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Could my age be keeping me from getting a new job and why has my old hospital not rehired me even though I was well regarded before an illness?

Friday February 21, 2014
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Dear Donna,

I have worked in a major local hospital for 17 years, with my 12 most recent years on CCU and the prior five years on a telemetry floor. I also had a second position as a per diem RN in our cardiac rehabilitation department, capitalizing on my patient communication and teaching skills. My work record is very good, I was a senior nurse and was
well regarded.

I was out of work for surgery and complications for longer than the FMLA required the hospital to hold my position(s), and am now on inactive status. I am completely recovered and trying to get back to work.

All of my care, including several surgeries, ICU, life support and three stays on a med-surg floor, was in my own hospital. I received excellent care, and was led to believe that they couldn't wait to have me back on staff. Since December, I've applied for many positions at my hospital and submitted a couple of other applications back in September, with many nurses and doctors saying they advocated for me to the hiring manager. I’ve also networked with staff in different departments, including some nurse managers.

I've also been applying to all the other local hospitals, surgi-centers and home care agencies. I have an ADN and a BS in chemistry with several years' experience in pharmaceutical research.

I've had only two interviews. I'm 57. Do you have any suggestions to help with the possibility my age is working against me. I am petite, energetic and look very healthy. I also want to know if after submitting a job application I should make a phone call to the recruiter or hiring manager to express my interest. Is it appropriate to ask the recruiter, who is usually the contact person, for the hiring manager's contact info?

Healthy Again But Unemployed

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Healthy Again But Unemployed,

Glad to hear you're back on your feet. I suspect your age has very little to do with your marketability/job finding challenges and more with the current job market. Most working nurses are in the 40-to-60 year old age category, so you're in good company.

I'm not clear on how long you have been out of work but I will say the job market for nurses is changing rapidly. What's changing is that care and jobs for RNs are shifting out of the hospital into the alternate care settings as well as the home, the community and the public health sector. Most hospitals are hiring nurses only with current hospital experience. They're not even hiring many
new nurses.

There also is the issue of the BSN, which is becoming more of a standard for hiring and practicing in many settings, but especially in hospitals. A degree in another discipline is, unfortunately, not a substitute for a BSN in a hospital position. Your BS would hold more weight in some other healthcare settings, but every employer is different.

Online application is not the only way to apply for jobs and is not the most effective. Recruiters generally do not want you to call them to follow up as they are swamped with calls from nurses looking for jobs. The good news is there are many other more effective ways to market yourself and to find and get a job.

When what you're doing isn't working, it's time to try a new approach. In a competitive job market, you have to be much more proactive and rely heavily on person-to-person networking. You need to get yourself out there in person to meet and talk to others in nursing and healthcare. That means attending career fairs, professional association meetings (even as a guest if not a member), seminars, conventions, etc. You want to get your "petite, energetic, and healthy-looking" self out there to meet and greet. You can sell yourself much better in person than online. When people meet you, they get to see your energy, personality and enthusiasm. Most jobs are filled through networking. See what's coming up in your area by visiting: http://www.nurse.com/events.

Have a business card made for yourself, get a good business suit and start pressing the flesh. You don't ask for a job at these events,; you work on making connections and building relationships. Listen to the webinar “Networking for nurses: Is it important?”

(http://ce.nurse.com/course/web192/networking-for-nurses-is-it-important/)
Even though you're not a new nurse, the article “New nurse, new job strategies” has additional suggestions for networking and marketing yourself including on social media sites www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies.

You should look for volunteer work as a nurse while you continue to look for paid employment. Volunteering gives you recent experience to put on your resume, helps to expand your professional network, hone old skills and learn new ones. Plus, it is a way to get your foot in the door somewhere because volunteering often leads to paid employment. Consider volunteer work in hospice, a cancer care center, your local public health department etc.

Your resume and interviewing skills may need improvement too. Review my book, “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses” for detailed information, advice and instructions for an effective interview samples of resumes (www.nurse.com/ce/7250).

Additionally, you should make plans to get into a BSN program. You are not too old and there is plenty of scholarship money available for those who go after it. Read “Master the scholarship game’ (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Scholarship-Game). Education is a gift you give yourself. Start moving forward with the above advice and get your career back on track.

Best wishes,
Donna


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://www. Nurse.com/Events.