How To Get Your First Nursing Job: 6 Steps
February 8, 2020
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You did it!  You finally graduated from nursing school. 

Now it is time to put all of your clinical and critical thinking skills to work so you can start helping patients. But first, you need to land your first nursing job.  

Unfortunately, though, even when you have all of the skills needed to be a great nurse, finding your first RN position doesn’t always come easily.  This may come as a shock to many new nurse graduates, especially since the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics states job openings in healthcare are supposed to increase by 14% from 2018-2028

The good news is that once you get your feet wet as a novice nurse, subsequent nurse jobs won’t be as challenging to find because you will already have the experience on your resume.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to land your first nursing job successfully. Good luck!

Research the different types of nursing specialties

Pediatric nursing is one of the many specialties that nurses can go into.

Focus your job search in specialties that interest you.

Do you want to be involved in a fast-paced hospital setting? Or, would you prefer working with older individuals in a senior center? Perhaps you have your heart set on working in pediatrics or on a postpartum unit? 

Alternatively, you may want to consider working in the ICU, emergency room, operating room, or on a med-surg floor unit.  There are so many directions that your nursing career can take.  

Some specialties require that you have additional certifications.  For example, you must have your PALS, ACLS, and EKG training to work in most emergency rooms.  It may be worth your time to invest in getting them before you interview for the position.  Achieving certifications beforehand show that the interviewer that you are both qualified for and serious about getting the job.

Do an internship through your nursing program (and consider it an interview for a job!)

All of your clinical experiences in the hospital as a student nurse are potential job opportunities after you graduate.

One of the best places to get more information on how to gain experience is through your school or nursing program. Often, they’ll have internships with area hospitals or clinics, where you can get hands-on experience working around other nurses.

Some schools even have programs that allow their nursing students to work there during nursing school.  It can give you a leg up if an opening for a new graduate becomes available.  

Additional recommended reading:   Why I Quit My Corporate Sales Career To Become A Nurse

Find a nurse graduate program that is hiring

Apply to the nurse graduate or nurse residency programs in your area

If you’re fresh out of nursing school, you might find it frustrating when every job post you see suggests that they require experience. After all, how are you supposed to gain experience if no one will hire you?

Many hospitals have nurse graduate programs or nurse residency programs that will hire a handful of new nurses once or twice a year.  These programs are tailored to the novice nurse who needs training about and beyond what a more experienced nurse would need.  These programs are anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months and are an excellent way for new nurses to get better experience and training then they would otherwise.

Brush up on your interviewing skills

Brush up on your interview skills so and impress the employer with what you have to say!

You need to shine during your interviews. Having a successful series of interviews is key to getting your first nursing job.

The University of Southern California suggests that employers need to use more psychological tools in their hiring process. They focus on things like revealing strengths, encouraging self-awareness, and cognitive ability tests.  It is essential to have a clear understanding of what employers are looking for in the interview process so you can show your strengths and skills with more clarity.   

Most importantly, practice as many interview questions as you possibly can before your interviews.  There are many books online that are full of potential interview questions for nurses.  Grab a nursing school friend and interview each other.  Practice answering the questions out loud. 

Let everyone know you are looking for a nursing job

Put yourself out there and let everyone know you are looking for a new nursing job

Nowadays, it’s not always enough to apply for a job online or in-person and expect a phone call in return the next day. Over 165,000 people graduate from nursing school each year, and they are all trying to land their first job that same way you are. 

Sometimes, it’s not what you do but who you know. Reach out to family and friends for any job leads. Contact your nursing school or alumni association to see if they know of any positions to hospitals that are hiring. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there wherever and whenever you can to talk about potential leads for your career. You never know who might have the right connections that can help you to get your foot in the door. 

Write a professional thank you note the day of your interview and then follow up with them a week later

After you crush your interview, don’t forget to follow up.

You must write a thank you note to the people you interviewed with after the interview.  Thank them for taking the time to speak with you and write a sentence or two reminding them about why you are the right person for the job.

It may take them a while to get back to you. The hiring process at many institutions can take several weeks or even months.  Many institutions interview hundreds or thousands of nurses every year, and the process can take a lot of time. 

One thing you can do to be more proactive is to write a follow-up email about a week after your interview.  Be professional, tell your interviewer that you are still really excited about the position, and ask when you might receive any follow up about the next steps in the hiring process.

In conclusion

Take pride in your career choice, and understand that the job hunt is not going to be easy. But if you can successfully make it through nursing school, then you can do just about anything! No matter where you end up working, you will find a unique opportunity to help people who need your help.

The right nursing job for you is out there.  Stay motivated and keep working hard.  Good luck!

Additional recommended reading:

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