How I snagged 2 RN jobs one month after licensure. (Tips, tips, and more tips!)
Whether you are just starting on your nursing school pre-requisites or you have already passed the NCLEX, there are various steps you can take along the way to set yourself up for job hunting success. While every suggestion on this tip timeline may not apply directly to where you are at on your nursing journey, I hope that this article might spark some innovation on how to job hunt in a competitive market that you can build upon in a way that works for you. Best of luck to you in all you future nursing endeavors!
Excuse this post, I know it is going to be long-winded. These tips were collected via numerous email threads between myself and my classmates on how I received 2 job offers, when many of them had applied to the same positions and had been rejected. I thought I would share our experiences in hopes that it might help a fellow new grad. I know this is completely subjective and not every step I took may be plausible for every applicant (because of your personal timeline or otherwise), but maybe this list can spark some innovation in those of you that are at a loss on how to make yourself more marketable.
Before Nursing School:
I volunteered like crazy in the dept. I was interested in. Yes it is "just" volunteer work so your clinical experience is limited to taking VS and being a sitter, but this gave me a better idea of the pt acuity, pace, etc. of this dept. and showed the nurse recruiter that I had been interested in this dept. for years.
I obtained a degree in a similar field while I was working on my pre-reqs and waiting to get into Nursing School. Yes this is not realistic for everyone and this takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end I had something other applicants didn't, real community health education experience. I was waiting to get into NS anyway, I chose to make that time useful.
While in Nursing School:
Network, network, network. Treat your clinicals like working job interviews. You never know who will take notice and help you further your career. This help might be in the form of a letter of reference or a tip on a yet to be announced open position.
Keep on volunteering! I know you're probably exhausted from school but after you have adjusted get to volunteering. Whether it is once a week or once a month it is still something to put on a resume.
Work as a CNA/ED Tech/etc. I was unable to obtain a CNA position while in NS (rejection after rejection) but this route has helped some of my classmates get their foot in the door.
See if one of your former teachers will let you help out as a teacher's assistant over the next semester. Although your end goal may not be to teach in NS, it will help you reinforce the information taught in the class, it shows that you are responsible, and it shows that you are invested in lifelong learning.
After Nursing School and Licensure:
Keep on volunteering! I know, I'm an old broken record. But if you have yet to find a job keep yourself busy between filling out apps with any sort of pt care.
Take continuing education classes (ACLS, PALS, NIH stroke cert, Flex Ed, etc.). Learning doesn't stop when NS is over. Spend the money it is an investment. I asked for help with payment on these classes as Xmas and Bday presents, I worked out deals and got discounts by paying cash up front, etc. It is doable! Get your ACLS and PALS because some HR depts. won't consider you without them although they won't tell you this.
Ask for letters of rec early. So early that you aren't even done with your last semester. It took some of my professors almost 5 months to get back to me! My classmates that asked for letters the week new grad apps opened could not even apply because their letters were not ready in time.
Go to the writing or career center at your school and have a professional go over your resume and cover letter. With each new app make adjustments. Highlight experiences you have that could give you an in on that particular unit, add the name of an employee that referred you to that specific hospital to your cover letter, etc. Customize, customize, customize! Recruiters can tell when your cover letter and resume are generic and you're sending them out to nth amount of positions and various hospitals. Let them know why you want this specific hospital.
When applying to one hospital with numerous positions available, only apply to the floor you really, really want. One of the nurse recruiters that hired me said she looked for applicants that repeatedly applied to one specific floor because it showed her that they really wanted that position as opposed to applicants who applied to any opening. She wrote those applicants off because she assumed that once they got their experience they would leave for a position on a floor/at a hospital they really wanted (her beliefs not mine).
Once you have an interview:
Prep and practice for your interview. Don't let them take you by surprise. Be able to provide a specific reason for why you want to work at that hospital that way they know you did your homework. You're already going to be nervous, don't compound this by being ill-prepared.
Do not go into your interview empty-handed. Spend the time and money and make a career portfolio. I spent all of $20 making copies of my licenses, skills sheets, letters of rec, certifications, volunteer work duty descriptions, etc. and got them organized, tabbed, and bound at Kinko's to give to the panel I interviewed with to keep and remember me by.
You already know that at the end of the interview they are going to ask you if you have any questions. I tend to forget the questions I want to ask because I am so nervous so I printed out my questions beforehand and brought them with me. Both panels mentioned they were impressed that I did this.
After your interview hand deliver thank you letters to everyone you interviewed with. If you're bad at remembering names ask them for business cards before you leave the interview or ask the front desk for their contact information before you leave. I'm not saying bring the thank you letters to their office directly and bother them. I just dropped them off with HR to be put in their boxes. They could tell I took the time to go back the next day because my letters were not mailed.
Try not to make every single thank you letter exactly the same, put in details that are specific to what you talked about or what the individual panel member said.
Above all never give up! If what you have done up until this point hasn't worked, re-evaluate and try new avenues. Follow up if you are rejected. Ask what your weak points are, work on those, and try again. Best of luck to all! I know that eventually every single one of you will get there!Last edit by Joe V on Jan 8, '15
May 29, '13great advice and congrats! esp good idea on the "question list" at your interview. I'll be doing the same thing now.May 29, '13Excellent advice, and it worked for you. The good news is that it can work for a lot of others as well, provided they follow it.
The resume and employment applications are very important, as are the interviews. I have seen some resumes and applications with , , and composition that would gag a buzzard. Seriously, leave the "internet spelling" (i.e., "alot", etc.) behind when putting together anything that will represent you. Yes, I have seen stuff like this... just before it is "filed".
When answering a question during the interview, be certain your answer sounds like an answer and not like another question. When I ask a question and the other person's answer sounds like a question (has to do with intonation), my impression is that person is unsure of the answer and himself/herself. Listen to people as they speak and this will become very clear.
Now, go get 'em!May 30, '13Hi Jmart83,
Thanks for generously giving prospective NS students your advice. I'm always looking for this online, "how to be a competitive nurse applicant". I will be volunteering at 2 hospitals and a nursing home myself! Congrats on getting the job too!
NMay 30, '13This post makes me sad. Don't get me wrong, kudos to the OP for your tenacity and your willingness to share a successful strategy. But is wasn't long ago that hospitals had to woo the RNs. It was the hospital who worked hard to recruit new nurses. They had to offer decent working conditions or risk nurses voting with their feet. Nurses wages went up enough to keep constant with the increasing cost of living. Management had to treat us like valued members of the care team, a resource to be values, not disposable like now.
Their strategy of creating a non existent "nursing shortage" with their false and self serving propaganda has achieved the desired results.May 30, '13I haven't even started nursing school yet but I already love your first tip about volunteering. You never know what impression you might make on people you don't even think are watching you. And, at least if it doesn't work out that volunteering leads to something more fruitful, you have given back to the community and made as best a use of time as you could. Thanks for the advice!May 31, '13This is an amazing list of tips for finding a job in nursing! I know it can be tough out there, and the best advice I've given is to just stay positive and motivated when looking for a job, and to get creative... and to network... but, you really spelled it all out nicely! I bet this will really help a lot of people gain some focus and find that job in nursing they want!May 31, '13Quote from PMFB-RNI agree with a lot of things you said here, PMFB-RN. I do love it when successful new grads post tips and get the jobs of their dreams. I think that's amazing. But right now, it generally seems like nursing is driven more by competition than caring, and that is a little disheartening to me. It's just an unfortunate reality of the profession.This post makes me sad. Don't get me wrong, kudos to the OP for your tenacity and your willingness to share a successful strategy. But is wasn't long ago that hospitals had to woo the RNs. It was the hospital who worked hard to recruit new nurses. They had to offer decent working conditions or risk nurses voting with their feet. Nurses wages went up enough to keep constant with the increasing cost of living. Management had to treat us like valued members of the care team, a resource to be values, not disposable like now.
Their strategy of creating a non existent "nursing shortage" with their false and self serving propaganda has achieved the desired results.
Stil, kudos to you, JMart83! Hard work and perseverance pays off.May 31, '13Thank you dearly for sharing this information, it is much appreciated. I had wondered about adjusting and readjusting my resume over and over again and thought I was doing too much so decided to stay with my uniform one... But thanks to your advice I will make sure to personalize the resume for the position I want... Thanks again, and good luck in your career
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