Program Innovators
  • Discover the right job

    One of the most important aspects of rewarding and fulfilling employment is to find the right job; all too often people opt for a preferred location or higher paycheck only to find that they are in the wrong job.

    At the August 2019 AANA annual congress, I presented a talk titled “How To Get The Right Job and Keep It” to a group of students who would soon be graduating and looking for employment.  For those who missed the original talk, here are the keys navigating the maze of potential employment opportunities and locating the job that is right for you.

    Know what you want

    Before finding the needle in the haystack, it’s important to know what the needle looks like and it’s helpful to know which pile of hay to search.  Likewise, you don’t want just any job; you want the right job and therefore you must know what you want before you can find it.  Day dreaming won’t get the job done so it’s important to create a written list of the essentials for the new job to include your preferred location, type of practice, and lifestyle essentials.  Also consider your personal values and the needs of those who are significant to you.  If there are any deal breakers, such as location or lifestyle essentials, add them to the written list.

    Know the characteristics of an engaging workplace

    Finding the right job begins finding the right group dynamic.  Many different workplace cultures exist, running the gamut from preferred to toxic.  An organized search will help you eliminate the bad teams and zero in on the good teams to consider.  Throughout the application/interview process, keep your radar active and learn all that you can about the following essential elements of a rewarding workplace.

    • Approachable leadership
    • Open communication
    • Honest feedback
    • Professional development
    • Collaborative teamwork
    • Alignment of personal and corporate values
    • Social interaction among staff

    Know the leadership style of the boss

    Working for the right boss will make or break your job experience.   The Harvard Business Review affirms the adage that is found throughout human relations literature; people don’t leave a job, they leave a boss.   Many leadership styles exist, and leaders often blend several styles into a format that works for them.   During the application/interview process it is your job to discover how he/she runs the team. and how it may potentially affect you.  In an ideal job, your boss will be:

    • Supportive
    • Understanding
    • Empowering
    • Respectful
    • Mentoring

    Know Finding the needle in the haystack

    After reviewing your written list of essentials and filtering the job boards, select several opportunities that look the most promising.  Go online and learn about the organization, then activate your network of colleagues to find someone with inside knowledge about the job.  A friend in the State association may be able to refer you to a current employee at that location.  Don’t be shy, be a detective and discover what others know about the job.

    The job interview is your best opportunity to reveal the culture in the workplace and the leadership style of your next boss.  Unfortunately, applicants are often so focused on impressing the interviewer that they forget that the discussion is a two-way process.   At some point you will be asked whether you have questions about the job and that presents you with an opportunity to control the interview and gain insight about your next employer.  Candidates who are serious about the position will go armed with a list of written questions to help determine what goes on behind the scenes.   Your questions should be non-threatening and open-ended to encourage your future boss to talk…and divulge the true working conditions.  Try these questions to get started.

    • What are the most enjoyable aspects of the job?  This is non-threatening and gets the discussion going.   Empowering leaders will talk in terms of “we” and teamwork, whereas, authoritarian leaders will focus on “I” and tell you about their personal accomplishments. Caution; some leaders use we when they’re proud of something and they when they’re not.
    • What do your most successful people find satisfying about the job? This question opens the door for the leader to reveal his/her opinion about what makes a person successful.  Is the worker successful because he/she is collaborative or because orders are followed precisely?  Regardless, it provides a platform for the interviewer to list the positive aspects of the job.
    • How would your team describe your leadership style? Asking, “What is your leadership style?” is threatening.  “How would your team describe you?” is not.  It softens the question and opens the door for the boss to talk about his/her approach to leadership.  Tune in for key words that indicate collaboration versus heavy handed guidance.
    • What type of training/professional development do you offer? Even poorer jobs offer a little money and time for continuing education, whereas preferred workplaces offer ongoing mentoring and opportunities for employees to gain experience in new areas.  Spearheading a project or representing your team by participating in an interprofessional initiative are but two examples of leaders empowering team members.
    • Is there opportunity for promotion in this job? Authoritarian leaders are control freaks but empowering leaders constantly seek opportunities for rising stars to shine.  In preferred workplaces, the leader has team members in designated positions to share management tasks such as scheduling, education or inventory.
    • How would you describe the work culture here? As the leader answers, tune into verbiage that would indicate high stress, production pressure, or strict compliance to directions.  Do team members have each other’s backs, or do they independently follow regulations?
    • How are high achievers recognized and rewarded? This addresses the issue of fairness.  If everyone receives the same reward regardless of contribution, the incentive to excel is removed.  The question can also send the subliminal message that you anticipate being a high achiever.
    • What is the most important challenge that your team faces right now? This open-ended question could reveal deep seated problems with the institution, or it could give additional insight about the team culture.  If the interviewer skims over or downplays an issue, follow-up by asking, “Tell me more about…”
    • A year from now we are discussing my first year on the job and I exceeded your expectations. Describe behavior that made the year exceptional.   In order to answer the question, the leader must first imagine that you were hired and then did a superb job.  It is a strong subliminal message to plant and one that may work in your favor when hiring decisions are made.  Listen carefully to the answer because it will tell you about the behavior that the leader values the most.
    • May I tell you a little more about why I am attracted to this job? This is a polite way to get the interviewer to ask you to summarize your strengths as well as review how you are a perfect match for the job.   Rehearse your 2-minute pitch ahead of time and make sure to connect your strengths to specific points in the job description.  Give examples of how your personal values align with corporate values.   Caution:  If the interview is a bust and/or you don’t want the job, omit this question.

    If you leave it to chance, it is likely that you will never find the needle in the haystack.  In my role as a hiring manager, I found that applicants who were organized, knew what they wanted and discovered that our group was a solid match for them turned out to be the best employees.   Arm yourself with a plan that starts with writing down the essentials of the new job then be a detective and discover all you can about the employer and the leader.  When it’s finally time for the job interview, enter with confidence and don’t leave until your questions are answered.  McJobs abound, even in healthcare; preferred jobs are hidden treasures that are reserved for those with the insight and tenacity to find them.

    Note:  If you are the hiring manager, these are the criteria that the best prepared and most talented workers may be using when they assess your job opening.  Be ready for them.  Build a workplace culture in which empowered collaboration is the modus operandi and high-quality applicants will enthusiastically get in line.

    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center.   Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.