Hey you new nurse! So far, you have completed the rigorous educational training to become a nurse – getting your bachelors degree in nursing, passing the NCLEX-RN Exam, and receiving an RN state license. PHEW! Now you’re ready for your first nursing job!
You are embarking on meaningful career path that will not only benefit you, but your community. Here are some top reasons why people want to be a nurse:
- Job stability
- Good pay
- Flexible job scheduling
- Sense of Purpose
- Room for Career Growth
- Possibility for Travel
The process to become a new nurse can take anywhere from 16 months to four years, so again, congratulations.
Many new grad nurses entered nursing school because they heard of a nursing shortage, especially with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although this may be true, it is still very difficult to get a job as a new nurse.
We don’t want to say that there is a nursing shortage lie, but it’s important to understand the realities of getting your first job as a new nurse grad.
Getting your first nursing job may not be easy, but following these 6 nurse job hunting tips can give clarity so you can pursue you dream job strategically.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth of finding a job as a new nurse, resume writing, cover letter writing, and interviewing tips, then please download our resume writing guide for nurses and other medical professionals.
We also offer a wide variety of professional nurse resume templates that are easy-to-use in Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs.
So, let’s get into how to get a job as a new nurse!
1. Figure Out What You Want
One reason people get into nursing is because of the variety of opportunities available. In fact, there are over 100 different nursing career paths you can choose from!
The wide open world for a new nurse can be daunting, but once you get organized and figure out what you want, you can pursue your career goals strategically.
Rather than ask yourself ‘Which nursing career is the best,” ask yourself “Which nursing career is right for me?” By pursing a nurse career path that is best-suited to you, you can focus on applying for nursing jobs that you actually want – not just any old nursing job. This hyper focus on what you want will help you write quality job applications.
So how do we attain this focus in looking for a job after nursing school? There are 3 main things to consider when thinking about what nursing specialty to enter:
- Your personality and interests
- What your strengths (and weaknesses) are
- Where you want to be working
We’ll go more in-depth below:
Your personality and interests
Your personality and interests are important to determine your ideal nursing job. You want to choose a nursing career path that you will thrive in.
In terms of your personality, ask yourself whether you are an introvert or extrovert. And it’s not an either/or situation. For example, you can lean more introverted, but still have extroverted characteristics. Take this test to figure out what you are.
An easy way to tell whether you are an introvert or extrovert is to ask yourself if being around many people in a high-energy scenario was draining or energizing for you. If the situation was energizing, you might be more of an extrovert. And if it was draining, you may be an introvert.
Knowing this is important because some nursing careers demand an extroverted personality type, whereas others require a more introverted person.
Nursing Specialties for Introverts:
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Informatics Specialist
- Forensics Nurse
Nursing Specialties for Extroverts:
- Pediatrics Nurse
- Emergency Nurse
- Intensive Care Unit Nurse
Also, for the new nurse exploring their options, it’s important to think about your interests. Do you love caring for children or babies? Maybe pediatric nursing is for you. Or perhaps you have great analytical skills and love working in a lab? Maybe being a forensics nurse is for you.
Rack your brain and ask yourself these questions when thinking about your interests:
- What classes did I enjoy most in nursing school? Why?
- What kinds of tasks and duties do I enjoy completing?
- What kinds of people do I enjoy working with? Who do I want to serve?
How do you like to work with people?
Once you’ve examined your personality and interests, it’s a lot easier to understand how you like to engage with people.
It’s important to get an honest sense of how you like to work with people both physically and emotionally. What kinds of interactions do you like to have with people? Are you more interested in high-touch nursing and thrive in high-stress situations? Then maybe you’d best suited for a critical care nurse position.
On the other hand, perhaps you’d prefer to use your clinical knowledge in a less stressful, low-touch environment, in which case nursing education or nursing case management may be better suited for you.
It’s also essential to consider what your leadership ambitions are. For example, if you ensuring a smooth work flow amongst nursing staff, then maybe you’re on a bath to become a great nurse manager or even a nursing executive at a large hospital. The world is your oyster, new nurse!
Where do you see yourself?
Nurses work in many different areas of healthcare and their roles change with the environment. Where you decide to work will determine the level of stress that you may take on. For example, the day-to-day life of a school nurse may be very different from that of an ER nurse. Take these factors into consideration when deciding what kinds of nursing career you wish to pursue.
Nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings. Some of which include:
- Doctor’s offices
- Research clinics
- Government offices
- Military bases
- Elementary, Middle, or High Schools
- Colleges and Universities
- Correctional Facilities
- Mental Health Facilities
Explore the options that seem interesting to you!
2. Stay Organized when Looking for a New Nurse Job
Once you’ve figured out what kind of job you are interested in based on your personality, interests, how you want to work with people and where, make sure to write this all down! This will guide you when you are applying for jobs and figuring out which nursing jobs are worth the effort to apply to.
We suggest that you identify your personality/interests, how you like to work with people, and where you want to work in an organized form. Keep these form close by as you apply for jobs so that you only focus on the nursing jobs that fit your needs.
Here’s what one could look like;
|Personality/Interests||How I like to work with people||Where I want to work|
|extroverted/bubbly/loves people||hands on, especially like the ‘gross’ stuff like inserting IVs and taking blood||Hospital, clinic, doctor’s office|
So, based on this documentation of an idea job based on the three criteria, we can determine that this first time nurse could work well as the following:
- ER nurse
- Physicians office nurse
- School nurse
And perhaps, they would not like these nursing positions:
- Forensics nurse
- educational nurse
- legal nurse
So, write it out!
3. Tap into Your Existing Network
Networking is an effective strategy to reach your long and short-term nursing career goals. And if you are a new nurse grad, you already have a network of people who can help you find your first job. Let’s get into what resources you can tap into to get job leads.
Use Clinicals As A Networking Tool
While you are in nursing school, clinicals will make up the bulk of your education so that you get real world experience in a hospital setting. Before you graduate, it’s important that you always make a good impression, even if you aren’t drawn to that particular specialty. Sometimes, nursing students can feel invisible in the hospital, but remember that you are still leaving a lasting impression – especially other nurses, physicians, and managers. Therefore, it’s important that you treat everyday like a job interview. Take these steps during clinicals in nursing school to stand out when it comes time to complete a job application:
- Keep a positive attitude
- Introduce yourself to the manager or charge nurse
- Listen, observe and stay engaged
When it comes time to looking for your first nursing jobs, lean on these people that you met in clinicals and ask them if they know of anyone hiring. You’d be surprised who you impressed!
Lean on Fellow Students and Instructors
Chances are that you’ve shared a lot of time with your fellow nursing students and instructors. The connections that you make in nursing school can last a lifetime so keep those flames alive! These are the people that can help you find your first nursing job.
It’s especially important to lean on the support from instructors because they know a lot about your personality and strengths and weaknesses which can give them a lot to work with when thinking about a good first job for you.
Here is a sample email that you can send to former professors:
|Dear <Professor Name>,|
I was in you <class you took> and graduated three months ago. I was wondering if you knew of any jobs available for a new nurse? My long-term goals are to be working as a nurse practitioner in Labor and Delivery so if you have any leads on a position in this department, I would be very appreciative for your help.
4. Get Digital and Explore Nurse Job Search Sites
Welcome to the digital age! There are so many online platforms you can find your first nursing job. Here are also some nurse specific job boards for first time nurses. We ranked them in order of our favorite.
Here are our favorite general job sites and why:
LinkedIn – Great professional site, if you don’t have a LinkedIn account, make one today and take the time to make it in-depth
Monster – attracts millennial job seekers in manufacturing, nursing, logistics and entry-level tech, according its CEO
Indeed – more suited for less traditional positions, including temporary and freelance jobs
5. Write an Exceptional Resume and Cover Letter
Your nurse resume and cover letter are important to make an impact on potential employers. We have an in-depth article about nursing resume writing and cover letter writing, but let’s get into a general overview of how to write these application documents.
Both the resume and cover letter are written with the intent of impressing the hiring manager to land a job interview. Here are some general tips to write any great cover letter or resume.
- Focus on writing clearly and concisely
- Create a clean and easy-to-navigate format
- Include relevant contact information
- Use specific language and action verbs to add depth to your experience
- Stick to one-page if you’re in the beginning stages of your career
- Proofread your resume or cover letter and ask others to proofread as well
Resumes and cover letters differ in their formatting and ways to communicate who you are as professional.
Nurse Resume Writing
Your nurse resume gives the hiring manager a quick overview of your previous work experience, skills, education, and relevant nursing certifications. Typically, healthcare hiring managers will examine your resume before looking at your cover letter. In short, your nurse resume quickly tells the HR manager who you are.
Here are the must-haves for your nursing resume:
- Your name and contact information
- A strong objective section
- Work history in reverse-chronological order
- Skills and Areas of Expertise section
- Nursing Credentials
- Clinical Experience Section
Writing and formatting a resume from scratch can be frustrating and time consuming so we recommend that you use a professional nursing resume template to speed up the resume writing process.
Read our Ultimate Nurse Resume Writing Guide to learn more.
Nurse Cover Letter Writing
Your nurse cover letter is a more in-depth look at who you are as a professional. Your nurse cover letter is where you lay out your skills and experiences and tie it back to why you work to work at this particular hospital, clinic, facility, etc. In contrast to your resume, your nursing cover letter shows who you are by giving more depth to your experiences.
This is were you can really show your communications skills and demonstrate your passion for the job. Here are the must-haves for your cover letter:
Here are the must-haves for your nursing cover letter:
- Your name and contact information
- The hiring manager’s contact information
- An introductory paragraph
- Body paragraph(s)
- Conclusion paragraph
- Ending salutation
The cover letter format is different from the resume format in that it includes the hiring manager information. Also, instead of writing out bullet points, you write paragraphs to lay out who you are as a professional. Read more about how to write an irresistible cover letter to learn more.
6. Impress your Interviewer
The nursing interview is a big deal!
If you’ve made it to the first interview round, you’ve proven to hiring manager that you have the skills and experience to be a nurse in their facility. The interview is a time for the interviewer to clarity the depth your experiences and skills and see if you’d be a good fit. Read our article about job interview psychology tricks to impress the interviewer.
The first thing you can do to impress your interviewer is to prepare. And we cannot overstate the importance of job interview preparation. Preparation does a two important things:
- Calms your nerves
- Gives you knowledge about the position and the company
Here are some ways you can prepare for your first nurse job interview:
- Research the hospital/facility and your interviewers
- Pay special attention to the company mission statement and ways that you can provide value or have experience
- Practice answering common interview questions
- ‘Tell me a little bit about yourself’
- ‘Where do you see yourself in x years?’
- ‘What is your greatest weakness/strength?’
- Figure out your outfit/makeup the night before your interview
- Plan out your travels to the office if you’re interviewing in person
7. Follow Through
Following through is just as important as the effort that you put into your job application, job interview, or chasing down job leads. Following through means we are are dedicated, ambitious, and most importantly, reliable.
Here are three instances when we need to focus on follow-through.
- Job Lead
- Job Application
Let’s review how to follow through in each situation.
So you went to that networking event or caught up with a former instructor to get information about open nursing job positions – and you got a lead! Now you have to apply for the job! This is basic, but you need to followup on your lead.
Essentially, following up on the job lead maintains good relations with your contact. Think about it – your job contact thinks well enough of you that they told you about a job! In doing so, they put their reputation on the line.
Make sure in the job application or interview, you subtly namedrop who referred you. This will do wonders to lend credibility to your name.
Also make sure to thank the person who gave you the referral. You might need their help again in the future.
Once you’ve sent off your application, give it about a week before following up on the status on your application. This does a few things:
- Introduces you to the hiring manager as someone serious about the job
- Makes the hiring manager take a second look at your application.
If you hear crickets after your first follow-up, send other follow-up a few days later. Your follow-up email can go something like this:
|Hi <Hiring Manager Name>, |
My name is <Your Name> and I am following up on the status of my application for the <position you applied for>. I sent an email regarding this a few days ago and I’m contacting you again to make sure that it didn’t slip through the cracks.
I am very excited to learn more about the position and what I can offer. Please contact me here at your earliest convenience.
Following up after a job interview is crucial. In the first 24 hours after your nurse job interview, we suggest that you:
- Send a Thank-You Card or Email
- Reach out to your Interviewer with any additional questions you have
Read more about the interview thank you card in our article about job interview psychology.
If you haven’t heard back from the hiring manager 3-5 days after your interview, it is completely appropriate to contact them to ask what the status of your job application is.
Again, you can send them an email that sounds like this:
|Dear <Hiring Manager>,|
Thank you again for meeting with me last week to discuss <XYZ nursing role> at <Hospital or Facility Name>.
I am following up on our interview to see if I can answer any more questions or provide with any information to help you with your decision. Please let me know about the status of my application at your soonest convenience.
Have a great day and I hope to hear from you soon.
8. Don’t Give Up
Our last tip to get your first nursing job is simple, but essential – DON’T GIVE UP! You’ve made it this far, so don’t feel too defeated if you don’t get a nursing job right away. Remember that you are looking for your first nursing job, so landing that first job will be the hardest.
However, once you have your foot in the door, every successive nursing position will be a little bit easier.
Getting your first nursing job is hard, but attainable if you follow these steps:
- Figure out What you Want
- Get Organized
- Tap into your Current Network
- Browse Digital Job Boards
- Write an Exceptional Resume and Cover Letter
- Impress your Interviewer
- Follow through
- Don’t Give Up
If you’re interested in a more in-depth of finding a job as a new nurse, resume writing, cover letter writing, and interviewing tips, then please download our free writing guide for medical professionals. We also offer a wide variety of professional nurse resume templates that are easy-to-use in Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs.