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Nerve wracking to ask my manager for a reference

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

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

Hi Nurse Beth

Help! My dream job vs. staying stuck and miserable. Nurse Beth, I hope you can give me some advice. I am a fresh new grad nurse and I am still waiting to take my NCLEX. I currently hold a nurse externship position (which I am VERY grateful for) however I have gotten interviews at my dream institution! For these interviews I was able to provide references right before directly through email.

When I began applying to other units, I received an email stating that I needed to provide references with my current manager (whom I have not seen in about a month) for them to fill out an online questionnaire about me. I am nervous to even discuss the prospect of me looking for other positions with my manager because typically with the nurse externship they expect you to want to work/stay on that unit. I didn't even tell management I graduated. Not getting into too much detail, I have a lot of anxiety working on this unit and have realized if I can move to a different healthcare system altogether it will be better for me.

Ultimately, the first unit I applied/interviewed at told me to reach out after I passed my boards and that they would like to offer me a position (they already have my references) but I still do not want to wait to fill out the form with my current manager and miss out on the chance to at least interview for the other positions....so I am not sure if I am should speak with my manager that I am looking for new positions, just in case (worst case scenario) I have to end up staying at this current hospital. This is just very nerve wrecking for my first job and I know what I have to do! Any advice would help.

Dear Nerve Wracking,

Congrats on graduating :).

It's interesting that the new potential employer is requiring a questionnaire from your current manager. You are applying for a new grad position, and many new grads are not even employed. But since they have specifically requested it, then move forward by all means.

You sound very sure that the unit you are in is not a good fit, and you have potential employment elsewhere.

 It's natural to be anxious when asking your current employer for a reference , but in this situation, it's best to be upfront and honest. Remember, it's not personal, it's just business. You cannot control your manager's behavior or response, just your own.

You can simply say "I wanted to let you know I'm applying for interviews and you may be contacted for a reference". You will feel much better as soon as you've had this conversation.

Yes, your manager may be disappointed, but this is likely not the first time it's happened if she's been a manager any length of time at all. You did not sign a contract as an extern and again, business is business.  

Looking a little ahead, and when you do leave your current organization, be sure to give 2 weeks notice in writing and thank your manager for the extern experience.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth