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Essential things for nursing students to do now in order to land a job later

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by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I will begin a 12-month ABSN next month. I have been layed off from my job, so I have extra time on my hands and would like to best utilize it. I am taking an online Spanish for health care providers course and have been applying for scholarships. I am looking for additional ways that I can increase my value to hospitals when I start applying for jobs. I am looking into shadowing nurses during my school breaks. What do you suggest I can do during this "dead time" to become a more attractive job candidate. I would like to get a job as soon out of school as possible to pay back student loans-especially since I'll be taking out more than I originally anticipated due to my lost income because of SARS CoV-2.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated!

Thank you very much!

Dear What Can I Do,

I love that, right now, before you've even started your nursing program, you are thinking about how to be a better candidate! Just having that mindset in and of itself sets you above the others, and that's what you must do- set yourself apart. Taking healthcare Spanish- brilliant!, if you live in a Spanish-speaking community.

So often I hear from new grads months, or even a year or more after graduation, who are failing in their job searches. It's so important to keep your eye on the market while you are still in school, and to be pro-active.

From an employer's POV, most all new grads look the same- inexperienced. But I can teach you to strategize and guarantee you will stand out. If you avoid these common mistakes, you'll be way ahead of the game.

Some very common mistakes that nursing students make are:

  • Not understanding the market in their area (do both ADNs and BSNs get hired?)
  • Assuming they will land a job without effort
  • Not applying while they are still in school (apply by last semester, many hire contingent upon licensure, and residency spots fill up way ahead of time) Read
  • Writing old-school resumes (today's grad must be sophisticated in terms of resume composition. Should you list clinical rotations? Include an objective statement?Unfortunately faculty often gives outdated advice. Read How to Get past ATS software in a resume
  • Not tweaking their resume to each employer (do not send out mass, identical resumes)
  • Failing to network (networking starts in school, during your first clinical rotation)
  • Failing to hone interviewing skills (what to wear, questions to anticipate, pitfall questions, what NOT to say and do)

I cover all these and many more tips/examples in my book below, and I hope you can feel my passion for helping new grads stand out.

Community volunteering looks very good on a resume, if you can land something. Shadowing may not be permissible now, and it doesn't add much value.

Keep your grades up. Do not listen to the naysayers who say "Grades mean nothing". This is true for experienced nurses, but in a competitive market, your GPA can make the difference between you or your classmate landing the job. At my facility, a GPA >3.75 is worth one point on a 10 point scale.

While you are in school, and immediately after a clinical rotation, get a letter of recommendation from your clinical instructor. Often clinical instructors have ties to local hospitals, and their recommendations can carry a lot of weight. Do not procrastinate, because towards or even after graduation, instructors can be inundated with requests. Ask while you are still fresh in their minds.

Try very hard to land a part-time nursing assistant or patient care technician job in a hospital you plan to apply to. Not so much for the experience, but for the hidden value. While working as an assistant, form relationships. It's actually about auditioning for your future role as an RN. Make sure the nurse manager knows you are interested in working there after graduation. You will have insider advantage.

Buy my book below. You will not regret it.

Read these articles:

New Grad Needs Help Writing Resume

Nurse Beth Pops New Grad's Bubble

You Have Three Seconds to Get the Employer's Attention

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Start your job search today!