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Making a career change

Former nurse and now career coach Ivana Williamson
Photo: Former nurse and now career coach Ivana Williamson
The beginning of a new year is often a good time to reassess your aspirations and career goals. But where do you start? These experts’ tips will set you on the journey to landing your dream job in the health sector, writes Karen Keast.


Ivana Williamson was just two years into her nursing career when she realised she needed a career change.

Weekend and night shift work, hospital politics, catching viruses from patients, job stress and dealing with death was all taking its toll.

“I wanted to be a nurse all of my life,” Williamson says.

“I went to uni and I did the course and I had put all this time and effort and energy into becoming a nurse.

“Then I thought – how am I going to get a job in a completely different area?”
Williamson was working as a Registered Nurse at a Melbourne hospital, in the respiratory department, when she tendered her resignation and went overseas on a holiday.

When she returned, she took up intensive care nursing at a new hospital but was back to working shifts.

Then she moved into the endoscopy unit at another hospital, working day shifts from Monday to Friday, but without the penalty rates, her pay was considerably less.

Dissatisfied, Williamson met with a career coach who helped her make a fast transition into a new career.

She was so inspired with the experience, Williamson eventually moved into career coaching.

Two years ago, she launched her own venture, Real Life Coaching.

“Hiring a career coach was pivotal for me in getting a job so quickly,” she says.

“The help that I got stayed with me and now I help people with their career change because I went through it myself.”

A career coach can help you when you’re undecided which career path you want to take or when you need reassurance that you’re heading in the right direction.

They can also help you with your resume, job search and interview skills, Williamson says.

“It could be that you completely want to change your career or it could be you want to move into a different department or a different ward in the hospital,” she says.

“Nurses should also look at other areas in the health sector and talk to allied health professionals about what they do.

“When you have already got a nursing degree, sometimes to change to allied health it doesn’t require having to do three or four years, it might be only a couple of years of study.”

Once you’ve made your decision on which direction you want to move towards, Williamson advises you update your skills if necessary with an online course, register with a recruitment agency that will help you secure permanent, casual or temporary positions, establish or update your LinkedIn profile and lastly, but most importantly, to get networking.

“A lot of the time it’s who you know rather than just going for a job,” she says.

“My other piece of advice is if you are a nurse to consider keeping up your registration as once you lose it it’s very hard to get it back.”

Nurses and allied health professionals wanting to change careers should also take into account their personal brand.

Personal branding is not just for business owners and high level executives, says Jaclyn Bold, a personal branding specialist for medical and health professionals at Bold Connections.

“Personal branding is all about who you are and what you stand for,” she says.

“The most successful employees, nurses and health professionals have strong personal brands.”

Bold says strong and consistent personal branding will help nurses and allied health professionals find employment at a different hospital or clinic, enter private practice, secure promotions and new roles, and will generally fast track their career path.

“Often there will be two candidates up for a position – both with the same qualifications and experience,” she says.

“The candidate with a strong personal brand will always stand out above the other candidate.

“For allied health professionals, a strong personal brand is the number one way to attract clients to your clinic.

“People do business with people, not clinics, so getting your personal brand known in your community, no matter how small or large, is imperative for allied health professionals.”

Start networking with the people in the wards, hospitals and departments you wish to work in, Bold suggests.

“Let them be exposed to your personal brand and understand it. That way, when they see your resume and job application in the recruitment pile – you stand out.”

Job seekers can immediately begin building and improving their personal brand to bolster their career opportunities.

Bold advises nurses and allied health professionals to clean up their social media profiles, tidy up their personal appearance, improve their posture and body language, and to be confident and happy.

“Personal branding is a long term strategy, not a short term fix,” she says.

“By doing the little things consistently well every day, you build a strong personal brand.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords