How to Survive the Job Search

It's a game. The job search and all that it entails is a game. It might not be a game that you enjoy or are very good at, but like it or not you must learn to play. Imagine if I told you that getting a nursing job depends on how good you are at tennis. But I hate tennis. I'm not good at tennis. If I wanted to play tennis I wouldn't have gone to nursing school. Why did that person get the job - just because they're good at tennis? What does being good at tennis have to do with being a good nurse! This article is going to teach you how to get better at playing the game.


How to Survive the Job Search

The search for my first nursing job was hands down the most brutal, draining, demoralizing period of my life. After all the hard work of getting through school, with all the hopes and dreams that sustained me all those years, I was just not prepared for the grinding, grueling work that getting a job entails. The fact that others seemed to breeze through this stage effortlessly only added to my sense of panic and self-doubt. I felt I just could not cope with the debt, the humiliation, the repeated rejections, the feelings of uselessness and despair.

I quickly learned that, if I was ever going to be effective in the Job Search, I had to first get a handle on my emotions. I had to learn how to face my fears again, and again, and again, to deal with rejection (again, and again, and again), to reach deep inside myself to find the strengths I knew I had, even when the world seemed to be telling me otherwise.

I put together this post with some of the tools I found helpful in this process. This post is not about job search or interview tips per se, but how to manage the emotional issues surrounding the job search, so you can stay confident and strong enough to keep at it (and hopefully land that dream job soon!).

1) __ It's a game.

The job search and all that it entails is a game. It might not be a game that you enjoy or are very good at, but still you must learn to play. Imagine if I told you that getting a nursing job depends on how good you are at tennis. But I hate tennis. I'm not good at tennis. If I wanted to play tennis I wouldn't have gone to nursing school. Why did that person get the job - just because they're good at tennis? What does being good at tennis have to do with being a good nurse!

Just remember this - if you've been in the job market for a while without success, it doesn't reflect on how good you are as a person or a nurse. It does not mean that you need to change your personality or identity in order to land a job. It just means you need to work on your tennis game.

2)__ Don't compare your situation to others.

Not your classmates, not someone who graduated a year before or a year after you, not some poster on You may feel that you deserve a decent job, that you've worked as hard or harder than the others, and it's not fair that you have to struggle so much. But by making these comparisons you'll only be eating yourself up and it will do nothing to help or improve your situation. It will only turn you into a bitter, resentful person - two traits that will only work against you in your job search.

3)__ Acknowledge the stress!

Job searching in a difficult economy is one of the most stressful experiences of a lifetime. It's a process you have little control over. You don't know when it's going to end or where. You also can never let go because you feel every moment that you ought to be doing something to find a job. Acknowledge to yourself that it's difficult. Allow yourself to feel the anger, the hurt, or whatever negative emotions come along with job searching - in order that you can then let go of those feelings and move forward.

4)__ You are not your job, and your job is not you.

There is so much more to you, and you have so much more to offer, than your current job description. Don't let your successes or failures in the job search define you. Your life is bigger than this. Yes, it's hurtful when you get those question and looks - you graduated how long ago? You're still not working? Yup, it hurts when you don't get to do what you've been striving towards for so long. But don't let your ego and self-worth be bound up in the job search. Who you are, your character, your relationships - these will always be there regardless of what you do. Don't let your frustrations with the job search ruin the most important things in your life.

5)__ Learn to do your own hand-holding.

Be very selective with who you vent to, both in real life and on line. Some people will give you brutally honest "advice" which may not be what you want or need to hear at that point. For some reason people think it's okay to offer all kinds of "constructive criticism" to people who've been unsuccessful in the job search. Be prepared for comments about your personal appearance, your weight, your clothes, your hair, your attitude, your personality. They will also get huffy if you don't accept their advice and accuse you of not really being "motivated" enough. Don't bother arguing with them or defending yourself. Just thank them politely for their help and move on.

Also, if you are constantly venting about your bad luck, people will come to see you as a failure. You need to be around people who respect you and will encourage you to keep on going. So, choose only a few trusted people to vent to, and keep up a strong front for everyone else.

6)__ Don't ruminate.

You didn't get a call back? The interview was a flop? Dust yourself off and move on. Don't waste time or energy on what ifs, analyzing every word you said, beating yourself up over the wrong answer during a job interview. Chances are there are many different factors why you did not get the job (or rather, why somebody else did), and a single answer on a job interview didn't make it or break it. There are many good articles out there with resume and interview tips and advice. Read them only for guidance on how to move forward - not to look back with self-condemnation.

7)__ Don't ever burn bridges.

As in, never ever, ever never. As tempting as it might be to give a piece of your mind to that nurse recruiter who was rude or the interviewer who strung you along for weeks before rejecting you - never do it. Don't even send them a polite letter expressing your disappointment for how they treated you. You never know when another opportunity may come up with the same company, or who you may be working with in the future. Try to always leave on good terms with recruiters and interviewers. Yes, it's annoying how much carp we need to put up with as supplicants for scant nursing positions. Just focus on your tennis game.

8)__ Get help!

If you've been trying all the above and you're still feeling overwhelmed, depressed, suicidal (yes, it happens and it's real), there is no shame in seeking help from a counselor or mental health specialist. You need to know that you are not alone, that you DO deserve to be successful, and you will be. Actually, don't wait until you're feeling awful to get help. It's a good idea to talk to someone even at the beginning of your job search, to head off those problems before they start.

9)__ Help others.

That's what you went into nursing for, right? Don't wait until you have a job to do it. Volunteer now! It can help you build nursing skills and contacts. But don't volunteer in the hopes that it will lead to employment. It might, but then it might not, and then you'll end up feeling resentful (been there, done that). Better to just give with no expectation of getting anything in return.

10)__ Enjoy life.

You may find a job and then realize that bedside nursing isn't all it's cracked up to be. In the meantime you can have the last laugh. Enjoy your nights of undisturbed sleep, the sunny days that you're free to enjoy. Don't squander them while you have a chance! If you can't afford to travel, seek out interesting places to visit locally. Yes, the job search is seerrrrrrrrrrrrrrious business but you are allowed some time off of it occasionally. Don't have anyone to go out with? Give me a call! We can play some tennis.

Jeanette73 is a pediatric nurse practitioner who works part-time in pediatric pulmonology.

1 Article   1,863 Posts

Share this post

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma. Has 18 years experience.

Wonderful sage advice for the many, MANY, disenfranchised new, seasoned, and everyone in between nurses! :yes:


118 Posts

nice article:)


33 Posts

Specializes in Cardiology.

great post

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,982 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.

Excellent advice! I appreciate this article a great deal, not only because it's so timely for me, but because it's well written and full of optimism, and it makes me smile instead of wanting to put my head through a wall. LOL!!


5 Posts

THANK YOU for writing this - you are my stress management guru right now! The job hunt sucks!

This really helps me as well. I have always had success with job searches, getting into the one and only nursing school I applied to, even landing my first job in LTC. I hit the roadblock when I first went to look for an acute care job, hence my screen name. I have been on over 10 interviews and it is emotionally crushing. It is too embaressing to say it aloud to friends and family. If I would read someone went on 10 interviews I would think, what is wrong with them. It really is a game, one in which I have yet to learn how to play. So many promising leads with followups but ultimately it was a budget issue, staffing issues, scheduling issue, or maybe it really is just me. I am relocating, for other reasons, and look forward to having a fresh new start at the Job Search.


66 Posts

Awesome advice! Thank you.


4 Posts

Incredible article! Thank you. I'm an experienced RN between jobs and so needed to hear this (again).


6 Posts

Hi Everyone!!!

I am in a touch situation - I am an LPN that has worked for over 3 1/2 years as a medical case manager for work comp claims - before that over 5 years investigating prof liability claims...... I have been unemployed for over a year because NO ONE wants to hire an LPN.... AND I have been out of clinical too long so no one wants to hire me as an LPN - in facilities or agencies.... HELP!!!!!! I really love working as a case manager or similar job but right now I just need a job - my home is in foreclosure..... I am in school finishing my gen studies to start nursing (RN) this Fall but 2 years is too long to wait for a job.... ANY help will be greatly appreciated


6 Posts

TOUGH -not touch