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How to Land Your First Nursing Job

Graduating from nursing school is just the beginning of a rewarding career. Now it’s time for grads to market their skills and land that all-important first nursing job.

The health care field is growing, and there are lots of opportunities, but a new nurse’s first position can set the stage for a lifetime of success. It pays to pull out all the stops and look for a nursing job that will help build a foundation for the future.

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What Employers Want

The same qualities that give students an edge when training to be a nurse are the very characteristics employers are looking for. New graduates looking for their first nursing job may have some relevant experience to offer from other fields, but what health care facilities really want is compassionate, empathetic nurses with leadership skills and the desire to help others. Demonstrating those skills on a résumé, however, isn’t as easy as showing off practical competency.

Empathy, for example, is the ability to put one’s self in someone else’s shoes, to see patients’ health care experiences as they see them. But it’s not a skill that can be tested, so it’s essential for nursing job applicants to find some way of showing employers that they can be empathetic.

Students have opportunities to show empathy from their first day in nursing school through their interactions with peers and later with patients during clinical experiences. While nurses aren’t empathetic for the applause, it’s helpful for them to seek personal recommendations from instructors who are aware of their soft skills and to highlight participation in activities that require empathy.

Similarly, compassion, the motivation to help others overcome their suffering, is evident through action. Nursing students can noticeably show compassion in their relationships with others and through engagement in service related activities at school or in the community. Time spent volunteering in health care settings is especially valuable on a first nursing job application.

In lieu of experience, employers look for candidates with leadership potential. Training new graduate nurses is costly, and skills that give employers good value for their money are highly desirable. Nursing students can show off their leadership ability by being inquisitive and taking responsibility for their own learning while being involved in school activities that seek to better the nursing program for the next generation of nurses.

When to Start Job Hunting

Practically speaking, job hunting should begin at the start of the last semester, but nursing students who approach their entire education from a future-minded perspective have an edge. They can choose elective courses that support their goals and join student organizations that shine on a résumé. Clinical experiences offer opportunities to make connections with future colleagues and impress potential employers.

How Vocational Schools Help

Vocational schools are expert at making its nursing students workforce-ready, but they also support graduates with job placement both after graduation and beyond. All nursing programs offer different perks, but most come with job hunting support that may include these advantages.

Access to Job Boards

Health care facilities know the fastest way to find qualified job candidates is to go to the source. Many have developed excellent working relationships with local schools, posting positions to their job boards before advertising them to the public.

Networking Opportunities

Institutions don’t hire staff, people do. Vocational schools help nursing students get a head start on finding their first nursing job by offering networking events like job fairs and meet-and-greets with local health care facilities and employment agencies.

And because regulations governing volunteerism in a health care setting make it tougher for hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes to accept volunteers from the public, vocational schools may post requests for nursing students who have already passed a background check and have CPR certification. Volunteering is an easy and rewarding way to network while gaining valuable experience.

Social Media Engagement

Vocational schools spread the word about their nursing programs through social media, and their active presence lets prospective employers know more about what they can expect from their graduates.

Nursing students can make their school’s timeline part of their personal social media accounts to keep up on the latest activities and use them to spark friendships with others in the health care field that can ultimately lead to employment opportunities.

Employment Counseling

A nurse’s first job should ideally demonstrate her/his strengths and be a steppingstone toward meeting goals. It should be a fun and creative way to grow, and that’s where employment counseling comes in. Trained counselors can assist in these ways.

  • Evaluate a student’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Suggest ways to bolster résumés that show little experience
  • Help evaluate a student’s prior education and past jobs for relevant skills to highlight
  • Assist with polishing cover letters, résumés, and applications
  • Review the latest interviewing techniques
  • Teach students how to follow up after an interview

How does this help? Every opportunity isn’t the best fit for every student, and someone familiar with the successes and failures of the past is ideally positioned to help new graduates look for jobs with a high likelihood of long-term success.

New nurses want positions that will get their careers off on the right track. Employers want applicants who are a good fit for their organizations. Counseling is a win-win.

First Nursing Job: Résumé Writing

Résumés are a job applicant’s first chance to demonstrate competence to a potential employer. Successful nurses need excellent communication skills, and a well-written résumé reflects a candidate’s ability to convey ideas clearly, accurately, and succinctly.

Preferred formats vary, but these are the general rules.

  • Limit the résumé to one page.
  • Keep it brief and focused.
  • Include a thoughtful cover letter addressed to the employer by name.
  • Highlight accomplishments rather than responsibilities.
  • Don’t forget to list relevant skills and additional languages spoken.
  • Proofread it carefully before submitting it to avoid errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Include references only if requested.
  • Be honest.

Any correspondence going to employers by traditional mail should be printed on top-quality paper and properly addressed. A résumé should reflect an applicant’s best work, and those submitted with errors suggest a lack of interest.

First Nursing Job: Interview Skills

Personal interviews are a time for applicants to shine. Be successful with these ten tips.

  • Interviews are conversations, not trials.
  • Research the organization before the meeting.
  • Know where to go and where to park upon arrival.
  • Arrive early.
  • Dress professionally but comfortably.
  • Review strengths and weaknesses.
  • Write down questions in advance.
  • Be prepared to explain irregularities in past employment.
  • Take notes. It looks good and keeps nervous hands busy.
  • Send a note the day after thanking the interviewer for his or her time.

Final Thoughts

New graduates have a wide range of exciting entry-level positions to choose from. For most nurses, the first job won’t be the last, but moving into increasingly responsible positions with better pay and opportunities for advancement means taking jobs that offer growth.

A first nursing job should be a good fit, but applicants shouldn’t be afraid to stretch a little. Remember, nursing isn’t just a job. It’s a career.

Does learning about how to land your first nursing job interest you? Ready for an exciting new career in the health care field?

The Practical Nursing certificate program provides the graduate with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function as a licensed practical nurse, or LPN.

Part of the practical nurse training curriculum is devoted to theory and the rest to hands-on laboratory skills practice and off-site clinical externship rotations. These rotations include work at long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, and childbearing and pediatric outpatient settings.

Upon successful completion of NCLEX-PN, the National Council Licensure Examination, which is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States, the licensed practical nurse (LPN) works under the direction of a registered nurse or licensed physician in a variety of health care settings.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a nurse on Long Island.