How to Land Your Dream Job Out of State

As a soon to be recent graduate, it’s exciting to “dream” about working in another state or city like California, Colorado, Chicago, Dallas, DC or Boston. This may be your only chance to “spread your wings” and look at career opportunities away from your home state or from Lexington, KY. There are several strategies to help you land interviews (and hopefully job offers) in states that you might want to work. Here are a couple job search strategies that I’ve recommended that have worked!

  1. Add the out of state address to your resume and cover letter: If you are from Chicago, or at state that you are job searching, but have been living and going to school in LEX for the past couple of years you will want to add your home address to your resume. This will show a recruiter that you are from that area and want to return. You will also want to do that on your cover letter as well and explain that you are relocating to be close to family, to return back home, etc.
  2. Linked In: Linked In is a professional social media networking tool that many job seekers have found “connections” to other professionals working and living out of state. Like anything you put on social media, make sure it’s classy, and professional. Social media can “make or break” your career!
  3. Letters of Recommendation: When our nursing students are job searching out of state, I tell them to go ahead and get a couple (2 or 3) strong letters of recommendation. Normally at the point of job application you won’t need to submit letters of recommendation, just providing a list of 3 or 4 professional references is usually all that’s required. In the case of out of state job seekers, I tell my students to “attach” a letter of recommendation to their applications (along with their cover letter and resume/CV). Nurse Recruiters or Human Resource Professionals will read them….since you are competing against other nursing or health professions students whom might be very familiar with area hospitals or medical centers (i.e., through working there, or through their clinical rotations), you are “not well known.” When asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation make sure you get a STRONG letter that speaks to your skills abilities, competencies, work ethic, leadership, etc. Give them your resume or CV… and tell them the type of job you’ve applied for so they can write to your strengths in oncology, pediatrics, urology, etc. You might ask one of your faculty, a nursing clinical instructor, Patient Care Manager (or Assistant Manager) or someone professionally that knows you VERY, VERY well to write a letter of recommendation.
  4. Utilize Your Network: According to a recent study by Linked In, 85% of all jobs are still filled via networking! Many recent graduates or young professionals find that hard to believe but it is true!! When you first came to college, did you drive around looking for a place to get your hair cut or did you ask your roommate or friends where they go? It’s the same for networking…most managers or hiring officials will tell you they would much rather receive a call, email (with your resume attached) from a colleague telling them what a great candidate you are then plow through a stack of resumes that they don’t know!! Utilize everyone in your network….faculty, clinical instructors, colleagues, physicians, co-workers, managers, family friends, coaches, me your Career Coach, etc. You never know who might know someone that is looking for a qualified candidate!!! Did you know that the UK Nursing Career Center has compiled a list of more than 30+ RNs and health care professionals that have landed jobs out of state? Most of these RNs and healthcare professionals are UK alumnae!! At one point in their career they were in your shoes so they are happy to help you land a job. Some of these states include California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois and Florida to name a few. Contact Sue H. Strup, MSEd, MSN at to receive a copy of the list. When you land your “dream” job out of state, don’t forget to email Sue and be added to the Out of State Networking list!!!
  5. Professional Associations from that State: Showing a commitment to that region or city and to expand your professional network, you can join the specific state or city professional association such as the Illinois Nurses Association (INA). Many of these professional associations announce on their web page Job Fairs, job openings and hold conferences and if you tell them you are a recent graduate, they may allow you to join for FREE!
  6. Job Searching in a Different Specialization: It is hard enough to land a dream job in an area that you have a lot of expertise, but it’s another thing to job search in a specialization that you have no experience such as Perioperative nursing, OB, Primary Health Care, Oncology or Pediatrics. For a new specialization, you will need to bring back your experience on your resume even if it’s from a previous clinical rotation or volunteer experience that you did years ago. Volunteering in an area that you want to gain skills is also a great way to get your foot in the door. For example, if you want to move into Perioperative Nursing and you currently work on an oncology floor, try volunteering for the Surgery on Sunday program where you can pick up scrub, circulating and post-anesthesia nursing care volunteer work. Last year I was assisting one of our UK alumnae with job searching in New Orleans. She wanted to pursue nursing jobs in L & D. She had never worked in L & D. I encouraged her to sign up for every class that was available to build her skill set (i.e., Lamaze, breast feeding, natural childbirth, etc.) After doing that for a couple of months, she landed 3 interviews and 3 job offers in L & D!
  7. Informational Interviews: Another great way to network is to conduct an informational interview. An informational interview allows you to "interview" someone in your chosen field, or a field that you are considering. The purpose of an informational interview is twofold:
    • to find out more about the field, department or employer in which you are considering employment, and b) to make contact with professionals who can offer information and possibly help you along the path of finding the right job for you. The idea is to dress professionally, to ask great questions, and to make a positive impression and a valuable connection while finding out the "inside scoop" about your field. Follow the steps below in order to complete a successful informational interview! a. Make a list of people you know who have a connection to your line of work/ area of interest.
    • Call or email each person on your list and suggest a brief meeting (10-15 minutes) in order to learn more about their line of work. Suggest a meeting (informational interview) at their place of employment or wherever is most convenient for them. The meeting might even be before they go to work at a coffee shop. Make sure you pay for their coffee… they are giving you invaluable time, information and resources!! If an in-person meeting is not offered, ask for a skype meeting or phone meeting.
    • Be on time for the meeting and ask for information and suggestions, not a job. Be brief and respectful of the person's time. If they offer a tour, take it!! Meet as many people as you can and pass out resumes if asked. 
    • Have good questions prepared. Be sure that you have researched the field, the hospital, medical center, and that person's position adequately before you arrive. This will help you ask better questions and appear more professional. These will help you get started:
      • How did you decide to go into this field?
      • How did you get your position here?
      • What type of degree / education do you possess?
      • What do you like best about your job?
      • What are some of the challenges of your job?
      • What opportunities for advancement exist in this field?
      • What do you see as the future of this career path?
    • Take your resume with you in case they ask to see it or to circulate it for you. If they ask for your resume, offer to also send it electronically so that they might forward via email to prospective employers and colleagues on your behalf.
    • Close the meeting at the scheduled time.
    • Thank the person for their time. Ask for 2-3 other names of people in the field. Be sure to ask the initial contact if you can use his/her name when you contact the names he/she gave you. Repeat the process above for each new contact.
    • Write the initial person a thank-you note immediately.
    • Be sure to follow-up on all leads and write thank-you notes to everyone who helps you.
    • Remember all you need is a nod of recognition to take your resume from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile. If you don't have contacts now – start making them now! If you have any questions or concerns about your out of state job search, networking or informational interviewing email at the UK HealthCare Career Center or call 859-323-3169.