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How to land your first nursing job

Thinkstock |iStock

Thinkstock |iStock

If you’re a nurse with at least one job under your belt, you know what it feels like to be a new nurse out in the world, looking for your first gig. And the hunt isn’t always easy!

That’s why it’s so important to look to other nurses for advice and guidance as you find your way through the job search, applications, interviews and follow-ups.

Brittney from The Nerdy Nurse knows all too well the stress of the hunt for your first nursing job. She has an excellent blog post dedicated to her best advice for new nurse grads searching for their first gig, and we thought this was the perfect time of year to share some of it.

Here’s what she has to say:

You’ve done it! You’ve graduated nursing school, passed your NCLEX and you’re ready and eager to start your first job as a real nurse. You want to be a great nurse and you keep hearing about how nurses are so in-demand. There is a huge nursing shortage, right? So why is that you still can’t seem to land your first gig as a nurse? If nurses are so in demand, then why is this so difficult?

Many reasons compile, but mostly liability and cost. New nurses naturally carry more risks than seasoned nurses; they are also very expensive to train. We are in a recession after all, and hospitals are frequently having to cut positions. Even though they need nurses, they are being very selective about who they choose to hire and invest their time and money in.

But fear not, there are some things you can do to separate yourself from the heard of other applicants that are going after YOUR job. Yep that’s that right. YOUR first nursing job is right there and ready for the taking.

First: Give Up That Dream Nursing Job

I know you probably went into nursing with a dream to practice in a very specific setting. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take care of babies, work in the OR, ED, or with cardiologist. The truth is that these exciting jobs are just as exciting to others as they are to you. And you are likely not going to get to work there in the beginning. I say this because I want you to do well, and I want you to love being a nurse, and because I care: GET OVER IT! Know that your first nursing job may not be exactly what you wanted it to be, but just like nursing school, it will help to prepare you to be the nurse you want to be. You may have to put in a few months or years before you can transfer to that position you want. But know that this is the goal, and once you have a few years under your belt, you can pretty much get a job anywhere.

Get Out and Be Proactive

While I am a big fan of LinkedIn, the simple fact is that this resource is really only practical if you are established as a nurse and have some connections and references you can list. For your first nursing job you need to make tangible connections and put some leg work in. Ideally you should start this process while you are in nursing school. Many hospitals will grant scholarships to students who agree to work for them after they graduate. This is doubly beneficial for you because not only will you get the added help with school but you will pretty much be guaranteed a job after graduation.

You should also be actively showing your value and enthusiasm as a student during your clinical rotations. It is not uncommon for nurses and nurse managers to pick a few diamonds in the rough during your clinical practice and encourage them to apply for positions in that department. Even if they are sure you would not want to work in that department, you should always strive for your A game you can make valuable connections with people in power who can get you where you want to be as nurse.

Talk to Everyone

Networking is key to success. Talk to people about how excited you are to done with nursing school and can’t wait to get to work. You never know who mind lead you to your lead! That waitress at the pizza parlor? Her mom could be the DON of a major medical center. In the job market the key is often who you know rather than what you know, at least until you get the foot in the door. So be social, be funny, witty, charismatic and passionate. Make people want to talk to you! Be magnetic and inspire people to want to help you achieve your goals. People want to be around these sort of people and they may introduce you to their friends. You can never have too many contacts or job leads, so make them whenever and where ever you can.

Thank Yous and Follow-Ups

Thank them for their time and give them to the time review the information you’ve presented them with. Wait at least a week before you follow-up with a phone call. Use this an as opportunity to thank them for speaking with your briefly and an additional opporutnity to express the benefits of an interview with you. Paraphrase your elevator pitch.

Do not pesture or harass them, they will find you to be a nusianece and your name will go the bottom of the pile. But you do need to maintain interest in the job while giving their space.

Prove that you were worth hiring.

To read the rest of Brittney’s insightful advice, head on over to The Nerdy Nurse. Then, in the comments below, tell us your own advice for new grads looking to land that first big gig. Or, if you’re a new grad yourself, tell us the best advice you’ve been given on job interviews and looking for work.

The Nerdy Nurse
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at

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