Are you graduating from nursing school? Congratulations! You should be proud of the hard work you’ve put in to pass your NCLEX and become an RN. Chances are when you decided to train to be a nurse, you read up on the medical worker shortage in the United States and how the aging population has made nursing an in-demand job. And that’s at least mostly true – currently, with the advances in technology and different ways to provide medical care, there is a greater variety of nursing careers and a greater opportunity for growth than ever before. But nursing jobs are highly competitive, and the way nurses stand out is usually through experience. What do you do if you’re a recent grad without any experience? You have to take a realistic look at the industry, and then get out there and get hired.
1. Get off the Computer
Nursing isn’t one of those professions where you can rely on applying online or posting your resume on job sites. You have to get out to the hospitals you’re interested in, introduce yourself to the nurse manager, and get them to remember you. If you’ve done your externship on a particular floor or somewhere you might like to work, use your contacts. Nursing students can be lining up employment opportunities before they even graduate if they are proactive and friendly. Start networking. It’s much better than being one paper in a stack.
2. Be Realistic
You don’t have to surrender your dream job, but you have to know it will take a while to get there, no matter how amazing of a nurse you are. The goal should be to gain experience, and that could mean taking a job that’s not necessarily ideal for less money than you expected to get. Some nurses find themselves extending their geographical range when they look for work because smaller and more rural medical facilities might be more open to new nurses. And you might end up in a rehab facility or clinic – somewhere other than a big hospital. As long as you can pay your bills and you’re getting to work as a nurse, it can be worth it in the long run.
3. Be a Great Applicant
Learning how to market your skills is a part of looking for jobs in any industry. Know how to tailor your resume or application to reflect what you think a particular hiring staff is looking for. Find your strengths and learn how to talk about them. And get good at interviews by building confidence in yourself. Talk about what you know you’re good at without being arrogant. A big part of being a nurse is having great people skills, and you should be able to use those to your advantage. Put as much time and effort into applying for jobs as you would into working at one.
Remember, the real truth is that new nurses are more of a risk for hospitals, and it can be expensive to provide specialty training. That’s why it’s much more difficult to land a job with less experience. If you’re serious about advancing in the nursing industry, you might consider more education, especially programs geared towards an area you want to specialize in. It will help you be qualified to get those better jobs, so you can join the ranks of RNs with six-figure paychecks. But working is still the best way to gain experience, and along the way, you can learn more about yourself and the nursing world than you ever did in school.