The Challenges of a Job Change

Most of us will change positions or relocate, or both, sometime during our careers. How are we going to handle these changes? What if a change is not one that we anticipate or initiate? How will that affect our emotions and our capacity to be our best when we interview? Will we demonstrate our excellence as leaders, or will we inadvertently convey negativity?

This column is dedicated to a reader who wanted to share her story of a job change. We will call her “Pearl”; we both hope that this anonymous tale of her circumstances will be valuable to you.

Pearl is an articulate, masters-prepared nurse executive. She has held several positions as a chief nursing officer (CNO), and a few years ago, she and her family moved to an unfamiliar part of the country to accommodate her husband’s
transfer. Pearl found a nurse executive position with relative ease, but after a few years, her family missed their relatives and friends back home. They wanted to move back but had no definite time line when Pearl began to search for a new position. At the same time, Pearl’s organization began to establish new affiliations that affected her span of control. Eventually, Pearl’s organization eliminated her position.

Soon after, her husband lost his job. Pearl’s leisurely exploration for “just the right job” became a focused quest for a “good enough” position. After several CNO interviews didn’t pan out, Pearl broadened her search to include nurse manager and service line positions.

We meet Pearl now that she has relocated. She’s back in the comfort of home and family,
but she’s spent many months looking for a new job without success.

My time with Pearl has assured me that she is well-spoken and passionate about being a nurse leader. She has a vision for patient care and she has experience that any organization would value. She is willing to sustain daily travel if her new job requires a commute. So, what is preventing Pearl from finding a new position? Here are some possibilities:

  1. In response to my questions, Pearl was eager to tell me a lot about her experience. She shared many details; she elaborated on how qualified she was and how many candidates there are for CNO positions. She talkedabout the long delays between recruiter and organizational responses to her interviews and phone calls. I wanted to hear these details, but if I were not a very interested party, I would probably stop listening when I became saturated with too much information. What if interviewers and recruiters had the same reaction? When we are in Pearl’s situation, it is natural to tell our stories—in full. But we have to discern which audience wants to hear the unabridged version. Recruiters and chief executive officers are not receptive to too many details when they are unrelated to their questions.
  2. Pearl broadened her search to include nurse manager and service line roles, and after extensive interviews and lengthy delays, she was told repeatedly that she was overqualified. Going forward, Pearl will get more information before investing time and emotional “capital” in jobs she has little chance to land.
  3. Pearl will work to increase her self-awareness. What’s difficult at this point in a lengthy search is that our emotions become frayed, and we can become tired, upset, and frustrated. These are understandable reactions, but if we aren’t managing them, they can corrode our capacities to interview well. What else can Pearl do as she continues her search?
    • Lead with her strong suit. There is no doubt that Pearl is a passionate nurse leader. But the clarity of her commitment didn’t come out until long after I’d heard lots of stories. Most of these stories were about unsuccessful results, lengthy delays in response, poor outcomes from interviews, and frustration with the process. It took a long time for Pearl to reveal the true passion, expertise, and vision that she can offer any organization.
    • Take care of herself. Getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, networking, and keeping current in the profession are all important activities during any job search. But they are especially important in a lengthy search where there is so much pressure to be successful.
    • Be around supportive people. Pearl can be deliberate about where she turns for the emotional support she needs and deserves. She needs to have people with whom she can share her stories and her frustrations. She also needs to have regular contact with people who will comfort her and remind her of her value and excellence as a nurse leader.
    • Seek honest feedback. Pearl can request feedback when an interview does not yield positive results. When she receives this feedback, she can “check the fit.” Sometimes, feedback is way off, but there are times when it is spot on or contains at least a grain of truth.
    • Remember projection. On occasion, people simply don’t “like” us because something about us rubs them the wrong way. Maybe we look like a relative they don’t enjoy. When we are highly qualified, but not selected, it’s possible that this is an (unstated and unconscious) reason.
    • Have a candid colleague in her corner. Pearl can seek the counsel of people who will challenge her from time to time. Although supportive people are a must, so are people who think differently.
    • Watch her stories. Pearl has had a challenging struggle, and we have already looked at the results of sharing too much of that struggle with others in professional settings. The stories Pearl tells herself can be equally damaging because they can depress her, or worse. To balance the picture, Pearl can consider appreciative questions such as what she is grateful for. What has she learned that she can take forward? What “good” outcomes has this journey given Pearl?

Pearl is going to keep doing the footwork to secure a new job, and she is going to employ these and related strategies while she does it. She will stay lovingly engaged with people and projects she enjoys. Knowing Pearl, I have no doubt that she will achieve her goal soon.

This article originally appeared in Nurse Leader.

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