Older new grad, no employment history, shy, gay, good academics

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    Hi all. Maybe this thread would best fit under some life-coaching or psychotherapy category, or something of that nature, but I could really use some advice and Im not sure where else to go. I was raised in California and earned my first BS degree there, but went to my fatherland in Indonesia to take up nursing. After 4 years, Id graduate from a BSN program, take the local boards, and obtain an Indonesian license. I do not intend to use this license locally, and the only reason I took the board exam was because I heard many states in the US are requiring this in order for me to sit in for the NCLEX.

    Im at a point where I need to decide which state to pursue practice. Id prefer to return to CA, but I hear the BON there is quite strict with foreign graduates and that maybe Id have a better chance in NY. I am a US citizen and so getting myself in the US is no problem. So this is one big question about which I need discerning. Any thoughts or advice? I am not tied down to CA, as I do not have a home there anymore, so any state is possible, though itd be nice if I knew someone there to begin with.

    That aside, perhaps my most pressing dilemma is this: Im 32 years old, and have zero work experience. The thought of having to explain this to my prospective employers is absolutely daunting. My family wonders. My friends wonder. Those recruiters and interviewers would definitely wonder why, too. Because the fact is that I graduated at the top of my high school, at the top of my graduating class of the UC program of my first bachelors degree, as well as at the top of my nursing program in the Indonesia.
    But the truth is that my being book-smart has been somewhat of a compensation for my general lack of confidence, ever since childhood. I remember growing up to be a painfully shy child. I was also morbidly obese. And I was (and still am) a closeted gay person.

    My shyness was pretty bad all throughout my grammar school years. I had my small group of closer friends, but Id always shy away from gatherings or parties where I might have to meet strangers. The thought of trying a summer job or any extracurriculars was terrifying, so I never did. Around my high school years Id diagnose myself with social anxiety disorder. Id get this confirmed by a psychiatrist whod prescribe me celexa, which I took for only about a month before I stopped seeing her all together. Id do my own self-medicating with self-help books and herbal remedies after that, but I guess nothing ever really worked. Id just force myself to endure new situations and meeting new people as best I could. Sometimes it went well, other times it didnt. But the shyness has always prevented me from going up to the really important people, like potential interviewers, or to chat with authority figures just to schmooze and network.

    I suppose my shyness was also due in part to the fact that I was morbidly obese and gay. Being a sissy big guy was always something I felt insecure about. In any case, after earning my first degree, Id fix the obese part over 2 years with diet and exercise. Having shed nearly 130lb, Im at my ideal body weight now and have kept that off for nearly 7 years. I am a physically fit person and this is one of the few accomplishments I am genuinely proud of.

    Now about the closeted gay part. Somehow this has always inhibited the full expression of my personality, which contributes to my scarcity of close friends. Its not that Id be flamboyant or obviously gay otherwise (or that I see anything wrong with this), but I feel that being closeted prevents me from really being myself around acquaintances to allow for a possible close friendship. It makes me feel insecure to have to hide this. But I am a part of a closeted gay relationship with my first and only boyfriend, now of nearly 4 years, and this is something I am also very proud of, but someday wed both like to just be free to express our affection publicly. Its very hard to do that right now for a myriad of reasons, and if it were easier for us to come out of the closet, we definitely would.

    Well...back to HS and college. I did well cus I did nothing but study. My social life sucked and I was too afraid to try internships or summer jobs. 4 years would elapse between graduation from UC and entry into my BSN program in the Indonesia. In that time Id focus on weight loss, take up nursing prerequisite classes part time in various community colleges, and help my mother take care of my physically ill father, who had cancer. I would accompany him on doctors appointments, drive him to and from a dialysis center, and prepare his meals. He eventually passed away which is why I traveled back to Indonesia, to bury him. For what its worth, I had also earned CNA certification in those 4 years as a prerequisite for an entry level masters in nursing program in CA. But I was denied admission.

    So I took up nursing in Indonesia. I managed to do well considering the slight language barrier, as I never really learned my native tongue too well since I moved to the US at an early age. On a positive note though, I think I do well with patients for the most part. Its the initial greetings and getting-to-know-you bit, especially with their families and friends, that I tend to struggle with. But somehow, the fact that I have some defined therapeutic relationship with them takes a little bit of the edge off from the performance aspect I most fear in nonprofessional, social relationships. In fact, Ive surprised myself that I can establish really good rapport with patients sometimes, and part of the reason Ive done so well in nursing school is because I can think outside of the box and be quite creative in my approach to establish that rapport. Ive composed a list of the out-of-the ordinary measures in case I can cite them for prospective employers. In spite of my shyness, I know in my heart of hearts that I am a compassionate guy and can become a really effective nurse someday. I just need to get my foot in the door, tough out the initial jitters, and continue to learn to hone my cognitive and motor skills. I know my heart and attitude are in the right place.

    In any case, the only reason I mention any of that is because I wonder if it any of it will matter in terms of explaining my lack of an employment history considering my age, or whether I should even broach them to my prospective employer in the first place. What do you guys think? Id really appreciate any feedback. This has gotten to be a really lengthy post and theres so much more to say but I better end it here. Thanks so much for reading and for your support.
  2. 34 Comments so far...

  3. 0
    you worked as alicensed nurse in Indonesia? If so, there is your job experience, even though it is in a different country, it is experience...
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    No, don't mention most of the TMI that you just gave us to a prospective employer.

    Do not touch the "closeted gay" aspect of your life with a ten foot pole. I wouldn't mention being pathologically shy, either. If you do get fielded a question about "an obstacle that you've had to overcome" (a fairly common interview question) -- that would be an appropriate time to bring up the weight loss. You could also tailor your weight loss into the ole' "name some good attributes that you have" -- you're persistent, disciplined, and you follow through and then go into your weight loss story.

    You actually have a...perhaps not stereotypical but definitely a comfortable story to explain both your lack of work experience and your desire to be a nurse. Nothing wrong in explaining that you didn't know what you wanted to do when you received your first undergrad degree, then took care of your ailing dad (definitely highlight this experience in an interview), and that's when you decided to go to nursing school. Easy peasy.

    I have no idea how Indonesian training translates to the US. We have an International forum on here to discuss that.

    Good luck! In all future job interviews, just remember to keep your answers conservative, short, and politically correct.
    Adrian32 likes this.
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    Quote from dirtyhippiegirl
    No, don't mention most of the TMI that you just gave us to a prospective employer.

    Do not touch the "closeted gay" aspect of your life with a ten foot pole. I wouldn't mention being pathologically shy, either. If you do get fielded a question about "an obstacle that you've had to overcome" (a fairly common interview question) -- that would be an appropriate time to bring up the weight loss. You could also tailor your weight loss into the ole' "name some good attributes that you have" -- you're persistent, disciplined, and you follow through and then go into your weight loss story.

    You actually have a...perhaps not stereotypical but definitely a comfortable story to explain both your lack of work experience and your desire to be a nurse. Nothing wrong in explaining that you didn't know what you wanted to do when you received your first undergrad degree, then took care of your ailing dad (definitely highlight this experience in an interview), and that's when you decided to go to nursing school. Easy peasy.
    Thank you dirtyhippiegirl! After posting this I felt kind of queasy because yes, it all was embarrassingly TMI, and blatantly so. As much as I'd like to get into some anamnesis, or my own psychoanalysis of my situation (i.e. the social anxiety and gay part), I guess you're right about leaving this out of an interview. What was I thinking?

    I really like the reasons you cite up there for my lack of employment history. I mean they are my reasons and of course I've always known them but I was never too sure what to emphasize because everything feels so boggled with all the other TMI, which are at the heart of the matter and which have probably been more significant in getting me to where I am now. It probably sounds a bit silly to attribute it to shyness or sexual orientation, and these are but mere aspects of my life that have taken on gargantuan proportions but I need not to let the interviewer know that.

    About the lack of extracurriculars...do employers look much into this? Would it suffice to say that I wanted to really focus on my studies, and have my good academic record support me on this? And the lack of internships and summer jobs before I graduated, when I was supposedly not so busy...I cringe at the thought of saying that I was studying in advance for the next upcoming semester. Sigh.

    Thank you dirtyhippiegirl you've been such a great help already.
  6. 0
    Quote from mds1
    you worked as alicensed nurse in Indonesia? If so, there is your job experience, even though it is in a different country, it is experience...
    No, I have no work experience. Just got my BSN there. I got training and certification as a CNA in California but only as a requirement to get into a program and I was never actually employed as a CNA.
  7. 0
    You really do need to get your foot in the door, I wonder if an employer who has insight into social anxiety disorder will be willing to look past your lack of previous employment and give you a chance. Have you considered applying for research assistant positions with researchers who specialize in social anxiety?
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    Get a job, any job, just to establish some work experience.

    You may be able to explain the lack of employment, in part, by saying you were in school & had family obligations.

    And when coming to the US, move to a diverse urban center. No one will care if your gay or not.
  9. 0
    Quote from MrChicagoRN
    And when coming to the US, move to a diverse urban center. No one will care if your gay or not.
    No, but getting a nursing job - esp. with no experience and a foreign nursing degree - in most diverse urban centers will be a challenge.

    I feel like what dishes is saying is a huge long shot, and not likely to lead to a nursing position even if the OP should land a lab assistant position. (Been there, done that btw.)


    OP -- You *are* facing an uphill battle. I do think that you have some personal experiences which can be turned into great interview or essay stories. But. Do you even know if your Indonesian nursing license will translate over? I'm not entirely certain that getting a nursing job in Indonesia will help. My own husband made the shift from Canada to the US and nobody would even look at his work experience because it was overseas. I'd imagine that having a language barrier doesn't help with that.
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    I agree that the first step is finding out how you can get licensed in the US. You mentioned NY as an option. Best to start the ball rolling with your licensure application. I believe NY requires credentials verification from CGFNS for RN license applicants educated outside the US (see: CGFNS International — Global Credibility in Credentials Evaluation). This entire process is going to take quite a bit of time so I would consider seeking employment in Indonesia in the meantime. It may or may not mean much to a prospective US employer but if anything, it will validate the fact that you have overcome your perceived flaws and could handle the requirements of nursing.
    Adrian32 and dishes like this.
  11. 0
    I would look into taking the NCLEX, and also volunteer while you are reviewing for the exam. Be sure and get references when you volunteer.


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