Tips and Tricks on How to Get a Job as a New Graduate RN!

by ashleyrosesf

36,115 Views | 42 Comments

Most of us entered nursing school with promises of the ease in finding work upon graduation only to find our hopes shaken by the surge of negativity in the job market. We're bombarded with stories of people telling us that it's extremely hard to impossible to find a job, that we should settle for jobs that don't light us up just to get experience, or that we should think about doing something else as a career. These are tips that my friends and I put together after finding positions before and shortly after graduation to help those who are in and out of school achieve their goals!

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    Tips and Tricks on How to Get a Job as a New Graduate RN!

    Hey guys! This website has been so great to me over the years that, once I passed boards (which I did today officially - hurray!) and got a job (which I got a month before I graduated) I would put together a posting on how to best get a job in this economy as a new graduate nurse.

    A bit about me:

    I worked my behind off in nursing school. I was always an A-B student but had to work for it. I'm pretty addicted to learning and consider myself to be a self starter, which is an essential portion of the below. I live in Southern California, born and raised in the Bay Area, which as most of you know is one of the "worst" places to find a new position as a nurse. I went to an ADN program as well, so already out of the gate you'd think that it would be darn close to impossible to find a job.

    I've broken the following down by tips on how to find a position if you're a nursing student vs. a nurse already.

    Tips For Nursing Students:


    Get as many certifications as you can.*

    While in school I got BLS, ACLS, PALS, IV and blood withdrawal, and stroke certifications. It was all I asked for for Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays. It beefs up your resume and makes you stand out to recruiters that you not only love learning but you go above and beyond.

    * If it's too expensive and not feasible for your life, you can stand out in other ways. =)

    Relationships.

    On the same track as the above - start forming relationships with your clinical instructors as soon as possible, fellow students, and the nurses and management on the unit. Print out recommendation letter form templates and give them out to the nurses you work with and request they write a few words if they appreciated your help. It really looks good to have recommendations from people who weren't your instructors. Also request after each session a recommendation letter from your instructor. They will forget if you wait!

    Portfolio.

    Start putting together a portfolio in your first semester of all your accomplishments and recommendation letters. By the time I was finished with school I had over 10 letters of recommendation from instructors and nurses I worked with as well as from the places I volunteered, unofficial transcripts, certification sheets, volunteer work commendations, and a letter of acceptance to my RN-BSN program.

    Always go above and beyond in the clinical setting.

    This is where you have a chance to shine! Don't be scared to do something new and exciting and always ask if you can at least observe if you don't feel comfortable with a procedure. Even if it seems unreasonable - ASK! Also ask to do things that the nurses don't want or don't have time to do if you have the time (like accuchecks, bed baths, wiping and cleaning up after an "accident.")

    For example, my school wasn't going to allow us to go down to observe surgeries, which is eventually where I want to work as a CRNA down the line. I continued to request it from my instructor and specifically picked patients who were heading down for a procedure till I was able to spend two days of my rotation there!

    Volunteering and more volunteering.

    Go to a hospital, hospice care, anything medically-related and start volunteering as much as you can as soon as you can. THIS ALSO WORKS IF YOU'RE FINISHED WITH SCHOOL WAITING FOR BOARDS! Not only does it look great on your resume for future employers, but it allows you to make connections and be exposed to more facets of the field so you can nail down where you think you'd be happiest.

    For example, I volunteered with Cedars Sinai Medical Center as a Meal Time Mate in nursing school feeding cognitively impaired patients and was a part of their nursing internship program in Critical Care.

    If you can, get a job related to the field!

    Ideally, work at getting into a hospital as a Patient Care Associate or Certified Nursing Assistant or Unit Secretary to form connections that will help give you the internal edge once you graduate.
    I worked in home healthcare during nursing school as both a caregiver for one company and eventually the Executive Director for another. It was difficult to work while going to nursing school, but the experience was amazing!

    Don't stop with your ADN.

    Even showing future employers that you've gotten in to a BSN program says a lot about you as a person. It shows that you're always pushing yourself further and know that higher education in nursing is important.

    Introduce yourself!

    When you're on the floor for clinicals, make it a point to introduce yourself to the nurse managers on the unit and, if you can, the nurse recruiters.

    Advice For Those Who Are Already Nurses:


    Attitude.

    The biggest beef I have with this site is that people come on and complain about how hard it is to find a job which only perpetuates the negativity that society is giving to us already. What got me and my classmates the positions we have now is not giving up, staying positive and persistent, and refusing to get a defeatist attitude about it being "so hard out there for new grads." Continuing to work at finding the job you love will pay off!

    Dream big.

    Look at the hospitals you want to work at and get the name and contact information of the nurse recruiters or hiring managers. Even if they give you a no initially, thank them for their time and ask them what you can do to get a job at their hospital. Then let them know that you're going to be contacting them again after you get your BSN/1 year of experience/whatever else they're looking for.

    For example, I have an "in" at CHLA through my boss in Los Angeles. My boss and I got me an informational interview/coffee meeting with the nurse recruiter there and we hit it off great. Only downside is the fact that they only hire BSNs into their Versant program, so I gave her my contact information and we ping each other every so often to keep that link alive until I finish my new grad program and my BSN.

    Informational interviews are key.

    Get the contact information for nurse recruiters and hiring managers and cold call them to request an informational interview after doing a little internet stalking on them to have some interesting things to say.

    For example, the nurse recruiter for my job grew up in the same area I did and went to school near where I grew up. When I called to ask for an informational interview, I got to chatting with her about the Bay Area. We ended up on the phone for a good 30 minutes!

    Don't just apply online.

    You can apply to a million jobs online and never get an interview. Regardless of how good you look on paper, it's all about getting in front of them or talking to someone on the phone. You MUST make yourself known and stand out. If you can't get an informational interview, figure out other creative ways to get in front of them. Are there nursing panels for alumns at your school? Nurse recruitment sessions in your area? Do you have a friend or relative in the hospital that you want to work at? (As horrible as the latter is, some of my friends have been successful at that!)

    Don't accept anyone telling you you aren't good enough with "just" having your ADN.

    We know that many hospitals are moving to Magnet status and only hiring BSNs. Don't let yourself think that you are less than for having your ADN! You worked hard for your degree and you have so much to offer organizations. All my classmates and I graduated from an ADN program.

    You've got the informational interview or interview! Now what?!


    Do as much research on the hospital as you can and prepare a list of questions. They want to know that you're interested in working there and will, inevitably, ask you why. Look at specifics. Was the hospital a leader in the area that you want to work in? (For example, my hospital was the first in the area to do a heart transplant. My specific interests are in the CTICU and cardiac surgery & procedures.) Call to figure out who may be on your panel if you can - then do a little internet research to find out a bit more about them to be able to drop some personal information during your interview!

    Also, get a clear picture as to why you're a nurse and why you want to work on that particular unit. Brush up on some nursing basics to be prepared for clinical scenarios.

    Contacts get you the job!

    Contact family, friends, friends-of-friends, instructors, anyone you can think of that might help you get a job. Drop that you're a nurse to everyone you talk with - your dry cleaner, people sitting next to you on the plane, your waiter. You never know where connections will come from. Always be attentive and "on" when you're out doing things. I got a ping for my current job from my yoga instructor! :P

    Take care of yourself and your body.

    While it sounds superficial, it's a fact that people are that way. Keep a pressed outfit at the ready and keep yourself physically fit and eating well. In several interviews I had people chat with me about fitness tips and commenting on how professional & nice I looked.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 3, '13
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    ashleyrosesf joined May '10 - from 'Marin County'. Posts: 126 Likes: 65; Learn more about ashleyrosesf by visiting their allnursesPage Website


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    42 Comments so far...

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    I appreciate the tips; however, these do not work for everyone.

    I know when I was a student, I introduced myself to the NM. She had no idea I was even a student, despite being in scrubs and having my school patches on them identifying myself. She asked me if I was interested in a CNA position and I explained I was getting ready to graduate nursing school. She just seemed uninterested.

    I volunteer like crazy, not in a hospital but with different community organizations. I enjoy public health and community outreach. I have had health depts say they admire that, but it did not get me the job. I still have one health dept job outstanding. So maybe it will help with that one.

    I would not spend money on certifications unless a job offer was extended. BLS and ACLS and other certifications and professional organization things cost money with no guarantee of return in a job. Plus you have to recertify.

    Thank you notes and emails...it is hit or miss. I have sent thank yous before, still no job offer. Other times that I did not send them, I actually had potential.

    Bottom line is this...apply for jobs you actually want, find regions that need nurses, and dress nice. You have more of a chance that way. These other things I have seen over and over. Sometimes they work and sometimes they do not.
    MissH1967, anotherone, ShantheRN, and 6 others like this.
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    Good info! I think a lot of new grads are very naive about how they can get a job in this market. I noticed the BSN jab, best not go into it I agree, however that is a very broad and stereotypical argument about BSNs I have to disagree with from my personal experience. Appreciate your input on this job search topic, just felt the need to defend my education and degree I have been very much prepared for the real world and have had more clinical hours than most ADN programs.
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    Everyone that I know who has gotten a job in the California job market is due to persistence, going the extra mile, and positivity. We came up with the tips above and found that they work well to help yourself stand out, which is essential in this job market. Some people don't have the flexibility to leave their direct area because of children or other obligations. I met my fair share of resistance and rude HR people, but it's their loss overall that they won't get to have us work for them! =)

    As for certifications, all the nurse recruiters I ended up going on informational interviews with (15 total) all reinforced the above, especially the certifications. So, shrug! =)

    Will the tips work for everyone? No. Will they help you land a job? Certainly more so than not!

    [I also know that I'm not the norm. I do have the ability to move and decided to take a new graduate Versant program with a three year contract at a gorgeous hospital a little over an hour away from where I live now. But aside from the aforementioned traits above that I think are essential in the job market, there's very little that puts me apart from anyone else. I just refuse to let people tell me something is hard and that I can't do it. ;-) ]
    Last edit by ashleyrosesf on Jun 28, '13
    Nkiru14, tesskb89, priorities2, and 1 other like this.
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    I think that it's essential to get a Bachelors, don't get me wrong. I'm in the process of getting it now through CSUDH. I just mean that people like to get on a high horse about BSN > ADN and it's frustrating. I meant no disrespect at all. I know that not all programs are created equal. =)
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    I volunteered in an ER for 2 years while I was a student and after I passed the NCLEX. It didn't help me one iota with the job search.
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    Thanks for the post! Very motivating for those of us struggling with the job hunt. It's hard not to get overwhelmed and discouraged sometimes.
    I wish I could rewind time & try out some of those for nursing students! I graduated this past May and have put so much time & effort into finding a job, with no luck so far. All through school, my main focus was "just pass!" because our instructors kept telling us we would have no problem finding a job, that our college's nursing grads are highly valued and always find jobs easy. Maybe that was true for past classes, but our graduating class is definitely not having that luck! If I am invited back to talk to next year's graduating class, I will definitely be emphasizing some of the key points & hopefully help some of them find jobs faster!
    MissH1967 likes this.
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    I'm sorry, but it seems like you're bashing the OP. All they are trying to do is give you tips and ideas about how to make your post-grad life easier. Thank you ashleyrosesf, they are good tips and I will be using some of them in the future.
    Last edit by tayloramaRN2be on Jun 29, '13 : Reason: Typo
    jtm11, RN2BE83, tsunade, and 1 other like this.
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    No I am not. These are not new tips. I want people to realize doing these are not an automatic slam dunk to get a job. It is hit or miss. These are nice if the interviewer is between two people, it might, and I emphasize might, give you an edge.

    However, dressing nicely is something everyone agrees is important, picking an area that is not saturated with nursing schools and new grads definitely helps, and applying for jobs you actually want to work at can make an interview easier due to interest and I can guarantee you that if you get a nursing job, it will be in an area you want.

    One of the interviews I went on, I told the interviewer I would pay for the ACLS and her reply was the hospital gives that to the employee. No need to pay for it.
    MissH1967, jtm11, anotherone, and 3 others like this.
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    Those are all great tips- thanks for posting. I do have to say the BSN downer comment seemed a bit detrimental to the rest of the positive feel of the post. I am a BSN, and my program did literally hundreds of clinical hours more than the ADN programs in the vicinity. I don't understand why people who go to school for a year and a half less often seem to make it sound like their education is superior to their BSN counterparts. Anyhow, good luck as you begin working as an RN.
    srandall1492, MissH1967, anotherone, and 2 others like this.


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