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New nurse, new job strategies

Some new grads are having a tough time landing their first positions

Saturday June 1, 2013
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The job market for nurses has shifted permanently. Not only is care, and the relevant jobs, moving out of hospitals and into alternative inpatient care settings, the home, and the community, but our health system is moving from an illness treatment model to a prevention and maintenance model. The bottom line is that nurses – both new and experienced - need to look in new directions for employment, must learn new ways to find and get those jobs, and will have to take steps to get and stay competitive in a new job market.

So what’s a new grad to do? For starters, focus your job-finding efforts on networking (a.k.a. word of mouth). One way to do this is to join and attend local meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association and to volunteer for a committee there that interests you. Most state chapters offer reduced dues for new graduates. This is a great way to make valuable connections, learn about opportunities, market yourself, and find mentors. And while this is a step that every new grad should take, it becomes even more important during challenging times.

You should also be going to Nurse.com Career Fairs and to open house/recruitment events. Arrive at these events dressed in a business suit or your best outfit. Come prepared with business cards and copies of your résumé. Shake hands, make eye contact, and engage the recruiter in conversation about what his or her facility has to offer. Demonstrate enthusiasm, interest and professionalism. When all is said and done, employers are still looking for someone with a positive, upbeat attitude who projects a professional image.

You also could volunteer as a nurse in a healthcare setting while you look for paid employment. You may even be able to find a paying job and some training at a local blood bank, neighborhood clinic, public health department, or other outpatient setting. Be sure to have professional liability insurance even for volunteer nursing work.

Consider nontraditional work settings until a hospital position (if that’s what you want to do) comes up. For example, look into long-term care, assisted living, psychiatric nursing, rehabilitation, and other alternative care settings. Also consider outpatient hemodialysis, hospice and home care (many have programs for new nurses), public health and so on. The old advice of starting your nursing career in the hospital and getting two years of med/surg experience is no longer the rule of thumb.

Create a LinkedIn account and get active with other forms of social media. This is a valuable way and place to network. Keep all of your online communication and profile information professional. Prospective employers do check these things!

Nursing shortage or not, the job market fluctuates periodically and will continue to do so throughout your career. Always be flexible and creative in the job search process. There is something to learn in every situation — about yourself, about nursing, about health care and about the world around you.


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.