So, you now have two pieces of paper that officially make you a real nurse instead of a student one – your nursing diploma and your nursing license. You should be able to don your nursing whites, walk into any hospital and announce – “Here I am, ready to work!” Right? Wrong.
Even in the face of a sizable impending nursing shortage, being a nurse is still an actual job and all nurses, from new nursing school grads at the top of their class to experienced pros, need to respect the job application process. It’s easy to forget how coveted a nursing career is, especially when you’re dealing with bedpans instead of board rooms. However, since nursing is on the higher salary end of the career spectrum, job applicants need to treat the search process as any executive applicant would.
This means following all the basic rules of “Career Services 101” and preparing a well thought out cover letter, resume and reference letters. Here are some tips for putting together a winning job application package.
Resume: As a new grad, you obviously won’t have any RN experience to speak of however you should still emphasize any medical or health care related jobs and/or volunteer work first. If none of that applies, apply your critical analysis skills to your other work experience.
Extract and emphasize the skills and achievements in those positions that parallel your nursing skills. For example, point out the leadership and delegation traits required in your part time college restaurant job. Be creative and above all connect everything to nursing!
Cover Letter: Keep it direct, succinct and well organized according to the standard three paragraph business letter writing structure: introductory paragraph highlighting your major strengths and objectives, middle paragraph expanding on those points, and closing paragraph with the most important point you want the reader to walk away with along with a call to action. Want to try something creative? Include an impressive quote from one of your references in the opening or middle paragraph.
Reference Letters: Following the same prioritizing as on your resume, the best letters will be from medical or health care related employers, next from college professors and last from other employers. Make sure that all the folks you have listed as references are aware of it and can be easily reached by your potential employers.
Hospitals and other clinical facilities move through the process of recruiting quickly and if you unintentionally delay them by listing a reference that is difficult to reach or unreceptive, you could easily lose a job to another applicant.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? When I was applying for one of my early hospital jobs, someone from human resources called and irritably informed me that they had been unable to reach one of my key references. She told me that if they could not reach her – immediately – I would lose the job opportunity.
I immediately called, paged and finally tracked down that reference and ordered her to sit by her phone and not move. Then, I called the hospital back and said, “Call her now!” In any job market, the most prepared, professional and proactive candidates are most likely to land the job.