What can I do now? (Cogent Career Planning)

Charlene M. Smith, DNS, MSEd, WHNP, RN-BC, CNE, ANEF is a professor at Wegmans School of Nursing, St. John Fisher College.

In April 2016 a LinkedIn study suggested the millennial generation tended to job-hop in the five years after they graduated college. College graduates between 1986 and 1990 averaged more than 1.6 jobs, and those graduating between 2006 and 2010 averaged nearly 2.85 jobs (Berger, 2016). Although a baby boomer, I too held many jobs over my career that included various positions in nursing, education, and leadership. Similar to many of my colleagues, my career path has taken many twists and turns based on family responsibilities, economics, life events, opportunities, deliberate decisions, and focused goals. My passion for teaching was a major influence in how my career plan was formulated over my career as an educator in both academic and practice settings.
Career planning is “a structured process for analyzing your skills and interests, formulating long-term goals and devising strategies to achieve them” (ConcordiaOnline.net, 2013, para. 7). In fulfilling the functions in a mentor role, NPD practitioners are often called on to counsel and advise others regarding professional growth and career development. Helping others in their career planning is a basic tenet of NPD practice, but career planning is also necessary for one's own professional growth and career advancement. Although sometimes doors open and opportunities appear with little effort, typically career planning is a cogent and deliberative practice. I have been approached many times by colleagues seeking advice on how to become an educator as they explore possible positions in either an academic or practice setting. Although academic faculty and NPD practitioners have many similar competencies focused on education, there are some fundamental differences in the roles and responsibilities. A framework that can help sort out what direction to go and apply to career planning follows:
Who am I? Self-awareness – An important starting point is to develop a perceptive sense of self-awareness. This requires recognizing one's values that inform what is important for the individual's career and associated work. Being able to articulate one's interests, competencies/skills, and associated gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes, is necessary to begin developing the strategies needed to direct and manage a career plan. 

  • Values
  • Interests
  • Competencies/Skills
  • Gaps

What do I want? Goals – The major driving forces in establishing goals for a career plan are based on fiscal, education, and personal influences. Thus, conveying fiscal, education, and personal goals assists in structuring the career plan. A periodic review (e.g., annually) of the goals established for a career plan can ascertain accomplishments, or the need to reassess and change the goals and associated actions of the career plan based on these influences.

  • Fiscal
  • Education
  • Personal

What is out there? Exploration - An essential practice is to continually scan the horizon to align a career plan with changes that may impact nursing, education, health care, and society in the future. A flexible career plan is necessary based on inevitable change and the associated adjustments needed to make a career plan relevant today and in to the future. Individual effort is needed to actively research what options are available to lend validity to a career plan.

  • Scan the horizon
  • Research available options

What do I need to do? Decisions and Actions – Reflecting on the information gathered, weighing the alternatives, and applying a logical decision-making process helps to devise a realistic career plan. Outlining the short- and long-term goals, connected actions, and related outcomes provides the structure needed to begin the operational phase of the career plan. Other important strategies require the individual to at times take risks and purposefully network and market themselves to showcase their knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivation, and talent.

  • Plan – short (< 5 years) and long-term (5 years and beyond)
  • Take risks
  • Network
  • Market

Career development is not an event that just happens, it requires reflective self-awareness, thoughtful career planning, strategic networking and marketing, and persistent monitoring to ensure the career plan is relevant and is able to accommodate fiscal, education, and personal influences and overarching changes in society that impact future career planning. Mentoring others in professional growth and career development is essential for NPD practitioners, yet attending to one's own professional growth and career development is just as critical as the NPD practitioner is a role model for life-long learning. I challenge my NPD colleagues to strategize your own personal career plan and make it actionable and relevant for you!  


Berger, G. (2016, April 12). Will this year's college grads job-hop more than previous grads? Retrieved from https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/04/12/will-this-year_s-college-grads-job-hop-more-than-previous-grads

ConcordiaOnline.net. (2013, November 14). What is career planning and who needs it? Retrieved from http://www.concordiaonline.net/what-is-career-planning-and-who-needs-it/

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