Why Nurses Need a Career Coach

Jun 18

Keith Carlson is without a doubt, one of the most influential and knowledgeable voices in modern nursing. His site not only offers helpful resources for nurses, but he also offers career coaching for nurses looking to start, revamp, or advance their careers.

We were able to sit down with Keith to hear his take on why nurses need career coaches, how to choose a great career coach, and the pieces of advice he’s asked most often.

Everyone knows that executives and athletes need coaches. Why would a nurse need a coach?

In my opinion, most everyone can use a coach at certain pivotal moments in their lives and careers. Coaching is all about setting goals and being held accountable for working towards those goals. Just like an athlete can stay more focused when they have a coach to provide encouragement, cajoling, mentoring, and a means to reaching agreed upon goals, a professional nurse can be supported in their career with the help of a skilled career coach.

For example, if a nurse is trying to change nursing specialties and move her career in a new and exciting direction, she'll probably need help to prepare for such a major career move with assiduous planning and plenty of hard work. In my career coaching practice, I focus on nurses (from pre-nursing students to seasoned nurses). We work on all aspects of career growth and development, including but not limited to: resumes and cover letters; LinkedIn mastery; interview skills; entrepreneurship; networking skills; and the visioning process of homing in on what the client really wants to accomplish, both personally and professionally. I also offer high-level coaching regarding the skills involved in public speaking, podcasting, blogging, and writing.

What’s the difference between coaching and continuing education?

Coaching and continuing education are completely different animals. Continuing education is all about accumulating new knowledge and skills in order to advance one's career and stay up to date. Coaching is about supporting the client in achieving their career goals, which could involved continuing ed and so many other aspects of what makes a nursing career successful and satisfying. Coaching is about the relationship and interaction between the coach and the client.

How do I know what to look for in a coach?

A coach doesn't necessarily need to be certified, but knowing something about the coach's experience and expertise is helpful. Coaching is completely unlicensed and unregulated, so anyone can "hang a shingle" and say they're a coach. You can ask a prospective coach how many sessions they've given, where they studied, what their coaching philosophy is, and their general approach to the coaching relationship. You can also read reviews on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the coach's website. as well as ask to speak to a few former clients in order to hear about their experiences with the coach.

What are the 3 pieces of advice you give to nurses most often?

I advise every nurse to engage in consistent networking practices throughout their careers. From nursing school and beyond, every person with whom a nurse comes into contact could be an important resource or connection at some point in the future. Building and nurturing a powerful professional network is crucial -- that's why I wrote my first book on that very subject.

A second common piece of advice I give nurses is to keep their eye on both the 10,000-foot view (the macro) of their lives and careers as well as the micro. We need to consistently examine our lives and careers from different perspectives so that we can see the forest for the trees, and vice versa. If we're always looking towards the distant future but ignoring what's under our nose, we can lose out on great opportunities, as well as moments of important learning and personal/professional growth.

I recommend that nurses stay curious and open throughout their careers. Too many of us become calcified in our careers, developing a sense that we have nowhere else to go or new horizons to reach for. Nurses should not feel pigeonholed in the 21st century -- the world is our oyster and we only have to apply ourselves to discover the plethora of opportunities that exist at the bedside and beyond.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC