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
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!