How to Get a JOB after Nursing School
So you’re here because you want to get a job after graduating nursing school. Of course. I mean, this is what the last several years of your life in hell has led to. The LONGEST years of your life right? This is IT. Getting a job as a new grad RN is all everyone’s talking about. I’m not gonna get a job…it’s too competitive…do I even know what I’m doing?? Well no, you don’t. And that’s cool cause nobody does right after nursing school. It’s ok! Put that negativity away and let’s get down to getting you that dream job. I’m going to go through what helped me get multiple job offers as a new grad before I even graduated.
Build up that resume.
Your resume plays A HUGE role in getting you a job that you have control over. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that can affect you getting a job that you do not have control over. It’s just the nature of being a new grad RN. So do everything you can to control the application process, and this starts with building your resume on day one of nursing school. Do not wait until the last couple of months to sign up last minute for things to add to your resume. Hospitals will see that. The average hospital receives over a thousand applications for new grad residency programs. Thousands of resumes. You need to make yours STELLAR. And that means yes, a lot more work and time in addition to the countless hours you put in throughout nursing school. I’m not going to go into too much detail about resumes because I could talk about them for hours. I LOVE resumes. Weird passion, I know. I have a separate blog post specifically on perfecting the new grad resume that you can delve into here. I even offer personal resume/cover letter editing & feedback. Trying to portray your strengths on paper can be tough! I absolutely love helping others in this sense, so send me your stuff via the link below!!
Location is everything.
What state you’re applying in plays a huuuuge role in getting that job. States like California or New York are going to be way more impacted than other states. It’s just reality. With that said…you may need to be open to the possibility of relocating post-nursing school. Yes I know this is not what a lot of people want to hear. So apply to hospitals out of state as a backup plan. Absolutely go for your dream hospital that’s local, but have a backup application in a less-impacted state just in case. You don’t want to get rejected at every hospital in your area and then have to wait until the next new grad application opens up elsewhere. Save time and apply for multiple places in various locations while still in school. So that if you don’t get a job locally, you can still get that RN experience started out of state, work there a year, and then try again after that. A lot of nurse residency programs have a time constraint to define a new graduate nurse. Typically it’s a year post graduation date. So you don’t want to waste any time.
Now research those job openings.
Know when those applications open. Sometimes they are open for a very short time period. You want to make sure you have everything required for that application, so you don’t have to ask someone last minute to write you a letter of rec. And what good does that show them in regards to your preparedness… Check the hospital’s job page frequently for updates. Typically nurse residency programs will be under just that. I also found it helpful to join new grad RN facebook groups in my area. People would post updates on new hospital job postings and whether interviews have been granted, what they asked, etc. I would just search on facebook “new grad RN _____” and fill in the blank with the city you’re applying. I found this super helpful!
It’s all about who you know.
Unfortunately and fortunately for you this common phrase is usually true. Unfortunately, because this truly does weed out a lot of qualified applicants that don’t even get a chance, because the people they hired “were a family friend” or “their dad worked there” or whatever. However, and fortunately for you, you can make yourself that person who knows the right person. You’re like yeah right how. Well, it is possible because that’s what I had to do. I had no one in San Diego that I knew working at the surrounding hospitals, and I didn’t work at any of them in nursing school as a CNA (which I highly recommend even though I didn’t). I had no in anywhere. So my story is – I decided to do an honors project my senior year. Basically it was a year long project and additional course that I voluntarily signed up for, to research and publish a giant systematic review. At the end of the year there was a conference to celebrate like, the 4 of us nursing students that chose to take this on, and managers from hospitals were invited. Bingo. After I presented my project, I walked my nervous clammy hands and wet pits over to the nurse manager of a new grad program and introduced myself. Then I gave her my “business” card. GAAAAAAGGG yes I actually made myself a business card as a nursing student. You never know who you’re going to meet and when, so I had cards printed with my contact info to hand out if I met anyone important at a nursing conference/event. JUDGE ME BUT SHE OBVI LOVED IT CAUSE SHE HIRED ME A MONTH LATER OKAY. Anyways, that was my in. And that’s just one way to do it – I know a lot of schools don’t have the opportunity for an honors project and that’s fine. Find a way to physically meet a recruiter or manager in any way that you can.
One way to do this is suck up to your nursing professors. Make them your bitch. Compliment them, flatter their intelligence, ask questions during their lectures, stay after class to chat. Yes I know they annoy the hell out of you. And good for you if they don’t. But nursing professors usually have worked in the surrounding hospitals that you’re applying for. And if they like you, they may mention your name to a manager if they so feel inclined. One professor I sucked up to brought a few of her teacher’s pets to the hospital I was eventually hired at for mock interview practice. Made me look good right? Got the insight on questions that hospital may ask. Another in. Lastly, and I’ve mentioned this in my resume post, is to get involved as a student in local chapter meetings of whatever specialty you’re going for. Big national nursing organizations like AACN have local chapters that have monthly meetings for education and networking. All of the board members of that chapter are typically nurses who are pretty badass at whatever hospital they work at in your local area. They may be supervisors, charge nurses, bedside nurses that have a say in hiring wherever they work. You show up and get involved in these meetings they’ll be pretty impressed. And best of all, not a lot of students do this, or even know about these cool meetings. Yeah, they are cool. As a board member of the San Diego chapter for 3 years, the hospital I worked at hired multiple students that attended these meetings. It’s a great way to network, it’s something to add to your resume, and you can bring it up in your interview as leadership/committee involvement. Makes you look pretty fucking cool if you ask me. If your focus is critical care, here’s a link to look up chapters in your area. You’re welcome.
So if you still can’t find that in…be open to other specialties.
This happens more than people talk about. No one ever wants to think that they’ll be the ones that have to start in med-surg cause they didn’t get a job in the ICU. Or that you’ll have to start in adults because you didn’t get that peds job. YOU WILL BE OKAY IF THIS HAPPENS TO YOU. You hear this all the time but it’s true – just get your year of experience in. And you can apply anywhere after that. That experience under your belt truly does make a difference. Don’t get super depressed if you’ve dreamed about ICU or ED your entire life and you can’t get a job. You have the rest of your career to be a nurse wherever you desire. One year on med-surg or progressive care will build the foundation you need to be an awesome critical care nurse and to be honest, it will make the transition into ICU much smoother with experience. You will be able to focus and learn the newer medications, procedures, and devices easier with your knowledge of a good nursing assessment and critical thinking skills – instead of learning the basics of how to actually be a nurse in the middle of a high-acuity intensive care unit. Beginning your nursing career on a floor that wasn’t your top choice is never a negative.
Pass your NCLEX.
And take it early. Yes I know you need a break. Yes I know you just graduated nursing school two days ago. You should already be signed up for a review course and have your approval to test (ATT) in process by this point. The longer you wait to take NCLEX, the longer it takes you to get hired. A lot of hospitals will ask you in your interview for your test date. They want to know that you will in fact be able to practice nursing by their intended start date. They will not wait for you in most cases to test. There are way too many other applicants that have already passed and are ready to start working. It is so much easier to test as early as you feel ready, have that date scheduled or better yet, tell them that you have already passed and are ready to go. I graduated nursing school on a Saturday, I began a week-long NCLEX review course on Monday. Of course that was terrible. But suck it up. I knowwwww… you just had finals. But you’re only just getting started here. You’re not gettin’ too far with a BSN and no RN behind your name. Get it done. I studied about a month before I tested and passed on the first try just in time to accept my job offer. And yeah, a lot of places will withdraw their job offer if you fail. So get studying.
Prepare, prepare, prepare for your interview.
This is THE BIGGEST factor on getting you that dream job. This is your chance for the manager to get to know who you are. Envision you on their unit. And I know this is probably the most terrifying part of it all, your first nursing interview is so nerve wrecking. I remember mine so vividly still – having a sort of imposter syndrome sitting there before 5 other experienced nurses, trying to put into words how me, with zero nursing experience, wants to work in the ICU. I wrote a separate blog post entirely on how to nail the nursing interview (for new grads). So read that as you begin to prep for your interview and celebrate when you get to this point cause YAY, you got an interview!
Send them a thank you email or card, to thank them for the opportunity to interview. Most people don’t think to do that, so it’ll make you stand out. If you don’t get the job after you interview…use this as a learning opportunity. Email them and ask straight up why you didn’t get the job. In a nice professional way of course… Can I have some feedback on my interview so I can improve for the next time? How can I do better? What were you looking for? Totally okay to do, and they’ll respect you for asking. It shows you care about your growth and performance.
Be kind to yourself in the process.
This is an extremely stressful time. Don’t think you’re the only one feeling what you’re feeling. Try your best to eliminate the negative self talk, and express that anxiety with other nursing school friends. Everyone is feeling the pressure. These emotions will all be a distant memory when you get hired. So keep trying, stay motivated, mentally encourage yourself and others. I remember the first hospital I applied for was out of state. It was the first application that opened that I could apply to, and it was in a state I was fine moving to if I didn’t get hired in California. I remember getting the email saying I had been waitlisted for an interview. Waitlisted?! ME?? I remember crying in my kitchen to my mom out of frustration that how in the world could someone have a better resume than me. I had done so much. But like I said before, some places just want to hire locals first, or students that actually had clinical in their hallways. Or who knows… maybe I truly. was. not. qualified. in. their. eyes. And that’s okay. Once you cry it out to your mom in your own kitchen, you will tell yourself that you know what? It was their loss. You are going to be a badass nurse. And you will say this as many times as it takes until you land that job, whether it’s on the first try or after your twentieth application.
So there you have it. Getting a job out of nursing school is a rough time I know. I remember the stress. I hope this helps you in the process, and I wish you all the best of luck in getting your dream job!!