Nursing is a profession.
Professionals actively build their brand in order to grow their careers.
Registered Nurses all hold the same license only to the extent that any other industry professionals hold the same degree. Not every software engineer with two years of experience has the same skillset, compensation, or responsibility. This same concept applies to nurses.
But why does it feel different for nursing?
Nurses have an extremely unique combination of hard and soft skillsets. They have intensive education, training and working experience before they even hit the job market. There are accreditations, specialties, advanced degrees, various care environments, patient populations, initiatives and personal experiences that make nurses so diverse and enable them to each build a unique brand. Just as any other professional would expect to experience promotions, increased flexibility and scheduling, increases in compensation, and mentorship and career development opportunities, so should nurses. This gap can seemingly be tied to the perception of professional development.
When companies develop or re-design their brands, it is an extensive process of internal reflection, organic creation and strategic development of external communication. The key to success when developing your own professional brand is to follow this same systems process.
Who are you and what do you bring to the table?
More importantly, once you are seated at the table, what will you do?
The answer to this question lies in the three important components of brand development: mission, vision and values.
Together, these components tell a story and the thesis of that story is your “why.” Experts on corporate and professional brand development echo one common bit of advice: the what, where, when and who are great, but the why is what captures the attention of your audience. More importantly, the why is what inspires them to choose your product or service. In this case of personal and professional brand development, your why is what inspires an employer to choose you.
So let’s talk about mission, vision and values.
Nursing provides you a career full of opportunity. It allows you the potential to professionally journey through multiple disciplines, including bedside nursing, higher education, teaching, administration, law, research etc. The possibilities are endless.
When you think about your mission, think bigger than “I’m a nurse and I want to save lives.”
Of course that’s your mission. Because being a nurse isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are. You have been trained to apply your critical thinking skills in order to combine theory and practice with the goal of achieving the highest quality of care and best patient outcomes. That is your unbreakable foundation. With it, you must now think granularly about how you as a professional want to change the world.
Your mission is the more granular short-term goal that you work towards via your day to day operations in order to strengthen your professional brand. Whereas, your vision is the high-level goal that you hope to accomplish long-term, it’s what motivates you to practice your mission. Thus consider, “where will my professional brand take me?
Mission and vision together tell your story. They tell your audience your why and answer “why are you sitting at the table?”
The third component, values, may be a little less foreign. It’s safe to say that at most job interviews we’ve all had to answer that typical question regarding strengths and weaknesses. In many cases, the strengths we make note of about ourselves are reflections of our values.
They are words like honesty, integrity, disciplined, collaborative etc. Values are key to creating a clear connection between your mission and vision, and ultimately, establishing a clear external message about your professional brand. Take the time to reflect on what you value. Perhaps even poll some colleagues and peers and see which terms come up most frequently. Your audience should be able to understand why your mission and vision are what they are based on what you value.
Mission, vision and values are not terms commonly discussed in non-corporate environments or among those without business backgrounds. The concepts are often new to nurses and healthcare professionals. So it’s understandable that thinking of them as the basis of establishing a professional brands can generate a normal amount of anxiety. We recommend easing these feelings by thinking about your favorite brands, whether they be clothing, food, services etc. Do some research on their mission, vision and values. Try to determine the differences and then use that to start developing your own brand. From your research, is it easy enough to figure out the brand’s why?
This is a lot to consider and for some it may be your first exposure to many of these concepts. Brand building is a process and it’s one that is meant to take time and a considerable amount of thought. Brainstorm on your own and test ideas with colleagues and friends. As your career develops, don’t be afraid to allow your professional brand to change with it!
Below we’ve listed a few quick first steps to get your brand on the right track:
1. Master Your Resume
Your resume is in sync with your mission, vision and values. Even if a potential employer has not idea what yours are, they should be able to read your resume and get a sense of who you are, a sense of your why. Your brand on paper will never hold as much value as the brand you present in person but in order to gain that in person opportunity, make sure your resume is organized, no longer than one page and provides a concise summary of your experience and accomplishments. The internet is full of examples, sometimes as specific as “Pediatric ICU RN resume sample”. If you have access to someone in HR or a recruiter, don’t be afraid to reach out for advice!
2. Build Your Network
Seize every opportunity to meet new professionals and discuss your careers. Connect on likes and dislikes, understand where people have come from and where they want to go. Fostering careers forward is all about who you know, build professional relationships and keep in touch. With all of today’s social media and travel opportunities, there is no excuse for not maintaining connections. Most importantly, find one or two solid mentors and rely on them for advice and support throughout your career.
3. Analyze Your Synergy
What are your strengths and how do they make you a well-rounded professional? How can you further develop or learn? What should you highlight and include your professional profile? Most importantly, what are your weaknesses? What mistakes have you made? How have you learned from them? Remember, experiencing failure is inevitable and recognizing those experiences are key to truly valuing success. Failure is what makes you relatable to a majority of the population. Don’t just tell them that you got knocked down and got back up, tell them why!
4. Connect Personality to Profession
Make yourself stand out. Nursing is a field that recognizes and values diversity. You’re not just a nurse. Everything that you are and do beyond nursing is what makes you more interesting as a nursing professional. Be different within your profession because of who you are, what you enjoy doing and your individual life experiences. Come to the table confidently well-differentiated and the why you’re at the table goes will require a lot less explanation.
5. Create a LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the ultimate professional network. It seems that many professionals in the medical field have yet to join and maximize its full benefits as a lot LinkedIn’s focus has been to connect peers and colleagues within the corporate world. We think it’s time we shake it up. Creating a LinkedIn for yourself is one more strategic platform to present your professional brand and maximize your potential for networking opportunities. Again, if you’ve never heard of LinkedIn or aren’t really sure how it works, don’t be afraid to do some research, both online and among friends and family. That’s what we’re here for at Trusted and we will do our best to help guide you.
Nursing has a reputation of being the most trusted profession. This has been the case since Clara Barton. There is a lot that goes along with trust. Respect, for example. You wouldn’t trust someone that you don’t highly respect. People trust us with their lives, even more-so than physicians, pilots and police officers. What does this say about us as professionals? We have something innately within us that cannot be taught. Through extensive education and training, we have become highly-skilled. We are resilient, motivated critical thinkers and first responders who have mastered the art of balancing the right amount of tough with the right amount of gentle. We are intelligent, creative problem-solvers and we have grit. This is what makes us highly valuable, trusted professionals.
In many places throughout the country and the world, levels of compensation and respect from our colleagues and administration do not reflect this amount of trust. It is up to us to make that known; to present ourselves in a way that earns us a seat at the table so that we have access to the resources that will allow us to change perception and to be respected and treated like the highly valuable professionals that we are. We must push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Most importantly, we must lead. Think professional, act professional and expect to be treated like professionals.
Only you have the power to take control over your own professional career path, so create your brand, tell the world your why and drive nursing forward.
Resources for Building Your Brand:
TED Talks & Other Videos: