Despite the fact that the national news keeps trumpeting nationwide nursing shortages, a lot of nurses – especially new graduates- are having trouble finding jobs. You can look at almost any message board and find people concerned because there are simply no openings, or if there are openings, there are none that want new graduates. So what can you do to make yourself more marketable?
I recently received several dozen resumés for a nursing position in my office and I also am in constant contact with hospital and surgery center administrators so here are some tips from my perspective:
- Learn Spanish- Spanish speakers are few and far between in the hospital setting and desperately needed all over the place. There is a wonderful book called “Manual for Relatively Painless Medical Spanish: A Self-Teaching Course” that will help you learn how to take a history and physical completely in Spanish in only a few weeks. You may not be able to have an in depth conversation about Plato, but you’ll be able to state with confidence that you can care for (and help others care for) Spanish speaking patients.
- Computer Skills – there are all kinds of alternative nursing jobs (such as trauma co-ordinator, or quality control) that require some moderately advanced computer skills. If you already have these, make sure it’s featured prominently on your resume. If not, consider a community college course to advance your skills.
- Keep Current with CEU’s- and even take a LOT of them (there are jillions of free CEU’s online) then make sure you represent this “further education” on your resume
- Always Have Written References- If you’ve made a good impression on people, ask them to write you a recommendation and attach a copy to every resume you submit. Don’t just put “references available on request” – make yourself look desirable by padding your CV with the glowing words of people who actually know you. This includes teachers, co-workers, supervisors – even if they worked with you in a non-medical setting.
- Sell Yourself- all the time: at social gatherings, even visits to a doctor’s office. Mention to everyone and anyone that you’re a nurse looking for a job and always keep a copy of your resume handy to give anyone who may have a lead for you.
- Unpopular Shifts- if getting a day-shift in the dept. of your choice is impossible, what about taking a job at the hospital you want, but in another dept. like OR instead of Med/Surg. Or what about taking unpopular shifts like night and weekends? You can even suggest to an interviewer that you’d like to create just such a job, e.g., if they’re using a call schedule to cover weekend shifts now, maybe you could suggest you’d work only weekends to relieve the weekday workers from having to come in.
- Avoid Peons- demand (politely of course) to talk to an upper level person – either in the hiring dept or more ideally, a shift director or floor manager when applying. You’ll stand out as more assertive from the rest of the pack and your resume won’t just get dumped in the “circular file” aka, the trash. Make an impression; even if they don’t have a job opening now, they might remember you when they do.
- Teachers- ask your nursing school teachers to put out feelers for you. They’re often well connected in the local nursing community and may hear about a possible job opening before it gets posted officially.
- No Office Nursing- don’t go into office nursing if hospital work is your dream – it may be hard to transition back. While offices will often hire nurses with hospital experience, hospitals will rarely do the same.
- Above All: keep calling back. If you didn’t get a job or even an interview, call and ask why not (nicely of course) – you may learn that there is something in your presentation that you need to address/fix. The more often you call, the more they’ll remember your name. There’s a saying in advertising that it takes 3-10 “exposures” for people to remember a product name. If you need three commercials to remember a brand of soap, why not sell yourself at least that many times to potential employers?