Leave a photo album or scrapbook on the coffee table at home and you're likely to find visitors eagerly leafing through the pages. Collected mementos of significant life events are an inviting way to summarize personal growth, so consider how a professional archive can highlight your career growth.
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Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) relies on words to describe your education and clinical experiences. A collection of photos and documents complements that information with visual records of your professional activities.
An archive is a simple investment that promises big rewards. Just keep a folder handy and add to it as opportunities arise. For example, if you create a patient-teaching sheet, place a copy in the folder. If you receive an award, include the document. Show your passion for the profession with photos of you speaking at high school career day along with certificates of attendance at nursing conferences. If you work on a committee that tackles new projects each year, add a list of the committee's annual accomplishments to the folder. If a patient writes you a thank-you note, drop that in too.
As you mature in your nursing career, your professional archive can be a handy tool for updating your resume or CV. Your years of committee work will be there along with letters from patients and other evidence of your achievements. When you're ready for a job change, you can create a portfolio to wow interviewers with highlights of your career.
What does a portfolio look like? It shouldn't resemble the scrapbook on your coffee table. In a binder, place appropriate items on nice paper with sheet protectors. Divide the materials into labeled sections, such as clinical experience, committee work, education, and volunteer activities. Your portfolio can have a personal touch, but don't risk turning people off with trivia. Take care to maintain a professional tone and keep frills to a minimum.
Even if you don't use your archive for professional advancement, you'll probably be glad to have it. Keeping track of your accomplishments builds self-esteem and helps you recognize strengths gained on your career path. Reflecting on your work may inspire you to aim for new heights, feel more confident in your practice, or even start a degree program you've been putting off.
Picture your professional archive 20 years from now and break out the folder.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN, BC, CMSRN, MSN