How to Stand out as a New Grad Nurse

by | Jun 7, 2021 | New Nurse, New Nurse Featured | 0 comments

To get that first nursing job it’s critical you know how to stand out as a new grad nurse.

Landing a nursing job isn’t easy right now for new grads. The interview is important, but you have to get there first. Out of all of the applications on their desk, you need to stand out. You need to have an edge.

How to Stand out as a New Grad Nurse

Here’s my advice on how to get an edge on the competition and land your first job as a registered nurse. I like to call it, getting a nursey edge on the competition:

Get Job Experience and Clinical Experiences

Work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or nursing tech in a hospital or nursing home. A CNA is an assistance to nurses that has professional education associated with it. You can get the certification you can get via adult education courses or at a local college/community college. Through this training, you’ll learn how to provide basic care to patients (baths, take vitals, stock equipment, take patients to the bathroom, etc.) You take the class, pass an exam and BOOM, you’re a CNA. A hospital job would be preferred, but if you can’t, head to the nursing home.

If you perform the same job in a hospital without the certification, this is often called a nurse tech or a patient care tech. It’s usually paid slightly lower, but perform many of the same skills. You will receive on-the-job training.

Benefits of Working as a CNA or Patient Care Tech

Why should you do this? You will get experience with patients. You will become familiar with the flow of patient care. You will get to know nurses, doctors, and leadership. You will get references. When your RN application comes across their desk in a few years, they’ll know exactly who you are. It also looks great for first-time nurses if you were a CNA for a while beforehand, even if it’s not at the same facility. And honestly, it’ll make you a better nurse in the long run.

Volunteer and Spend Time with Experienced Nurses

If you’re in school and don’t have time to drop everything and become a CNA, volunteer. Hospitals use volunteers all the time. They use them to escort guests, restock units, help out in the emergency department, deliver mail, etc. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, it’s worth it. This is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door, get exposed to working in a hospital. It’s an awesome experience. In addition to working for a hospital, there are opportunities in nursing homes and hospice houses.

Why should you do this? Again, you will become familiar with patients. You will see how the hospital runs. You will get to know people. You will get references. It looks fantastic on a resume but also, volunteering is just a good experience to have as a person.

This is a great way to observe healthcare professionals and get a better understanding of what it will be like to work in a hospital. You may even have an opportunity to rub elbows with a potential hiring manager one day. It’s unlikely you’ll gain a ton of technical nursing skills in this role, but the relationships and networking opportunities are unlimited. Plus, you’re providing a valuable service.

Have a Stellar Nurse-Grad Nursing Resume

Having a great graduate nursing resume can make or break it for you. There is a ton of automation that goes into the hiring process for nurse applicants. You’ll want to make sure your is in top shape to get past computer AI and humans resume screens.Have a flawless resume + cover letter. Seriously, your resume + cover letter should look awesome. I really like and appreciate this article about resumes:

10 Reasons Your Resume Isn’t Getting You Interviews . I think a little creativity is great for a resume, but nothing too flashy for this profession.

Why should you do this? You want people to remember you. Out of a sea of 50 applicants for 5 positions, you need to stand out.

What makes a great graduate nurse resume? Well, to summarize it needs to be concise, clear, and error-free. It should include keywords about the job you want to perform and any relevant work history, relevant skills, education, or volunteerism (like we mentioned above), to showcase your skillset. Pay attention to the job descriptions you’re apply to, and do your best to include things relevant to that specific clinical setting.

A good new-grad nursing resume is so important, I wrote an entire course about it. If you’re not sure if your nursing resume is up to par, I highly recommend starting the course now. It’s also filled with great interview tips, when you’ll totally need. Yours will sure be a nursing resume that stands out, after all.

Network and Build Relationship with Nursing Professionals

One thing I wished I had learned so much earlier in life was just how critical good relationships and networking are. I’m not talking about BFF-type relationships. Those are fantastic but probably won’t get you a job. I’m talking about professional relationships built on mutual career goals.

Networking is what is required. This seems difficult to do if you’re not already working at a hospital, which makes working as a CNA and/or volunteering all the more important. Get involved on LinkedIn, try to meet people at work, and spend some time getting to know people and build professional relationships.

Why should you do this? Good references are essential. When they look at your application and they see that you’ve listed an MD from the Emergency Department (that you got because you volunteered there during the summers in between semesters of nursing school), that stands out. Furthermore, down the line, you may be able to return the favor and help someone out when they need it.

Networking is also not as hard as it seems. It’s really all about being friendly, asking questions, and being interested in people’s answers. It’s offering a friendly ear and being helpful when you can. Smile a lot. Nod. Ask more questions. Rise and repeat. Make a point to remember names. Get business cards.

Prospective employers are always keeping their eye out for great talent and you never know who might be on the other side of the desk during one of your future nursing interviews.

Nursing Internship

Complete a nursing internship during the summer. Nurse internships are not available everywhere, but a lot of bigger hospitals have nursing internships during the summer. You have to apply for these early (like January/February), but landing one will be invaluable.

Why should you do this? Again, you’ll gain experience in the hospital, caring for patients and their families. You’ll get familiar with the stuff you’ve only read about in school. You’ll network. You’ll establish a relationship with your manager and coworkers on the unit, who then turn into great references. And if you want to work in that hospital after graduation, you’ve already laid the groundwork. They know who you are, they just need to ask the previous manager what they thought of you. So make a good impression!

A Few More Tips to Look Good for a Prospective Employer

A few additional important things to remember:

  • Now BSN’s are always preferred. If you are an ADN nurse, present a timeline for when you plan to complete your BSN.
  • Don’t look crazy on social media. They WILL look you up and if you look like someone they don’t want to represent their company, you will not get an interview.
  • Don’t have an email address from middle school (no, is not professional). Spend the 30 seconds it takes to get a Gmail account with your name in it. Use caution when putting your school email on job applications. Typically after you graduate, you’ll lose that address. If that’s the only one you gave them when you applied, you won’t know if they respond if the school closes your email account in the meantime!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for references or letters of recommendation! If you work your butt off to help people out at work, typically they’re more than happy to write letters of recommendation or be listed as a reference.

Go Above and Beyond for Your Potential Employer

Basically, the people that get hired go above and beyond. They volunteer. They work in a related area. They did extracurriculars in college. They have professional connections who think they’re awesome and will gladly recommend them.

Looking to prepare for your first nursing job?

New Nurse Masterclass

The FreshRN® New Nurse Master Class is the first-ever self-guided holistic nurse residency program. This comprehensive program was specifically created for the ambitious newly licensed acute care nurses who want to get ahead of them and build both their confidence and their clinical skills - all while learning how to adjust to the unique lifestyle of a nurse.

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They didn’t just do the minimum and hope for the best.

God speed, nurslings!

More Resources:

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


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