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Career Coach

Interview Questions
December 11, 2014 3:31 PM by Renee Dahring

I've conducted many interviews over the years and can tell you that nothing sinks an otherwise successful interview faster than the candidate who asks no questions. Many candidates seem to feel it is acceptable when asked if they have questions to answer with "no, I think you answered them all". Really? You want to commit to spending most of your waking hours in my workplace and you can't think of one thing to ask me? As an interviewer I am left to wonder if the applicant is either dishonest or disinterested. Surely there are a couple questions they could conjure up for me.

I understand that some job seekers feel a little intimidated or don't want to come off as too forward but employers really do expect you to ask some questions. Asking questions shows you are thoughtful and have done your homework. It shows you are engaged and interested in the position. If you are one of those people who just aren't sure what to ask I have some suggestions.

  • How many patients will I be expected to see each day? This is such a great question it should be mandatory. If I had a dollar for every clinician who was unhappy in their current position due to patient volume I wouldn't be a poor blogger! Asking about the length of appointment times is another must ask question and can prevent a whole lot of future heartache. One of the most common reasons for termination is productivity (or lack thereof). In other words the clinician was unable to see enough patients per day.
  • How long is the orientation? What will be my patient load during orientation? This is not only great information for you to have but it tells the employer you are thinking about what it takes to be successful in their organization.
  • What are you looking for in your next employee? This question shows the employer you are thinking about more than just your own needs. It also provides you with key information that you can include when you send your follow up note after the interview. "I am confident I possess (name the aforementioned characteristics) and will be an asset to your clinic".

It can be OK to ask about money and benefits but it is generally better if you wait until the employer brings it up first. You never want compensation to be your opening question. In fact, I maintain that you should know what the salary range is BEFORE getting to the interview stage. If the pay is not acceptable to you then you shouldn't be interviewing. And as a final reminder, no matter what the responses to your questions you must never try to bargain for something different. Save the negotiating until after you have received an offer. The interview is for gathering information not making decisions.

Why Do You Want To Work Here?
November 26, 2014 11:21 AM by Renee Dahring

Careful -- how you answer this could make or break your job prospects. 

Obviously, if you are looking for a new job you have put a great deal of thought into your decision. I'm sure if I asked you to list your reasons you would have plenty. But will a potential employer find your reasons as compelling as you do? 

When explaining to an employer why you want a specific job, you must keep one principle in mind: it's not about what you WANT - it's about what the employer NEEDS. Look at your list; if the reasons you have listed revolve around what the job will do for you, it's time to rethink your list. Sure, it's important that you be happy and to reach your personal goals - provided your happiness and goals are of benefit to the employer. I am not saying you need to completely abandon your reasons, but you might just need to reframe them. 

For example: "I have always wanted to work in dermatology, it's been a dream of mine since I graduated."

Now, employers will certainly appreciate that you have a passion, but you need to show the employer how your passion will benefit their practice. Talk about your experience with dermatology; if you don't have experience, tell them what learning opportunities you have engaged in to ready yourself for their job. Let them know how your passion becomes a plus for their patients - and thus their practice. That's what they want to hear. 

If your list of reasons includes things like better hours, a shorter commute or just better pay, I recommend you keep that to yourself, because they aren't likely to shed a positive light on your motives! Instead, talk about your skills and how they match the qualifications for the position. You can talk about wanting to use your skill set to a greater degree than you are able to in your current position, which benefits both you and the employer. 

Perhaps you want out of your current environment because you don't like your co-workers, your boss or it's just not a pleasant place to work. While that all may be true, that is better left unsaid. Never go negative; instead of telling the employer what you are running away from, you can tell them what it is that you are running towards. Research the employer before you interview so that you can illustrate to them how your values and goals align with the mission and vision of their organization. Explain how you bring to the table exactly what they need. Another win-win. You show the employer you have done your homework and, well, a little flattery never hurts!

You're Fired! Now What?
November 12, 2014 3:31 PM by Renee Dahring

Just to be clear, I don't mean a layoff due to restructuring or downsizing. Many employers have been faced with making some hard staffing decisions in this economy so if you were terminated because of something out of your control a prospective employer probably won't hold that against you. 

But if the situation was more complicated, I can offer you a couple suggestions. 

First of all, don't explain it on paper. Sensitive topics are better delivered to a live person either on the phone or face to face instead of in a cover letter or on your resume. And for the record, it's always better to disclose sooner rather than later.

Never lie. If you are asked about why you left your previous position you must be honest. You can't outrun the truth, sooner or later it will come out and it won't bode well for you. One of the few grounds an employer can use as cause for immediate termination is providing false information in an application or interview. 

But you needn't go into the gory details either. Initially offer a limited explanation such as "it wasn't a good fit" or "we came to a mutual decision I would be happier elsewhere" or "we disagreed." Often times that will be sufficient. But if the prospective employer requests more information then try to be concise and stick to the facts. Resist the urge to over-explain or editorialize as that often makes you look bad.

If possible, try to find out what your previous employer says is the reason you were let go. It might surprise you to find out that employers often give vague politically correct answers when asked and are quite cautious about disclosing details about terminations. 

There are also ways to phrase your shortcomings that sound less negative. Avoid words like "problem" or "mistake." Choose softer, less negative words. Instead of saying, "I had a problem getting my paperwork done," it will sound better if you say, "I needed to improve my time management skills." I don't mean to imply that you should minimize, but no need to make things sound worse than they were either. 

If you were let go for performance reasons, you should be prepared to state what you have done to remediate the problem. Employers are not averse to giving second chances if they feel that they are earned. This means that right after you share the reason for termination you should let them know what you have done to fix it. For example: "My productivity was low because of my computer skills, so I have taken some computer classes". 

Stay positive. Never disparage your former employer (even if they might deserve it!). Don't put down your previous supervisor or co-workers. That just makes you look petty and spiteful. 

If your transgression was more serious, please see my previous article: Overcoming Negatives in Your Work History.

Recording Dates
October 29, 2014 3:11 PM by Renee Dahring

Time flies and memory fades. Remember that Seinfeld episode where the character lost one old piece of information in order to make room for every new piece of information learned? At least I think it was Seinfeld, I can't remember for sure...

I'm sure you have all had the experience of filling out a job application and found yourself struggling to recall specific dates. Most of us can remember an event, but recalling the date the event occurred is another matter entirely. I know I do.

Over the years, I have served on a number of committees, boards and special projects. Sometimes I can recall where we met and what was accomplished, but seldom can I give you accurate dates for when I participated in these activities. I can also tell you the names of many interesting people I have met or worked with at one time or another, but don't ask me the year we first met - true even for close friends, as well as more casual work associates.     

Normally this isn't a big deal, unless you are filling out a job application or providing a list of references. Dates are very important when applying for a job. Lack of dates can be a red flag and citing incorrect dates can make you appear dishonest. You also want to receive credit for your past leadership roles and activities but that can't happen if you don't remember all of them. 

Here is a tip to help you stay organized. Create a log. Go to your computer and open a word document and give a name like "work related accomplishments." List everything you can remember doing that is above and beyond your basic work duties. Don't worry about dates for the past activities for now, just get as much of what you do remember recorded. Once you remember or locate the dates you can add them.   

From this point forward, add an entry for each new activity as they occur. For instance: if you are asked to be a preceptor this month, go to the document and add an entry that says "preceptor for Sally Student from United College." It doesn't have to be pretty; this list is just for you. 

The next time you need this information, it will be readily available. As an added measure, you may want to keep a copy on one of the cloud servers (Google drive, iCloud, etc.) so it is accessible from anywhere and immune to computer crashes.

Beware: Social Media
October 15, 2014 11:54 AM by Renee Dahring

CAUTION! You could be one status update or tweet away from losing your job. 

Now that I have your attention, I would like to remind everyone that what you choose to share on social media can have a negative impact on your employment. We live in an age where we are more connected than ever so you need to think carefully before you hit the "post" button. One of the most seductive things about social media sites is that it feels very personal, but the reality is that it is actually very public. Even if you set your profile to be private your posts can become visible when others comment on your status or if you post a comment on a public page. You also never know when one of your 100+ closest friends might decide to share one of your "private" posts. 

I know it's very tempting after a particularly stressful day at work to turn to your favorite social media and post your frustrations. We can all relate to a difficult day or a difficult boss and it can feel very cathartic to go on a snarky rant and then watch the "like" count pile up. Your friend's well-meaning comments may feel supportive to you but I guarantee your employer won't see it that way. Text and emails can be forwarded so if you feel you need to vent it's safer to do it the old fashioned way - face to face or on the telephone. 

Never, ever share a patient story online. This is considered a privacy violation and in addition to getting you fired it may also land you in some legal trouble too. It may seem harmless enough to post something funny or touching that a patient said or did but your post is considered a breach of confidentiality. Even if you don't use the patients name it is still possible that a reader can put two and two together and guess who you might be talking about. 

Your employer also may have a thing or two to say if you are posting or responding to others posts frequently during the work day. Because posts are time stamped it's easy to tell if you were on the clock or not. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you are distracted or have too much time on your hands at work. 

I would also like to remind you to watch the tone of your social media posts. Complaining and being overly critical of others online makes you look like a negative person to both your employer and your patients. Always avoid swearing and inappropriate pictures. Steer clear of controversial topics. Be Switzerland and stay neutral. And post only cute cat videos - that should keep you safe.

Five Strategies to Sabotage Your Next Job
October 8, 2014 1:12 PM by Renee Dahring

Here are some sure ways to sabotage your next position while job hunting:

  1. Applying for a new job until you are clear about what it would take for you to leave your present job. Employers hate fishing expeditions. Before you start sending out applications ask yourself what it will take for you to make the move. Is it salary or schedule? What exactly is it that you want to change? Before you submit your resume you ought to be certain that the job you are seeking has what you seek. If you need more money and you see a job ad with a similar salary range as your current position it makes no sense to start the application process. If you know the commute is too long before you hit "apply" then it will also be too long when you are offered the position too.
  2. Determine your bottom line, then change it. Employers dislike negotiations as much as you do. If your job requirements are moving targets, don't be surprised if you negotiate yourself right out of a new job. Not only is changing your mind bad manners it makes you look flaky and half-committed to a job change. No one wants to hire someone that seems ambivalent BEFORE they even start working.
  3. Insist on negotiating everything. When we say "everything is negotiable" that doesn't mean we want you to negotiate every item in the offer! They say in a good negotiation neither party will get everything they want - and it's true. A better approach is to direct your negotiating energy towards the ONE thing that will make the job most attractive to you. After all, isn't that what is most important? Let go of the small stuff and concentrate on the one item that will keep you happy. (see #1)
  4. Dragging out the process. Protracted and lengthy negotiations are a no-no. The longer you take to come to an agreement the less attractive your employment prospects. You have heard the saying "out of sight out of mind"? Reply promptly, if you need time to consider then communicate that to the employer and then stick to your deadline. Hint, if you need more than a week to decide you have probably entered diva territory.
  5. Thinking in dollars instead of in percentages. Job seekers get too hung up on the numbers when negotiating salary. It's difficult to get a feel for whether or not your salary counter offer is reasonable if you are looking at only the dollar amount. For example, the employer has offered you $95K as a base salary but you want to counter with $105K. However, If you did the math you will find that the additional $10K per year you are countering results in a difference of a little over 10%. Ask for that much and the odds are your counter will be turned down plus you run the risk of appearing as unreasonable. In this current economy and job market you should limit your requests for salary increases to 3% of the initial offer.
Non-traditional or New Practices
September 19, 2014 2:01 PM by Renee Dahring

Proceed carefully when considering a position with a new clinic or practice that is not yet open or established, especially if the clinic is embarking on a "non-traditional" or "new healthcare model." Jobs like these can turn out to be the best thing you ever did or the biggest nightmare of your career. 

The sales pitch for these types of jobs can be intoxicating. Owners or investors are obviously excited about their new venture and it's easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm. You might think that due to their lack of experience and optimism that only new grads are vulnerable, but I have seen this happen to a fair share of seasoned clinicians too. 

I have nothing against innovation or start-up companies, but before you commit it's wise to put your excitement on hold and do some research. Find out everything you can about your potential employer and their background.   

Here is what I recommend: 

  1. Ask to see the resume of the medical director. How long have they been in practice? Where did they do their residency? Are they board certified? In case you weren't aware, a doctor can be licensed after one year of residency. Verify that their experience matches the practice needs. Just like us, MDs should stick to their "scope of practice" too.
  2. Make sure you meet the medical director in PERSON. Don't just settle for a medical director who is only "on paper". Ask them how they define the role of an NP or PA. Have they ever worked with an advanced practice clinician before? What do they see as the role of a medical director? ***The first two points are critical If you are a PA or an NP working in a state that requires a practice agreements with a physician.
  3. Play detective and Google the names of everyone involved. If you can't find much info about them online that should raise some red flags. 
  4. Who will be your supervisor? If the owner is a lay person, they hopefully had enough foresight to hire a manager with healthcare background and experience. Unfortunately, I have seen owners try to do it all, especially if the company is small. The problem is that folks who come from the business world don't always have a good understanding of our professions and may put pressure on you to assume duties or tasks that might be outside of your scope of practice. Performing duties that fall under your scope leads to job dissatisfaction, and pressure to work over your scope can put your license in jeopardy.
  5. What is the mission of the practice? Will you be required to sell or recommend products or services? Many of these new models have a "retail" portion. To keep your ethics intact, find out where the line is drawn between medicine and product marketing.

Get as much in writing as possible. Not just pay and benefits but also your hours and duties.  New ventures can be work in progress and things can change rapidly.

Dear "Supervising/Collaborating" Physician
September 3, 2014 1:07 PM by Renee Dahring

Dear "Supervising/Collaborating" Physician,

Our relationship has to change. 

It's not you, it's me. I have changed. I have grown and matured. I am not the same nurse practitioner I was when we first met. I have been around awhile now; I am no longer a new profession that is trying to find my role in the healthcare world. I have been working hard, and over the last few decades I have gained experience and confidence. I feel I have proven myself, and now I have the studies to prove that I consistently provide quality patient care that has equal or better outcomes. You seem surprised - you say that you don't understand why I feel need to move on. I recognize that you are hurt because you thought our relationship was fine and that we seemed to be getting along so well. I suppose this is part of the problem, you haven't really been paying attention. The truth is this relationship has been working better for you than it has for me.

I need some space. I'm not okay with these "agreements" you have been forcing me to sign. Yes, I know you feel somewhat protective when it comes to the practice of medicine, but the bottom line is that you are a physician and I am a nurse practitioner. As time goes on, I have begun to realize that it just doesn't seem right that one profession can determine the fate of another. You and I are different. You need to accept that just because we do some of the same things does not mean you have the right to be in control of my practice. Perhaps you aren't aware of this, but many of your colleagues have been charging us an obscene amount of money for these "supervisory" agreements. Why should we pay a lot of money for a signature on a piece of paper that doesn't result in any benefit to our patients or improve healthcare? In fact, all this paperwork has actually decreased access to care by adding unnecessary restrictions on my practice and adding more cost to an already overburdened healthcare system.

We can still be friends. I value the relationship we have had over the years and hope I can still count on you to be there when I need you. But for our friendship to move forward, you are going to have to trust me. You will have to trust that I was educated to know my limits and that I know when it is time to refer my patients. The only thing that is changing is that we will no longer need such a formal agreement. You see, I have also noticed you don't treat other professionals the same way you treat me. I find it hard to believe that we need to have a written agreement with each other when I see you freely collaborating with your colleagues. Just because I want to end the "supervision" part of our relationship doesn't mean I don't respect your knowledge. We will still work together, but now it will be as peers that both bring valuable contributions to patient care. 


The Nurse Practitioner

Precept to Perm
August 20, 2014 2:05 PM by Renee Dahring

I'm seeing a new trend taking hold - it's called "precept to perm." It is hardly a new idea, but it has been given an official name, causing it to trend and become more common. If you are a student, you might have already encountered this phenomenon. If you are a seasoned clinician looking for a new position, it could impact your job search, as well. 

"Precept to perm" refers to the practice of a healthcare organization agreeing to precept a student with the understanding (or stipulation) that the student will then work for the organization upon graduation. In theory, it's a win-win situation. Students benefit by having a guaranteed preceptor, and in return employers have a supply of future clinicians that don't require the energy and expense of recruitment.

We used to see this arrangement play out quite often in the specialties, but in a much less formal way. The difference was that the student wasn't expected to commit to future employment prior to beginning the rotation. Employers tended to be selective and would precept only those students with strong interests in that specialty. Specialties have always liked to train clinicians themselves, and many prefer the "blank slate" of a student or new graduate so that they can train the clinicians to do things the way the practice prefers. This worked quite well because the student didn't have to make a commitment before they were ready and it also kept the employer motivated to provide make a good impression on the student. This mutual tension insured that everyone played nice.

Some are still playing nice. For many students, the precept to perm arrangement will work out just fine. Many students come to love their clinical rotations and like the security of knowing they will have a job waiting for them after graduating. 

But there is also a downside. There will always be some students who don't fit into this model, and as a consequence, they will have trouble finding a clinical site. For example, students who will be relocating after graduation can be shut out of rotations simply because they will be seeking employment elsewhere. There are many students who still aren't really sure what sort of job they want, even up until the day of graduation. Many tell me they feel pressured to "sign-on" before they have made up their minds or risk being passed over. 

Asking students to make commitments to a job that is still 1-2 years away creates stress and takes away from their educational experience. A student's first priority should be their studies while they are in school.

Employers & References
August 6, 2014 1:24 PM by Renee Dahring

References can make or break a job offer so it is important you understand how to choose the right references. 

  • You need to be sure that the persons you name as your references have DIRECT knowledge of your work performance. Choosing folks that think highly of you is not enough if they have never actually worked closely with you. This is because the questions that your reference will be asked will pertain to your work habits and skills. In fact, most reference forms consist of a list of specific procedures or competencies and ask that your reference rate your proficiency for each of them. Obviously, your neighbor, minister or best friend won't be of much help in evaluating your work skills.
  • Keep it current. In addition to having firsthand knowledge of your skills the employer will also expect your references to have RECENT knowledge. The expectations are that your identified references have known you at least a year and have worked with you within the last year. If you dredge up folks from previous positions or that have only known you a few months you will be raising some major red flags.
  • If you are a PA or an NP in a state with a collaborative agreement, the expectation is that you use your collaborating or supervising physician as a reference. Employers really wonder what is wrong if the person you have a legal agreement with in order to practice will not serve as your reference. This is not just a red flag - it's a red flag on fire. In my experience, this can be a deal breaker. If you have a valid reason, such as you are afraid you will get fired if they know you are job hunting then you need to be upfront with your prospective employer. Since employers shouldn't be contacting your references until the offer has been extended to you then I suggest that you can get a commitment from them to move up your start date if contacting your collaborating MD creates any negative consequences for you.
  • If you are a new grad, it is critical you have at least one reference from your program. If none of your professors are willing to act as a reference, then employers are going to see that as a problem.
  • And as a reminder, the general rule of thumb is three references (ideally one supervisor and two peers). It's great that the support staff loves you but that's not likely going to impress a potential employer.
Job Interviews & Food Allergies
July 16, 2014 11:01 AM by Renee Dahring

Dear Career Coach:  I am a new grad NP with celiac disease and I am unable to eat at restaurants due to potential cross-contamination that inevitably leaves me ill for a week. What suggestions do you have to handle not being able to eat at a restaurant, without coming across like a "major diva" as you mentioned?

Dear Reader:  The structured office interview is how the employer learns more about your skill set and experience, but in order to gain a greater understanding about who you are and how your personality might fit into their workplace culture many employers like to connect in a less formal and lower key environment such as lunch or dinner. So because this is such an important part of the interview process we need to find you a solution.

I feel it is important that you not decline the invitation so I will give you a few ideas that you may find helpful.

  • 1. Just say it. The bad news is that food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities have become more common. The good news is that food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities have become more common. It's likely that everyone who will be attending knows someone or has treated someone who has a dietary restriction for a medical reason. It's also likely that they will understand the importance of your request. Also in your favor is that you will probably be working with either H.R. or an office assistant to set up the meeting so you may feel you can speak a little more freely. Remember too that your medical history is technically protected information and H.R. should not be sharing what you tell them with your future boss and co-workers.
  • 2. Don't overshare. Spare the details and the history of your issue. Going into what has happened or may happen when you eat a particular food WILL make you sound like a diva. I would simply keep it simple and just say "I have a food allergy" and then share the specific accommodations you will need.
  • 3. Offer a solution. If you know of a particular restaurant that you trust to prepare your meal correctly then by all means offer to meet there as an alternative. If you absolutely can't eat food prepared in a restaurant then perhaps you could suggest meeting for coffee. If you meet mid-morning or afternoon in a coffee shop then the expectation to order food will be less and you won't feel so uncomfortable.
  • 4. Call ahead. Most of the better restaurants should be able to meet your needs if given some notice. Talk to the manager and explain the situation and come up with a plan. Tell them that it is imperative that you a safe meal without calling unwanted attention to your condition.
Job Hunt Pointers
July 2, 2014 8:26 AM by Renee Dahring

If you are about to look for your first job or you are just thinking about making a change, I have a couple pointers for you:

  1. Job searching requires a plan. Before you send out your first resume or application, you should have an idea of what it is you really want in a job. Sit down and make a list of YOUR job requirements. If there is one thing that employers dislike it is non-serious candidates. Finding a job shouldn't be a fishing expedition. Applying for jobs that you are only lukewarm about can come back to haunt you. Employers pick up pretty quickly on applicants that are out there just testing the waters. As I have mentioned in other blog posts, responding to every job you see posted can backfire, and can very likely cause your name to be flagged in the system for multiple applications- that is not a good thing. You may think that applying for every opening makes you look interested and eager but employers disagree. What you are saying to a potential employer is either a) you are desperate or b) you have no idea what you want to do.
  2. If you are a seasoned clinician considering a new job, prior to sending out your first resume you should have already determined exactly what it will take for you to leave your current employer. Determine your bottom line in terms of salary, benefits and hours. If it is clear that the new employer will not be willing to meet your requirements then don't apply for the position. I am aware that many job ads do not state the compensation package up front. When that is the case, you are going to have to do some homework. Better to spend some time on the phone tracking down the recruiter or hiring manger than to submit an application to a job that doesn't offer what you decided you will need.
  3. Once you have determined your bottom line, stick to it. If you tell a prospective employer that you need A, B and C during an interview and then when an offer is on the table you inform them that now you need D, E and F there is going to be a problem. No one likes a bait and switch. And believe it or not, employers don't like negotiations any better than you do. If you make your expectations clear from the beginning the employer knows what they have to do to close the deal. The only caveat I have is that you should be reasonable. Outrageous demands make you look unstable and out of touch.
NPs: Continue to Educate and Demand Respect
June 18, 2014 9:35 AM by Renee Dahring
A funny thing happened on the way to full practice authority...

We have been working hard for years on passage of a bill to update the nurse practice act and free APRNs of outdated and restrictive practice agreements. In fact we have been focused for so long on achieving our goal that we haven't really thought much past - well, achieving our goal. We put a great deal of effort into winning hearts and minds and last month our hard work paid off: the governor signed the APRN bill and our dreams of full practice authority were realized. On January 1st, 2015 the new law will go into effect and mission accomplished, right?

Not so quick. Our arguments may have won over the legislators and a good portion of the public, but we are learning that it may be a bit premature to declare victory. Our opponents didn't get what they wanted at the Capitol, but that doesn't mean it's over for them.

It seemed so promising when we reached an agreement, but perhaps it was only the battlefield that changed and not the battle. While we were pursuing our goal on the house and senate floors, organized medicine had already turned their attention to the workplace.

I don't think it's a coincidence that many large healthcare organizations have been quietly altering the job descriptions for their NPs. Practices are being restructured so that NPs no longer have their own patient panel and are now required to "share" a panel of patients with an MD. Recent job ads describe the NP as working under the "supervision" of an MD. It's looking suspiciously like what the docs were unable to put into statute they are now putting into work rules.

And yes, they can do it. It's perfectly legal for an employer to be MORE restrictive than the law.

But we don't have to like it. And we don't have to work for them. We must continue to educate and demand respect. If you are one of the folks out looking for a position, you need to let employers know that these terms are not acceptable to you. I know it's a little scary when you really need a job but if we allow our roles to be diminished now it will set a precedent. It's much harder to undo rules than to make them.

This is where I make a plea again for you to get involved with your local and national professional organizations. We cannot let this become the accepted culture. Remember, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Working on Your Resume? Remember the ‘Big 3'
May 21, 2014 8:11 AM by Renee Dahring

Dear Career Coach: I think I need a professional to write my resume. I have a resume right now that is 8 pages long and so boring it puts me to sleep. I'm sure there is a ton of overkill in it but I'm a nurse practitioner, not a resume writer. I'm not sure what to keep and what to get rid of. My resume goes all the way back to my first nursing job. I just can't seem to let it go for some reason. Maybe it needs to go or maybe it needs to stay ... I just don't know. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations from you.

Dear Reader: It seems that the hardest thing for nurses to do is edit themselves! It may make you feel better to hear that most NPs have a tendency to put too much info into their resumes.

When trying to decide what information to include and what to remove, try repeating this phrase to yourself: The purpose of this resume is just to get me an interview. No one has ever been hired based solely on their resume. This will help put you in the proper frame of mind to begin the process of letting go.

Employers want only one thing, and that is to put the right candidate in the right job. Your resume should demonstrate to the employer that your qualifications are a potential match for the position. Too much other information just muddies the waters and won't increase your chances of landing an interview.

To boil it down to the basics means that the reviewer will be focusing on what I call the "Big 3."

1. Do you meet the educational requirement?

2. Do you possess the correct license and certification?

3. Does your experience and skillset match the job description?

What stays and what goes? Look at each entry on your resume and ask yourself if it is pertinent to the job you are seeking. Prune out information that is not applicable. If an item isn't pertinent to the job you are applying for, then it probably isn't worth keeping on your resume and you can safely let it go. How do you know when you have it right? If a reader can look at your resume and know exactly what sort of job it is that you seek, you have written an effective resume.

Don't get too carried away. You don't want any gaps in your employment, so if a previous position is not relevant do NOT omit it, just make the entry brief. No need to elaborate on skills and duties that have nothing to do with the job you are seeking.

The rule of thumb for how far back to go on your work history is 10 years. Seasoned NPs need only include their NP experience, so that should help you cut down the size considerably.

And lastly, I don't recommend hiring someone to write your resume. The reason for that is twofold. First, you need to tailor you resume to the position. A resume writer will produce a generic one-size-fits-all version and you won't be much better off than you are now. Second, employers often complain that candidates don't seem to know their own resumes. I suspect this is because they hired someone to write their resume for them.




This Nurses Week, Examine Your Message
May 7, 2014 2:16 PM by Renee Dahring
For as long as I can remember, nursing has been one of the most trusted professions. We should be very proud of that status -- it's not easy to gain the trust of the public, much less mange to hold on to that trust year after year.

We have never campaigned or actively sought out this designation, instead we earned it by simply doing our jobs day in and day out. Nurses don't really like to show off or brag, we prefer to just let our work speak for itself.

But now our role is changing and we need to start thinking more seriously about our "marketing." We may be trusted, but we need more. We need authority.

Let's start with who we are. Even though many legislators have heard of nurse practitioners, few have a real understanding of our role. If you don't believe me, try lobbying your state legislator! You will find that before you can even begin to plead your case for independent practice, you will have to explain what exactly you do and what "advanced practice" means. I am convinced I can see eyes glaze over when we say things like "scope of practice," "nurse practice act" and "consensus model." And just try to explain all our different certifications. I dare you!

We desperately need professional help to bring some clarity to our messaging. In the business world there is a saying that "if you don't manage your message, someone else will manage it for you." That means you need to speak up or you run the risk of having others define you. It's no accident that we have terms like "midlevel" and "nonphysician provider." Who do you think chose those demeaning labels? And who continues to use them? Don't kid yourself, organized medicine knows the power of those words.

And speaking of organized medicine, those folks take their own messaging seriously. There is no doubt in my mind that every word they say has been crafted and focus grouped to have maximal impact. I watched over and over legislators nod and agree when meeting with NPs, only to have seeds of doubt sown later by physicians. If an MD says something, it must be true, right? The public professes their love for nurses but when push comes to shove they still take what physicians say more seriously. Why? Because doctors have done a good job putting forth messaging that establishes them as "authorities." Marcus Welby may have gone off the air more than 40 years ago, but somehow organized medicine has managed to keep the myth alive that everyone in healthcare works for the physicians.

We can change this paradigm. But we can't do this on a one-to-one basis. It will take an organized effort. If you are member of a nursing organization, urge them to consider a PR campaign. Get involved. Speak up. That's the proper way to celebrate Nurses Week!







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    Occupation: Nurse Practitioners and NP Recruiters
    Setting: correctional healthcare/career consulting/teaching
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