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.
Here’s my advice on how to get an edge on the competition.. or as I like to call it, a nursey edge on the competition:
1. Work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). It’s a certification you can get via adult education courses or at a local college/community college where you 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.
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.
2. Volunteer. 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, and honestly 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 around 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.
3. 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.
4. Network. This is 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.
5. Complete a nursing internship during the summer. This isn’t 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 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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
They didn’t just do the minimum and hope for the best.
God speed, nurslings!