach, I always want to understand the “why” so I can know more about the client’s motivations and desires.

This information is always insightful and allows a coach, like me, to ask better questions to then offer better advice (or strategies) to a client.  Unfortunately, in your case, I don’t know the motivations behind your desire to change course in your career.  Again, it is okay to transition from one path to another at any stage in your career.  People change careers all time, and in most cases, the career shift is from one industry to a completely different one.  Your transition is within the same field so it will be easier to be sure.

Like many, I, too, have completed a successful career transition.  I have been a career coach/trainer/teacher for over ten years, but previously worked in the sports marketing/management industry for over fifteen years through a variety of marketing and sales roles.  My career transition took over a year until I reached the starting point in my new field.  During that year, I did a great deal of work to build my marketability to pursue a career more in line with my interests (i.e. career coaching/teaching/training).  In your case, you are looking to stay in nursing, which will likely take you much less time to achieve your goal.  No different than me and millions of others, you can easily adjust your career plan to move your career forward with a strong plan and consistent action to reach the desired goal.

Detailed below are some suggestions on how you can change the course of your nursing career.

Talk with Your Academic Advisor and Professors

You’ll want to contact your current academic advisor to discuss your change as it certainly will affect your degree program.  It isn’t clear if your change means that you will no longer be pursuing a degree.  However, if you are continuing in another degree track or focus area, then your academic advisor will help you understand what you’ll need to do to stay on course for your degree in the new area.

Also, make sure to get to know your nursing professors.  Take advantage of their office hours by visiting occasionally as needed to ask for their advice and guidance. These experienced professionals can help you sort through your thoughts to determine if your desired career change is in your best interests.  Furthermore, if they get to know you, they might be willing to serve as a mentor, or at the very least, offer valuable insight and advice along with introductions to contacts in your desired field (nursing) that can be a springboard to landing your first job in your field.  Lastly, these individuals may be willing to also serve as a professional reference by receiving calls and / or emails from prospective employers as a part of a background check during the hiring process.

Discuss Your Feelings with Your Parents

It is important to tell your parents how you feel about your academic and life choices.  Ultimately, it is your career, not your parents’, but you likely will need their support during the journey.  Be open and honest to share your true interests, especially if these interests have changed or might alter your degree program.  If you are into becoming a nurse educator and/or nurse executive and that is what gets you excited, then go for it.  However, show your parents your passion, while building your case for your employability upon graduation.  Your parents want the best for you so know their advice is focused on what they think is best for you.  Through your career center or individual research, you can likely show that your chosen field is growing with a strong employment outlook upon graduation.  Your parents will like that you’ve researched the viability of your targeted occupation.

Conduct Informational Interviews

Identify individuals who are already doing the type of work you aspire to do and contact them to line up an informational interview.  Individuals, especially those working in your desired field as a nurse educator and/or nurse executive, are the greatest resource to help you advance your career.  Connecting with established professionals in your field through an informational interview can allow you to get some great advice to help you build your career plan.  Who better to be talking to than someone doing what you’d like to do?

Informational interviews can be conducted in person, via telephone or Skype, via email, or anywhere someone can provide you with meaningful advice.  Develop a list of questions to gain the information / advice you are seeking, but let the conversation evolve through a relaxed, spontaneous discussion.  Be respectful to honor the time frame the individual has allotted.  Lastly, send a thank you note after the information interview to thank them for their time and professional courtesy.

Informational interviews can help you sort through your thoughts by speaking with someone who is currently doing what you want to do.  It will be a great supplement to all of the other information that you are acquiring to make the right career decision at this stage of your career.

Contact Your Career Center for Guidance

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to current students at no additional cost.  Simply put, students, like you, should leverage their career center as it is a valuable resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Your university’s career center can likely provide some further insight to help you develop strategies to assist you to better understand how to change course in your career. Tap into this resource and speak with someone soon.

Understand the Employment Outlook and Projected Salaries

As mentioned earlier, you didn’t indicate “why” you are looking to make the change in your career.  I am guessing that maybe you are anxious to get working, rather than spend another year or two in the classroom and in practicums.  If this is the case, then you should conduct some research using some online tools that will give you a deep understanding of each career including common responsibilities, required skills, necessary credentialing, salary spectrum, employment outlook, and much more.

One great site to help you understand the three different occupations is O-NET Online.  Through O-Net, you can conduct a deep dive to gain great insight into each of these occupations.  The information you gain will help you make informed decisions about your career pursuits.

For example, of the three occupations, the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) has highest projected salary spectrum with a low of $73,090 and a high of $208,000.  The employment outlook for this occupation and the other two is bright indicating that they are growing at a rapid rate.  This is great news regardless of what you decide to do.

While salary isn’t the only consideration, it something that many are interested in as they make career decisions.  It is important to note that the FNP requires the most education of the three occupations you are considering.

Putting It All Together

Making the right career choices can be confusing and anxiety-inducing.  However, it is important to recognize that there is no wrong move here.  There can be “better” choices, but nothing you do is “wrong”.  Start the process of investigating your career change by speaking with your academic advisor, nursing professors, your parents, career center, and more.  All of these discussions will help you sort through your thoughts to reach the right conclusion at this stage of your career.  You’ve got this, Clarissa!

Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon



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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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