A student from Howard School of Nursing called to ask me to donate and I politely declined because in the words of my Twinnie, “I ain’t got it!” She followed up with a few questions about becoming an RN/JD and 20 minutes later I had given her advice that I wished someone would have given to me.
In the end, I would not have done things differently, but I would have done things better.
1. Keep your job in healthcare, even if it is just PRN.
If I would have kept my previous position, I would have had 6 years of active nursing experience instead of just 3. I also would have had an easier time finding a position in that current healthcare system as a long-term employee. I could have increased my hours after I took the bar, to help me in my post grad transition. I quit my job because it was difficult balancing school and work initially and the administration convinced me that I could not work and do well my first year. Do not listen to that. Staying busy sometimes helps you focus and properly prioritize your time.
2. If you have a specialized career path, go to a school that has the resources to assist you with breaking into that field.
Although my law school had a previous RN/JD & have quite a few alumni in healthcare positions, I did not connect with them until I was in the middle of my job search. There are a few law schools that have health care law certificate programs, concentrations in health care, or a course load that allows you to get more in-depth knowledge with policy and healthcare. I did not think that my path was that special or that I would need a lot of assistance in obtaining a policy or healthcare associate position, but a different school could have possibly expanded my potential opportunities.
3. Make time for extracurricular activities that can connect you with people in your future field.
I cannot make any excuses as to why I was not more involved in the ABA or other organizations that had a host of healthcare lawyers. Although I was encouraged to join them, I did not feel that I had the time. One thing you forget in law school is how to balance and in doing so, you can miss out on very important connections that you may need in the future.
4. Your career path is special and you should highlight that often.
One thing I could have done better was highlighting my transferable skills clearly. Many people see my resume and do not understand why a nurse would want to be a lawyer, despite the millions of current issues that intersect with healthcare, policy, and the law. People need to understand the why although you think that it is obvious. Being able to have practical patient experience that involves very calculated decision-making and collaboration is key to being in policy or in legal positions. Do not shrink yourself to seem normal when you are not.
5. Do not be afraid to ask for help from those who have been hired to help you.
I made the mistake of not reaching out to Career Services until I had put in over 60 plus applications. I thought that I would be able to land a position with the resources I had. The Career Services Office is there to help you and connect you with the right people. It is all about who you know, even more so in this current job market. Although you may look great on paper, people may not even look at that paper if they don’t have a reason to pull your resume.
6. Keep an open mind.
Although my back up plan was to go back to nursing, I never though that I would really go back into nursing. I know that some people may see this as a step backwards, but financially it is 10 steps forward and now I am apart of a healthcare organization that may be able to use all of the skills that I have obtained over my 8 years of schooling. Do not be afraid to take an untraditional path to the right position. You will always be a nurse and your skills will always be valued. Make sure you don’t keep yourself from a great opportunity because you have a plan that you do not want to deter from.
I wish someone would have told me a few of these things. I may have listened or learned on my own but I want the next person to know better and do better.
Keep your foot in all doors. Always think ahead and of the potential issues that can arise. Maintain your nursing license. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.