How to stop being a follower

Before I became a nurse I held a variety of jobs that were all “supporting roles”. I mostly worked in offices as a secretary or assistant. I was always happy with my jobs and I was lucky enough to never have a bad or mean boss. Looking back I really feel that I always did my best (except that first real job where they fired me for making too many personal calls-horrible memory).

When I became a nurse I got my first job in a large home care agency. I was completely on my own. When I did ask for help or guidance I seldom got it. Often I would ask multiple people for help and get conflicting responses. My lack of guidance at this job was concerning to me but I was a new nurse and I didn’t want to stir the pot. I stuck it out for several years and managed to (mostly) stay out of trouble. I quickly learned to do what was easiest for me. I asked for a raise and got it. I worked quite a bit of overtime and was impressed with all of the money I was making. If nothing else, I was very happy with the money. I left this job because I moved out of state but I also recognized that I was in a potentially dangerous position.

I decided to look for a big name home care agency. I applied to two and got one offer and took it. I had to take a pretty big pay cut but I figured it was worth it.

It was. Sort of.

I had incredible mentors and tons of support from amazing nurses and other professionals. All of the higher ups expected me to preform at my very very best and I liked that. I was sure that my hard work would be rewarded, and it was. I was promoted several times and given more  responsibility. I was never given a raise and actually made less money over time because I couldn’t work overtime in a management position. I requested to return to my field position and permission was granted. I became more and more resentful as I realized that although my hard work was truly valued I was not going to be financially reimbursed. I left the job because I was totally overwhelmed with the amount of work and was not being adequately compensated.

My new job was significantly less work with essentially the same amount of money. Here I learned the importance and advantages of real friendships in the office. I loved the people I was caring for and the people I was working with. I gained insights about business and finances. I took on new responsibilities and always tried to go “above and beyond”. I googled “When to ask your boss for a raise” and “How to ask your boss for a raise”. I read article after article. I was NOT going to make the same mistake I did at my last job where I never even asked for a raise. It would not have taken much for me to feel appropriately compensated. I agonized over the conversation I would have with my boss and I imagined all of the potential responses and all of my potential come backs. When I finally worked up the nerve to ask my boss, I got a vague response and a promise to re-visit in several months. That next conversation never took place. I left that job because a friend dropped my name to a recruiter who just happened to have an opening he was trying to fill.

I let the recruiter guide me in the interview and negotiation process. I felt I had learned from my past mistakes. I presented myself confidently and I asked for a salary that I truly felt reflected my value as an employee. Then I googled “How to tell your boss your quitting”. I read article after article. I spoke to my boss with a well measured, pre-planned speech.

Me: Can I speak to you for a couple of minutes? (I close the door to her office)

Boss: Wow, this must be serious.

Me: Yea.

Me: I was offered another job and I have decided to take it….

Boss: What? Why?

Me: They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Boss: When is your last day?

Me: 4 1/2 weeks from today.

She said she understood and I had promised myself I would not say more. My research explained that I didn’t need to explain or justify. So I didn’t. It was a completely different feeling than I had experienced professionally in the past. When I quit my first job I practically whispered the information to my superior. When I left my second job I literally burst into tears and told my boss “don’t be mad at me”. The conversation with my most recent boss was not just the right decision for me but it also marked a change in the way I saw myself as a professional

hiresSo, here I am. Three months in to my new job. It is completely different than what I expected. I am challenged every day to be more and do better. I wear pantyhose, heels and makeup. I learn something new every day and I push myself to make the best decisions for the company and the best decisions for the employees that I supervise. I use the lessons I have learned from the followers and the leaders throughout my career.

But most of all, I spend time wondering how I could have done things differently and if that could have changed my career path. I look back on the missed opportunities and wonder where I could have ended up. I wish I had had some guidance or a mentor to help me navigate through the world of a new nurse and a new professional.

I have committed myself to be the kind of leader I wish I had when I became a nurse. I give advice and gentle criticism, I offer encouragement and counsel, I suggest alternatives and solutions. I refer clients to other companies where I have relationships-because that is what I would hope others would do for me. I have had opportunities to help people with professional connections for new jobs.

I am not perfect and I have so much to learn. But I am grateful every day that I am here.

Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. Trust your instincts.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and offer help.