Making Your Career Goals Known

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN


I was recently talking with a former student who expressed frustration because her organization was going to an outside recruitment firm to recruit for a position that she is interested in applying for.

Evidently, the senior leadership has indicated that there are no internal candidates.  I asked her to tell me how explicit she had been in expressing her career goals and possible interest in the position.  She acknowledged that she had said nothing because she made the assumption that her excellent work would gain her recognition and promotions would inevitably follow.  In a recent article in Nursing Economics, authors Therese Fitzpatrick and Connie Curran discuss the career limiting trap of “waiting for your coronation”.  Women, they observe, are often reluctant to speak out about their career goals assuming that good performance will lead to rewards.  There is much to be said for self-advocacy.

Career GoalsFive Strategies to Help You Reach Your Career Goals

1.  Keep your Resume Current 

I am always surprised at how many resumes I review from nurse leaders applying to graduate school that are not up to date.  Update your resume at least yearly and add all your new skills and accomplishments so you will be ready to quickly submit a resume if an opportunity surfaces.  One challenge when you work inside an organizations is that the leadership may not be aware of all of your skills and abilities.

2.  Seek Mentorship

Find someone within your organization that you can trust and discuss your career goals with them.  Ask for frank feedback about your performance and how you are perceived within the organization.  If there are skills and experiences that you lack to move up the career ladder – seek help to get them.

3.  Volunteer to do an Interim Role

An interim role will give you visibility in the organization and allow you to “test drive” new positions.  Fitzpatrick and Curran advise that if you do this – seek frequent feedback on your performance and demonstrate a willingness to learn.

4.  Network with the Influencers in your Organization

Networking is a very powerful way to achieve your career goals.  Connect with the influencers and movers within your organization to develop mutual relationships.  When you do this then they will be more likely to think of you when a higher position opens.  Your internal company network is important to your career success.

5.  Establish Career Goals and Work on Your Executive Presence

Every year, you should review your own career goals.  But keeping them to yourself will not help you to advance.  Make sure leaders in your organization know about your goals.  If you want to move to executive level, let others know of your career aspirations. Maintain the type of  professional appearance and behavior that is expected at the next career level so you will project the executive presence that is being sought.  

Fitzpatrick and Curran advise that women are especially prone to career reticence and “waiting for the tiara” behavior.  Sheryl Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, discusses the fear of failure and not wanting to be overbearing as reasons why women don’t always lean into leadership and make their career goals known.   The reality is that if you wait to be asked – it may never happen as my former graduate student quickly found out in her organization.   So don’t be afraid to lean in and make your career goals known to others.

Dr. Rose O. Sherman, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN is a Professor of Nursing and Director of the Nursing Leadership Institute in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. To read more of her articles, visit her blog, Emerging RN Leader.