You survived and graduated nursing school. Now, though, you’re facing the challenge of finding your first job. Or perhaps you’re still in school, and you are starting your job search before graduation.
Here are tips to help you succeed in launching your nursing career:
From your first to your last clinical rotation, every day is a job interview. The staff is watching your performance and evaluating your work ethic, your compassion for your patients, and your teamwork. This is especially true during preceptorship (which provides hands-on training opportunities).
Nurse managers often tell me that during preceptorship, they are on the lookout for new employees. As you are gaining on-the-job experience, your supervisors are getting the opportunity to see you in action. Take preceptorship seriously, and treat every day as an opportunity to acquire and demonstrate new skills.
A great way to get your foot in the door of a potential workplace is to become a nurse tech or nursing assistant. Many hospitals will hire nursing students after they have completed their fundamentals. This not only gets you in the facility, but also allows you to practice your skills while still in school —again, allowing your supervisors to evaluate you as you work.
The nursing community is a small one — and even smaller if you live in a tiny city or town. Most nurses are very mobile and know others at different hospitals, so get to know everyone. Each person you meet is a new connection who can possibly lead you to your dream job. I also recommend attending professional association meetings so you can get to know the nursing leaders in your community. Not only will you make excellent network connections, but you’ll also demonstrate your commitment to the profession by setting aside time for these meetings.
Rarely do facilities take a chance on a nurse who has not passed her boards (unless you really won them over during clinicals). In fact, many facilities will not even accept your application until you have been licensed. Take your boards as soon as you are able, and ensure that you are well prepared before you do.
Ideally, you will have refined your portfolio or your resume over the course of your program. You will want to have these materials ready when you apply and interview, so prepare them as soon as possible.
Make sure you have everything you need should you be called for an official interview. You will want your interview attire chosen, pressed, and prepared. For men, a suit and tie is appropriate. For women, a skirt or pantsuit is also appropriate. Always err on the conservative side when deciding how to dress. Do your research about the position and the facility, and be ready to answer questions about your future, strengths, and weaknesses. Practice your answers so you can deliver your response with confidence. Always bring extra copies of your resume and have a portfolio to share your achievements.
Many nursing students have high hopes of going straight from graduation to the ICU or labor and delivery. These units, however, are challenging placements for a new nurse. Remember that you are a novice, and any first job is going to provide valuable experience as you start your career. Do not limit your opportunities to your dream position — instead, prepare for that by doing your best at your first job!
Finding your first nursing job can be daunting, but with a little preparation, the process can start you down the path of a rich and rewarding career.