Your nursing school graduation day may still be a ways off, and it’s hard enough just thinking ahead to next week, but it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’ll land that first nursing job. The truth is that some new grads struggle for months after graduation to find a facility that is willing to take them. New grads often pose many problems for employers: They aren’t licensed yet, they aren’t experienced yet and they need training.
You can mitigate these problems by following this step-by-step plan to actually land a job before you graduate. Yes, that’s right—start your job hunt before you’ve walked down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Step One: Make a Clinical Impression
When you’re working your clinical rotations, make yourself known. Work your tail off, and make sure that other nurses notice you. For instance, if a bell is ringing, answer it. If your school has rules about answering bells for other patients, then this may not work for you, but you can still find ways to contribute that make you stand out in the clinical realm.
You will be working directly with the nurse who is taking care of your patient. Ask him or her if you can help in any way. Don’t hang around the nurse’s station taking up much needed seats or clog the hallway as you gossip about next week’s test. Nurses hate that. Instead, show your nurse that you know your stuff, are willing to help and know how to get out of the way.
Step Two: Introduce Yourself
It pays to be friendly and outgoing. Introduce yourself to all the nurses on the floor, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help them out. That’s the first part of this step. Then, you should introduce yourself to the nurse manager. Just come out, shake her hand and tell her what a fine unit she’s running. Make sure to tell her your name, when you graduate and how much you would love to work on her floor. Don’t obviously hunt for a job, but be yourself and praise the manager. You are likely to be remembered.
The last part of this step is to find your way down to human resources and introduce yourself to the nurse recruiter. You can ask about the hiring process in the facility, what documents they need and how you can ensure that your application is seen. Approach it as a fact-finding mission, but your ultimate goal in this case is to get your name and credentials in the mind of the recruiter. This makes you stand out in a sea of applicants.
Step Three: Prepare and Practice
Before you are ready to send out your application, you need to take some time to prepare your pitch. Obviously, a resume is going to be key in getting your application considered. If you aren’t sure how to approach resume writing, see if your school has a workshop where they teach the basics. You want your resume to help you, not hinder you, in your search.
Two of the most important items on your resume are your background knowledge and leadership skills. How do you highlight these on a resume? You need to show that you have an interest in working in the medical field by having a job history that reflects it. For instance, work as a CNA in a nursing home during school breaks to beef up your resume. Also look into joining nurse associations and the student nurse group at your school. These things mark you as a self-starter, a leader and someone more worthy of the few, precious new grad slots.
Step Four: Start that Application Blast
You want to start your efforts six to eight months before you graduate. Many hospitals and facilities will interview you before you become official, and most of the slots are gone by June for new grads. Send your resume and application out to everyone in your hometown that you would even consider working for. Don’t hold back! You should not pin your hopes on one or two sites, then find that they decided to hire someone else. This will send you scrambling for a job after you graduate, and may leave you with a considerable time of unemployment. It’s better to have multiple offers from places where you’d be pleased to work than nothing from a facility that has captured your heart.
Step Five: Follow Up, then Follow Up Some More
After you send your resume and application, call your contact in human resources to ensure she received the information you sent. Take this time to ask if you can provide any further information to complete the application. Also ask what positions are open, how long they typically take to consider applications and what the timetable might be for a call back. Don’t be pushy, but make sure they know your name and that you are REALLY interested in working for them. Do this for all the applications you send out, and you might just land a job offer before you can even call yourself a nurse.
For more Career Advice for Nurses pick up the latest issue of Scrubs magazine, available at a retail store near you!