After years of schooling and hard work, you’ve finally attained your RN license. It’s a huge achievement and the start of a long and prosperous career in nursing! The time has come for you to enter your field.
As with any career, actually getting started can be an overwhelming experience — you’ll feel somewhat like a small fish in a big pond. Scary as it may be, it’s actually a very good thing! This is your chance to explore every avenue of your profession and find a career path that best suits you.
However, you do need to start somewhere.
Ready to start interviewing?
Here are a few actionable tips on how to get your first nursing position.
Finding the Right Fit
Obviously, you’ll be looking for work as a nurse. But as your instructors told you in school, there are several types of nursing positions.
Where do you see yourself most naturally fitting in? Would you like to work in a hospital, or do you feel more suited to work at an assisted living facility? Of course, private practices and local health care centers are great options. Do you like kids? Why not try your hand at becoming a school nurse? Though not many even think to consider it, becoming a travel nurse is an option that allows nurses to see the world.
In order to specify which positions you’ll be applying for, you’ll need to answer those questions. Imagine yourself in each branch of the field, and contemplate as to whether or not you’d feel truly happy. Don’t worry if your first choice ultimately becomes an incorrect one — as mentioned previously, this is only the beginning, and the perfect time to try things out!
Get Past Being Green
Luckily, there is always a need for new talent in the field of healthcare. These days, hospitals and healthcare centers are wanting for new nurses. Though the field isn’t as competitive as some others, you should still try to find ways to stand out above your peers. This will get you to the front of the line, and right in front of the hiring authority at the job of your choice.
Though some entry-level positions are a little more forgiving, many nursing positions require a few years of relevant experience. So how do you go about getting that experience? There are several avenues to finding it. If you still have access to your nursing school’s career center, you’ll likely find opportunities for new graduates like yourself. Alternatively, you might want to consider applying for an internship position before aiming for a paid one. People often scoff at these positions because they feel overly qualified, but they are an amazing way to get on-the-job experience, network with professionals in your field, and prove to potential employers that you’re a hard worker.
Finding the Right Opening
Once you’ve gained some experience and have identified the type of position you’re looking to obtain, it’s time to start your job hunt. Nowadays, experts in the field recommend that new RNs use job boards that are specific to the subfield they wish to enter into. If you’re interested in a specific hospital or healthcare center, it’s worth checking their website to see if they have any openings available. Whatever you choose, it’s important to key in the right criteria, relevant to what you want to do.
Checking The Postings
When looking at a job posting, you’ll need to check for two main things. The most important is the list of expected qualifications. You must be licensed by your current state, but the workplace might also ask that you have other certifications like your ACLS, PALS, BLS, and/or AED (and CPR, of course). Make sure you have these qualifications before you apply. If you don’t, you can always inquire whether you can earn these qualifications after getting hired.
You should also look out for the logistics of the position. What is working this position going to look like, in tandem with the rest of your life? Will you be able to work a job that requires you to work weekends? Will you be able to handle 12-hour work shifts without neglecting your family life? For some people, this isn’t a problem. If it doesn’t work so well for you, you’ll need to consider something with more conventional hours.
Applying to a Position
When it’s time to apply, make sure you have a strong resume and cover letter. Your CV should clearly list your academic history, your credentials, skills, relevant experience, and of course, your license. Your cover letter should explain why you are a good candidate for that specific condition. Run your resume and cover letter by an experienced professional — this can be a peer or an old instructor that you trust. If you’re sending your application electronically and see that the position provides contact information for a specific hiring staff member, don’t be afraid to call in and confirm that they’ve received your application. It may feel silly, but it will show that you are proactive and invested in the position.
Remember, all you need to do at this point is to be yourself! Your credentials got you this far, so there’s no need to recite everything on your resume. They likely already have a copy in front of them. The interview process is first and foremost a way to determine what kind of person you are, and how well a fit you’d be on the employer’s team. You’ll know quickly whether you’re a fit or not. If things feel like they’re going south, don’t waste time trying to prolong the interview. Don’t forget to ask questions of your own — you have to see whether you’ll like it here, just as much as they’re seeing whether or not they like you.
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