New Grads Who Are Having Trouble Finding A Job

  1. Are you a new grad. nurse who can’t seem to get hired even though you’ve applied for countless nursing positions? You’ve probably read more articles about the current nursing shortage then you can even count and since day one of nursing school you have had professors tell you how badly we need nurses; So where the heck are all of the jobs? My friends, while we do have a shortage of nurses and an ever increasing need to fill more nursing positions, we as nursing students and new grads have been given this false sense of entitlement that once you have finished nursing school every hospital within a hundred miles will be falling all over themselves to offer you jobs. This is not to say that you may not be offered positions before graduation (which can and does happen) but we need to start looking at nursing like we look at business and other careers in demand. Nursing schools are pumping out new grads at an incredible rate and with our current economic situation many nurses who would be retiring are staying longer so that means that there is more competition for jobs then ever before. We need to start looking at ways to set ourselves apart before we graduate from nursing school so that after we have graduated and after we have taken our NCLEX we are not standing with our shoulders shrugged and mouthing the words “Now what do I do?”

    I bring this up because I have seen fellow nursing students and new grads who have worked so hard to finish school, pass the NCLEX and figure out what they want to do with their nursing degree only to find out that the position they want isn’t open to them or that they have to settle for something else until they can find an “in” to the job they really want. So as a nursing student in my junior year who happens to work in a large teaching hospital I have looked to my coworkers and managers as nursing mentors and asked them the simple question of “What do I need to do now so that I can have the job I want when I graduate?” So here is the advice that I was offered. Will it guarantee you a job? No but they will definitely improve your chances as well as strengthen your resume and your practice. There are five main points but they can be the difference between having a job now and having to wait months to find a job later.

    1. Get your foot in the door. – In most careers requiring a college education, you will learn the basic skills you need during school but if you don’t find some sort of internship before you graduate then you most likely won’t get a job right away. Why do nursing students and grad. nurses think they’re different? You want to be a NICU Nurse in a city hospital’s Level III NICU? Or an ER Nurse in your state’s only Level I Trauma center? Well get in line ladies and gents because so does everybody else! If you really want those hard to get positions then you should look into getting a job at a hospital your interested in while your in nursing school so you can get your foot in the door and build up a little seniority. Whether its doing hands on care as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), NSA (Nursing Student Assistant) or even working as a secretary or dietary aide it still counts towards seniority! Most hospitals and medical centers give current employees first dibs on any jobs before they become available to the public so it lets you apply to jobs before other classmates can even see them. Oh and clinicals don’t count because every nursing student does clinicals, you need something that sets you apart from the other new grads.

    2. Polish your resume. – As professionals, we should know how to create a well-written resume and cover letter. When applying for jobs as a nurse you should be sending a resume and cover letter with every application. I mean you’re not applying to be a burger flipper at Burger King folks! This means that your resume should be simple but polished and complete with proper spelling and grammar with up to date information. Focus your resume on highlighting your strengths but use it as a tool to determine what you need to improve. Do you have a lot of education but little work experience or volunteer experiences? Then it’s probably a good idea to change that and make yourself a little more well-rounded. This includes looking for volunteering experiences, which is a great way to meet people and make contacts. For more tips on resumes and cover letters check out the thread by NRSKarenRN (Wondering why you can't get hired or promoted: Resume + Interview hints!)

    3. Network, Network, Network! – I understand that the job market and college are really tough areas to navigate but at some point everyone has to step out and start meeting people and making business connections. Networking is the professional way of developing contacts and finding mentors in your industry. In my opinion, I don’t think that the first time new grad. nurses should speak to nurse managers or clinical educators is when they are looking for a job as a nurse. That is certainly an important time to speak to those people but you will already have missed many potential opportunities. Nurse managers and clinical educators are experienced nurses who have usually counseled many new nurses over the years and are able to offer a wealth of advice. If your still in your nursing program why not call your local hospital and try to see if you can shadow a nurse in a specialty your interested in? Or how about you ask to see if you can have a meeting with the nurse manager of a department you might want to work in? They may have advice or opportunities for you or just words of encouragement to help you get through school. This is how you develop contacts and network. You should also join nursing organizations as a student and develop professional contacts from there as well.

    4. Get Involved! – Joining student groups and nursing organizations is a great way to get to know your fellow students, network with professionals and to learn more about nursing. It’s also a way to beef up your resume and to show potential employers that you’re serious about nursing and being a leader. The best place to start looking for information about student groups and nursing organizations is at your school from other students and your professors.

    5. Be flexible but don’t settle. – So lets say you’ve already graduated but you didn’t follow any of the other tips (Its ok there’s still hope!) You need to begin making a list of what you need in a job and what you want in a job, what makes or breaks a deal. Some people are absolutely certain of what specialty they want to work in and are willing to relocate if they need to or work part time if that’s all that’s available. Others are less concerned about their specialty and more concerned about finding full time employment that’s close to where they live. Being flexible about what you want is ok but don’t settle by giving up what you need in a job. If your heart is set on working in pediatrics then don’t take a job working with geriatric patients in a long-term care facility just to have a job. Being flexible about wants is something you can deal with but settling and giving up on some of your needs will affect your practice in a negative way and bring you further from your goals. Let’s say that your heart is set on pediatrics but you’re a little flexible with other aspects of the job; so while that long term care job wouldn’t be a good idea, a part-time float position in a children’s hospital would probably be a better fit. Just don’t forget that you need to keep searching until the right job comes along!
    Last edit by cjcsoon2bnp on Jun 27, '09
  2. Visit cjcsoon2bnp profile page

    About cjcsoon2bnp, BSN, MSN, RN, NP

    Joined: Jul '05; Posts: 1,201; Likes: 1,547
    ED NP and Clinical Instructor; from US
    Specialty: Emergency Nursing

    10 Comments

  3. by   86toronado
    :yeahthat:
    Great Post! It's very true that all of us who graduated this year were told when we started there would be tons of jobs available, only to be told in our final semester "Oh, by the way, the new graduate positions are not so plentiful this year!" Many of my fellow nursing students did not take that warning seriously, however... after being told otherwise for two years I guess it was hard to swallow.

    But if you really think about it, if we had gone into any other career field, we would have been networking, seeking out internships, and polishing our resumes for the entire time we were in school... why should nursing be any different? We strive to be seen as professionals, but then expect to show up at the human resources office of our favorite hospital in jeans and a t-shirt, with our kids in tow, fill out an application with all of our retail, bartending, and nursing school clinical experiences on it, and be hired on the spot!

    Maybe a professional development class should be part of the curriculum (if it isn't already) for nursing...
  4. by   Mike A. Fungin RN
    Quote from cjcsoon2brn
    1. Get your foot in the door.
    2. Polish your resume.
    3. Network, Network, Network!
    4. Get Involved!
    5. Be flexible but don’t settle.
    Great post, and so true.

    I feel very fortunate to be one of the few May '09 BSN graduates from my class of 60 students who has found work in the San Francisco Bay Area, where jobs are very scarce right now.


    All five of the things you listed were factors in my success:

    1) I got my foot in the door by aggressively competing for and earning placement in a critical care preceptorship at the hospital of my choice.
    2) I started working on my resume early, a couple of months before I graduated, and that gave me time to run my resume by several people.
    3) I used my preceptorship to network with staff nurses, clinical coordinators, a nurse educator, and my nurse manager. The networking I did with the nurse manager is what ultimately led to me getting an interview (they only looked at internal hires and people like me that managers specifically requested).
    4) I was really involved in student government and organizations as well as going the extra mile during my preceptorship.
    5) I was honest about my preference for critical care throughout the interview process, but made it clear that I was more than happy to accept a position in ED, med/surg, pediatrics, etc.

    I really hope things turn around soon for my fellow graduates.
  5. by   star77
    Likewise, I'm one of the new grads who has an ED job.

    1) My resume was complete, with references, in early January.

    2) I've been an EMT for 10 years, and I put this and the fact that I'm bilingual very near the top of my resume.

    3) I moved. I left SF for LA because honestly, I wanted an ED job more than I wanted to live in SF. I can always move back (with 2 years experience). For my program (UCSF MEPN), we didn't do an internship/capstone/residency- our med-surge was just (yeah, *just*) back-to-back 12 hour shifts in high acuity hospitals for 3 months. That put us at a disadvantage for critical care, but even so I knew and spoke to multiple ICU/ED managers about what it took to get in. And I always mentioned my EMT experience.

    4) I researched my interviewers. I found out what their passions were. This information helped when it came time to interview.

    5) I dressed professionally for the interview: suit.

    6) I didn't take No for an answer. Initially, when scheduling an interview, I was told there were no Emergency interviews. I called back and said, "Although I am absolutely ecstatic over having an interview in ___ unit, if one does become available in the ED, I'd be very interested as I have this amount of experience..." Once I pointed it out, then I was given access to an interview in the ED, "Oh yeah, ok, we are interviewing only x amount of people who have experience." Sweet.

    7) Every single one of my classmates who has gotten a job, whether at SFGH (yep, one did!) or at another hospital, has networked and had someone pulling for them. There is NO way to do it without networking. You have to be able to talk to people. Of course, that being said, they are also fantastic, highly intelligent, motivated people who had their resumes together and ready to go early on, and worked on getting a job all year.

    I started looking in October. I had every hospital recruiter's phone number, used the direct hospital's website to search, and spoke to nurse managers. I knew if and when a new grad program was coming out. I did not use career websites. I took careful notes and sent follow-up thank yous.

    Good luck, all.
  6. by   Mike A. Fungin RN
    Congrats Star77, from a fellow EMT turned nurse. I think my fire/EMS experience, and the professionalism it taught me, weighed on their decision to hire me as well.

    Can I ask which hospital in LA hired you? Those are my old stomping grounds. Good luck!
  7. by   star77
    Yes. I PM'd you. And good luck to you!
  8. by   cjcsoon2bnp
    Maybe this should be put as a sticky? It might be nice to have this at an easy place for users to find.

    !Chris
  9. by   tuttle13
    There are many of us who did all the things you listed and still do not have a job, so it really depends on your area and whether or not hospitals are hiring. I started applying in January and finally just got an interview for next month because I let them know I passed the NCLEX. Sometimes all the networking and professional behavior does not work when there are no jobs in the first place. I know people who had SNI's or CNA jobs etc. and had contracts to be hired upon graduation, only to be let out of the contracts due to hiring freezes. The advice is good and thanks for reminding everyone of those useful points. Hopefully it will all count for something once jobs are available again.
  10. by   CharleeJo.RN
    Thanks for the post! Definitely some good info. It is aweful frustrating to keep hearing people say "but we need nurses so bad" when I vent about no one hiring. Sheesh.
  11. by   tolachi
    There are two things I wish I would have started doing immediately after I graduated.

    First, I wish I would have started going to the nurse managers where I wanted to work and handing them my resume directly. This seems to produce interest in a way that apps do not.

    Second, I should have started volunteering somewhere immediately. I volunteer in a free clinic as an RN now.

    Finally, I'll second what was said above about connections. Get a preceptorship where you want to work. It really does matter. Get to know the nurse managers!
  12. by   spongebob6286
    the rest are important but i think right now, what far more important is networking. i mean someone recommended you or you know the hiring people personally. maybe the process will be alot easier.

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