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How to Land Your Dream Nursing Job

Whether you are job searching with a new BSN degree or new graduate degree, or just thinking about your next step in your nursing career, it’s exciting to “dream” about your next job and career opportunity. There are several strategies to help you land interviews (and hopefully job offers) in your area of expertise!! Here are a couple job search strategies that I’ve recommended to our RNs and BSN students that have worked!

  1. Update and Strengthen Your Resume and Cover Letter– You don’t want to just add your new BSN or MSN/DNP/PhD graduate degree to your credentials on your resume and cover letter, you will want to add your experience and expertise that you’ve gained during your undergraduate or graduate work as an APRN, Nurse Educator, or Nursing student. This could also include your capstone project (title written in APA format) as well as your related nursing clinical experiences. I’ve worked with several APRN candidates that didn’t put all of their APRN clinical experiences, and wondered why they never got any interviews. Same with our recent graduates. By adding these the reader can see your experience as a graduate APRN student or new graduate.
  2. Linked In: Linked In is a professional social media networking tool that many job seekers have found “connections” to other professionals that are working in various specializations. 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 a new APRN or new graduate nurse is job searching, I tell them to go ahead and get a couple (2 or 3) strong letters of recommendation from a faculty member or clinical supervisor that can speak on your behalf as a new APRN graduate. 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 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 APRN nursing 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 moved to LEX 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, nurse colleagues, physicians, co-workers, managers, family friends, coaches, me your Nursing 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 APRNs 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.
  5. Professional Associations: Showing a commitment to your new profession, you can join the professional association such as the Oncology Nurse Society (ONS), Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Clinical Nurse Leaders, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Educators, Nurse Practitioners, etc. Many of these professional associations allow new graduates to join for a reduced price or 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 OB, Primary Health Care, Oncology, Urology 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 becoming a Dermatology APRN and you currently work on an oncology floor, try volunteering or shadowing for Dermatology Associates of Kentucky where you truly be immersed in the profession and gain valuable observation skills. The APRN that you are shadowing can also be a great addition to your network. Same with Perioperative Nursing…volunteering at Surgery on Sunday is a great way to learn scrub, circulating or post-operative recovery skills. 
  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: a) 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!
    • 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, concerns or would like to make an appointment about job search, networking or informational interviewing email sue.strup@uky.edu at the UK Nursing Career Center or call 859-323-3169