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How to Land Your First Nursing Job

The day has finally arrived. You made it through clinicals, exams, labs, care plans and just found out you passed the NCLEX. You are finally a RN, ready to move from books to the bedside, but confused as to why you cannot land a job. If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone.

Many nursing graduates remain jobless a year after passing the NCLEX and  wonder how this can happen during a nursing shortage. Well, there are a three main reasons why thousands of nurses are unable to find a job:

  1. The recession,
  2. The increasing number of nurses pushing back retirement
  3. The fewer number of people seeking health care.

nursing jobYou probably never dreamed that you might have difficulty finding a job with a degree in nursing. Although no degree is recession-proof, nursing and other health-related careers have traditionally outperformed other careers when the economy has taken a downturn. The problem is the demand for nurses has failed to rise as quickly as it was initially projected.

For the past decade, the federal government has provided incentives programs to get more people to choose a career path in nursing and this incentive program worked. Nursing schools and new online programs have doubled the amount of nursing graduates over the past several years. However, the demand for nurses has failed to increase as it was first projected, resulting in less jobs available for nurses.

So does this mean you must kiss your dreams of a career in nursing goodbye? Of course not, but it does mean that you may need to work as hard—and maybe even harder, at landing your first nursing job as you did at nursing school.

Here are some tips to get you started so you can finally land your first job as a nurse!

1. Be Humble.

If you enter into your job search with a sense of entitlement, you are sure to end up disappointed. Some new graduates have the idea that they deserve to have their dream job right out of school and they cannot understand why they cannot find a job.

Remember in areas across the U.S. there are as many as 100 other nurses applying for the same position. Today there is a lot of competition between job positions and those registered nurses that give up entitlements, get creative, and are appreciative of the opportunities they find during these tough economic times tend to be the ones who land the position.

It may help you to reframe the way you think about your first nursing job. Instead of thinking you will only take a position as a labor and delivery nurse because that is the reason you went into nursing, try to look at your first year as a nurse as a year of extended school where you are earning money to get more experience as a bedside nurse. When your thoughts align with reality, you are more likely to land your first job as a nurse.

2. Be Flexible.

If you are willing to move to a rural area or commute one hour to and from work, you will be more likely to find a job than those RN’s who refuse to commute. In addition, if you let the nurse manager know that you would appreciate working evenings, weekends, holidays, split shifts, or any shift that needs to be covered, you are more likely to land your first nursing job.

Remember you are a newbie to the profession. Experienced RN’s have all experienced a time when they were new to the profession. There is a type of initiation many nurses go through during their first year as a nurse. So expect that when you are new you will work the days, times, and shifts that the more experienced nurses do not want to work and be flexible. Your first year at work will fly by and you will have a year of experience under your belt, which affords you more flexibility in your career.

3. Be Experienced.

In a tough economy, hospitals are less likely to hire new graduates because they cost the institution a lot of time and money. The bottom line is new graduates need constant supervision, extra training, and orientation to the unit/hospital for a minimum of 6-8 weeks, depending on the unit.

You are more likely to land your first job straight out of school if you have worked as a nurse extern, been awarded a working scholarship, worked as a nurse aide, or passed the LPN-NCLEX and worked as an LPN. If you can get some valuable work experience during nursing school, you will have an easier time landing your first position as a RN.

4. Be Tenacious.

It is extremely important that you smile and show how enthusiastic you are about getting your first job as an RN. Nurse managers want to see new grads who are excited, energetic, and motivated to start working as a nurse.

Visit the unit you are interested in working, ask questions during the interview process to see what steps you need to take to increase your chances of getting a job on the unit, and be sure to follow up with a thank you letter.  Persistence and tenacity show the manager that you are genuinely interested in working on the unit.

5. Be Proactive.

Start your job search early! In nursing school, you probably learned how discharge planning begins the minute you initially assess the patient. Think about getting your first nursing job in a similar manner. The drive toward landing your first position begins the minute you enter the hospital unit as a student nurse.

Start making connections with the staff nurses who supervise you during clinicals, ask the staff nurses to introduce you to the unit manager, and periodically check back in with the manger and staff  as you work your way through nursing school.

In your senior year of nursing school, build your social profile at LinkedIn and search online and throughout your community for nursing jobs. Get out there, so nurse managers recognize your face and get a firsthand look at how proactive you have been in making attempts at landing your first job.

Taking Action

If you expect to get a job by just sending online job applications, you will probably find yourself jobless a year later. Be creative in your approach. Implement these five tips and you will be on the road to assessing patients, taking vitals, giving report, and taking care of patients in your first job as a RN quicker than you think!