How To Get a Job As a New Grad Nurse
The tale and advice of a brand new grad on how to stand out and score yourself a job as a new graduate nurse. I was the first in my class of 50 to score a job, and after giving out a lot of solicited advice, I've decided to write it out and share with other hopeful and passionate new grad nurses.
Alright new grads, I am a straight shooter and a bit of a cynic (I like to call myself a realist, personally) - but that is possibly why I scored myself an RN job with a residency, before I graduated, on the floor that I wanted and chose. This is geared for people that know how to get down and dirty, will be great new graduates, and know that a little hard work can go a long way, and aren't scared to put some effort into the job search. Not for those of you that are halfway through nursing school and still "hate" giving bed baths (buck up!)...
Come to terms with reality and what you have to work with.
My boyfriend of three years lives in SF, and I went to school here in the Midwest because it was much more economical; I simply couldn't afford to live the CA lifestyle while in school. Therefore, I of course set my sights only on getting to the Bay Area while in nursing school. And then...my sights started getting set on anything in California...and towards the end of school (and after a few close nabs at a CA residency spot, dangit!), I realized if I wanted employment right out of school, it would mean having to stay here in the Midwest to get some experience. And I have to, because I don't have a roof over my head if I don't have an income, I was living off loans through school. No rich mommy and daddy to hand me things here. Note though, that I am in a pretty big urban city that is still quite competitive - so this article is definitely applicable, I wasn't handed a job in some Kansas farmtown. Anyways, this is sort of a new grad analogy to the first step in AA...come to terms with what you have and things will start to be more realistic! It is 100x easier to get a job where you are going to school.
Be flexible, but have some goal ideas as well.
Just like a diet or exercise plan, it's a lot easier to gets things accomplished when you have specific goals. I started to realize during clinicals that I was flexible, but really didn't have interest in OB or Peds (which is great, since these are so popular...not sure why, hehe). I really liked working with older populations, I liked more acute and sick populations, and I liked roles where there was a lot of teaching involved (I like to get up on my soapbox and preach about diet, nutrition, and mind-body health...yay, Medicine floors!). From here, I picked a few specific floors and went from there.
Stalking time! No, not really.
If you're going to only read one part of the article, read this. But this is where new grads dip out and no one steps up to the plate. Like, out of 50 classmates, I was the only one that did this. I have no idea why because managers for the most part were very receptive of it. So how to do this? If you are lucky enough to do any kind of clinical work, even for a day on the floor, introduce yourself to the nurse manager. Ask your nurse if the manager is there, and have them introduce you, or if you are courageous like me - walk right in the office! Put on a big smile, extend your hand, and start telling them how great your experience is on this floor and that you would really like to work here in the future. There are definitely weirdos and crappy management out there, but for the most part, nurse managers are going to love this. It's a win - win really. If you have the personality and showed them, you're putting yourself ahead, AND you're making a future hire easier on them. They don't have to sort through 50 applications of new grads when they know that you are genuinely interested and you have the great personality, open attitude, and readiness-to-learn that you have showed them, face to face.
Don't have a clinical? Start using Google. If you don't know how to, you're SOL on this one, no internet tutorials here folks. But, yes, Google! Start with the specific floor and then also enter "nurse manager". This doesn't work ALL the time, but usually you can find some linked website, LinkedIn profile, or something else that will show the nurse manager's name, and if you're lucky, their e-mail address. My advice is to e-mail them a few months before you can formally apply for the position. Tell them you are specifically interested in their floor, and just use this as your shot to voice out. Don't make it too long (like this article) - they don't want your life story. Be charming and honest! Convince them why you'd be a great investment.
How I got my job, in a paragraph: introduced myself first day of clinical to manager of a floor I knew I was interested in. Confirmed interest over 7 week clinical. Re-introduced myself to manager last day of my clinical and asked for a business card and said very directly "I love this floor. I would really to like to work here when I graduate. Can I shoot you an e-mail when I apply, so I'm not just in the giant HR pile?" Nurse manager thought I was funny and said "please do". E-mailed her midway during school to tell her that I was getting great experience on other units but I still just loved hers, how it ran, complemented her staff, etc. It was true, and she appreciated. It was my way of holding onto her as a contact. E-mailed her again when I applied months later, referring her back to our e-mail chain so she was reminded who I was. HR called me out of over 500 new grad applications and I got an interview the next week. Then scored the job. It was a bit too easy. But why? Cause I stepped my game up. Oh, and sent a hand-written thank you card after your interview! Duh.
Hiring managers are not looking for new grads with 4.0 GPAs and who were the president of their school and NSNA.
If they are, they're missing out on a lot of great hires. They are looking for someone that is a positive person (SMILE BIG), a professional, and most importantly: can easily integrate into their team, is honest about their strengths and weaknesses as a new nurses, is accountable for their actions, and genuinely has a strong desire to learn much more everyday than they were taught in nursing school, to build their nursing foundation, and genuinely is compassionate and wants to truly ease the suffering of their patients, and help better their lives and health. I myself got into nursing after dropping out of undergrad to help a very sick parent and the rest of my family deal with the illness. I got into nursing because of this; I have an innate desire to really serve sick people and their families, and it naturally shows.
Write a cover letter.
Put effort and thought into it and don't make it too generic. Don't believe people that tell you not to waste your time writing a cover letter. You need to write a cover letter. Have a great resume. Make it different, somehow. And not with hot pink paper or Comic Sans font. Always be ready to be a professional and meet someone. Always. Look for networking everywhere you go. Use your nursing school contacts to help you get a job. Tell people you know that the nursing economy is rough for new grads and you are trying to step up to the plate early. While you may have to wait until you're licensed to formally apply, you do NOT have to wait to make connections. If you are quiet, don't like doing all the above stated advice, it's time to balls up.
Lastly, realize that getting a degree as a nurse does not guarantee you a job (not matter what Yahoo! News tells people). Not even close, in this economy. I graduated in May and more than half of my classmates didn't get jobs. Guess what? Those were the people that sent in their applications online...and that's all they did. They sent out a generic electronic form and resume into some electronic world. They didn't get in touch with the people who really make things happen. If you think you are going to get a job because you have a BSN; have a previous Bachelor's in Biology, Psychology, whatever; graduated with honors, etc. - THINK again.
Know that I tried VERY hard and spent literally weeks worth of hours to try and get a job in California, and all over the rest of the country. I am estimating I put in at least 500 hours of work during nursing school that was dedicated to my job search and researching the market. Be willing to work very hard, and something will happen for you.
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Is It hard to get a job as a New Grad Nurse?Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
I am a new grad, thrilled to have finally found my niche in nursing after much hard work.
Joined: Dec '09; Posts: 72; Likes: 124
from USJun 2, '12From: US ; Joined: May '12; Posts: 68; Likes: 53I am happy for you - thank you for sharing these tips.
I am definitely willing to work very hard to find a job - do all of these things hold true
with an LPN too? I have been going face to face too, mostly in nursing homes - and getting
the standard "Everything looks great come back when you have one year experience" song and dance.
I am looking 1.5 hours distance in all directions from where I live. I really feel like I have just started looking because
I just recently relocated here (NC) and got endorsed - so its been about 5 weeks - I would say 3 weeks of that
have been over the top hard core if I am going to be honest with myself.
It was suggested I put a profile on Linkedin too.
I do think these are great ideas, but because I have relocated (to the area I lived in 6 years ago) and am networking
here I didn't bond with the people I did clinicals with because I knew I was relocating. Any suggestions in regards to that?
Also - I do have great references from my nursing director and instructors from where I used to live and they are also
working with me (my nursing director has the most just in the short time I have been here) - and I have just re-vamped my cover letter too. I am always up for suggestions - and willing to do whatever it takes (within reason) to get my foot in the door.
Even tho I have been told LPN's, especially entry level, I am going to start volunteering at both of the local hospitals here that do hire LPN's - it can't hurt right? Thanks again for any other advice you can send my way - I've learned a lot here and really appreciate it.Jun 2, '12Occupation: Neurosciences, RN From: US ; Joined: May '11; Posts: 46; Likes: 73Some very good advice. I just graduated with an ADN from our local community college and I managed to get a job at a local magnet hospital. For me, what made the difference is that last year instead of planning to have a nice summer off I started applying for nursing externships in February. I got called for interviews at 2/3 hospitals I applied at and accepted the nurse externship at the hospital that I knew would have more opportunites when I would be a new grad. I spent my entire summer busting my butt and continued to work one shift a week until graduation. My classmates that had not been working as a CNA/PCT/extern..etc for the most part are the ones still looking for work. I highly recommend that in such a competitive job market you need to get your foot in the door early on.Jun 2, '12Joined: Dec '11; Posts: 37; Likes: 51Thanks for posting this! I have printed it and put it in my helpful hints file. I start nursing school this fall and I will definitely use some of these tips.Jun 2, '12Occupation: cna Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience ; From: US ; Joined: May '12; Posts: 337; Likes: 92Thank You.. KLIMpys you can also save this whole page in your bookmarks.Jun 2, '12Joined: Mar '09; Posts: 3,522; Likes: 3,435Good for you! I totally agree with your suggestions. Times have changed, and being a little more aggressive in networking is what will prevent you from being a new-grad-with-no-job-after-graduation statistic. I don't care who you are, if you haven't landed a job even after networking, you have either given up or you're doing something wrong. Aggressive does not mean rude or abrupt -- it means being charming and standing out, and that does not mean kiss-ass either. You need to be the kind of person that they want to work with, and show it.
I was a little softer-spoken than you perhaps, but I managed to meet the right people and that ultimately led me to interview and land my first job (I was called and offered the position literally an hour after I graduated). I noticed some of my fellow classmates were trying to be aggressive during clinicals, jumping at the chance at being the one to get all the good opportunities to learn and observe skills, pushing everyone else aside so that they can be noticed. There is no need to do that, you just need to be good at what you do. I was one of those pushed aside by some of these people .. and here I am with a job and those that pushed me are still searching. Don't want to call it "karma" but it's a good example of what NOT to do.
I hope many on here take your advice and proactively use it. Sitting on one's ass sending resumes out into the black hole known as cyberspace without meeting a breathing soul does not produce the same results as literally pounding the pavement.Last edit by PacoUSA on Jun 2, '12Jun 2, '12From: US ; Joined: Dec '09; Posts: 72; Likes: 124Quote from Paco69Paco, I can't agree with you more! I am probably not as aggressive as I make myself out to be Really, having a good attitude and being friendly got me far. I know what you are talking about with the clinical "show-offs" and the people that kiss ass. It often made me ill during early morning clinicals. Karma is true. A lot of people in my class that don't have jobs are the ones that got 3.9s and up and would never put down the books and strike balance in their lives. I graduated with a 3.48 and had three job offers upon graduation. It is interesting how things work out. Stay true to yourself, and persevere is my end of the day advice! Good luck to you in your new jobI noticed some of my fellow classmates were trying to be aggressive during clinicals, jumping at the chance at being the one to get all the good opportunities to learn and observe skills, pushing everyone else aside so that they can be noticed. There is no need to do that, you just need to be good at what you do. I was one of those pushed aside by some of these people .. and here I am with a job and those that pushed me are still searching. Don't want to call it "karma" but it's a good example of what NOT to do..Jun 2, '12Occupation: Nursing Student From: US ; Joined: Jul '11; Posts: 96; Likes: 20Thank you for the advice. I will be a new grad soon with my BSN, but I am a little confused and discouraged. I am VERY assertive (and aggressive in a good way), but that didn't land me an externship-- I saw the students who were patient get the spots. I felt they were filled randomly. I kinda feel like getting a job will be the same way.Jun 2, '12Occupation: Nurse Resident Specialty: ICU, ED, cardiac, surgery, cath lab. ; From: US ; Joined: May '12; Posts: 46; Likes: 29Thanks for sharing these tips! I'll be graduating this December and will need to begin looking for GN/intern positions this upcoming September. My Capstone and Management clinical is where I'd love to work (PICU!) so your tips in talking to the manager would be great to follow through this final semester.Jun 2, '12Joined: Jan '10; Posts: 2,358; Likes: 3,117enlightening article, thank you for sharing i shall pass it along to those new grads. i come in contact with....aloha~Jun 2, '12Joined: Jun '08; Posts: 14; Likes: 21I agree with everything this article says and have been trying to tell my cohorts the same thing. I'm graduating in mid June and have had my profile up with all of the major hospitals in my area since March, attaching cover letters and recommendation letters to it and applying for everything that even closely matches what I am capable of doing probably since spring break. But I also know that in the current economy and culture of BSN, BSN, BSN, I have to do whatever it takes to stand out...including busting on up into nurse managers offices armed with a resume and big smile!
I've been using this time not so much to secure a job, but learn what managers want and learn what positions I can realistically secure. For example, because I cold called a nurse manager in the ER of the facility where I am doing my spring practicum, I found out that its a waste of my time to even apply to ER jobs without having either experience or having gone through their internship program...that kind of information isn't listed in the job posting and continuing to apply and getting rejected because a computer automatically kicks me out due to having an ADN instead of a BSN is just mental torture. So I'm focusing on the areas and managers that I think I have the best chance with...MED/SURG!!! This is where new grads should begin and where I know I have the best chance of getting a job...I've been pulling in favors from old coworkers, past classmates, and even current instructors because I don't have the luxury of being picky. Like the author, I have also been living off of student loans and just want to get out there and do what I know I am called to do...be an excellent nurse!! It only takes one manager who believes in me, likes me, and is willing to take a chance on me for this to happen...but it takes me putting myself out there and selling what I have to offer first!Jun 2, '12Joined: Jan '12; Posts: 98; Likes: 51wish i read this sooner! i was one of the ones that sent out hundreds and hundreds of online applications. generic cover letters..etc.
in the end, it worked out for me. but it was tough. landed some interviews but nothing pulled through until 1 month ago. finally landed a job!
this advice was great though. some of the best advice yet!
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