How to Get a Job as a New Grad Nurse: Advice from the Career Guru

By: Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, Career Guru for Nurses and the “Dear Donna” columnist at
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

The job market for nurses has shifted permanently. Not only is care, and the relevant jobs, moving out of hospitals and into alternative inpatient care settings, the home, and the community, but our health system is moving from an illness treatment model to a prevention and maintenance model. The bottom line is that nurses – both new and experienced – need to look in new directions for employment, must learn new ways to find and get those jobs, and will have to take steps to get and stay competitive in a new job market.

So what’s a new grad to do? For starters, focus your job-finding efforts on networking (a.k.a. word of mouth). One way to do this is to join and attend local meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association and to volunteer for a committee there that interests you. Most state chapters offer reduced dues for new graduates. This is a great way to make valuable connections, learn about opportunities, market yourself, and find mentors. And while this is a step that every new grad should take, it becomes even more important during challenging times.

You should also be going to Career Fairs and to open house/recruitment events. Arrive at these events dressed in a business suit or your best outfit. Come prepared with business cards and copies of your résumé. Shake hands, make eye contact, and engage the recruiter in conversation about what his or her facility has to offer. Demonstrate enthusiasm, interest and professionalism. When all is said and done, employers are still looking for someone with a positive, upbeat attitude who projects a professional image.

You also could volunteer as a nurse in a healthcare setting while you look for paid employment. You may even be able to find a paying job and some training at a local blood bank, neighborhood clinic, public health department, or other outpatient setting. Be sure to have professional liability insurance even for volunteer nursing work.

Consider nontraditional work settings until a hospital position (if that’s what you want to do) comes up. For example, look into long-term care, assisted living, psychiatric nursing, rehabilitation, and other alternative care settings. Also consider outpatient hemodialysis, hospice and home care (many have programs for new nurses), public health and so on. The old advice of starting your nursing career in the hospital and getting two years of med/surg experience is no longer the rule of thumb.

Create a LinkedIn account and get active with other forms of social media. This is a valuable way and place to network. Keep all of your online communication and profile information professional. Prospective employers do check these things!

Nursing shortage or not, the job market fluctuates periodically and will continue to do so throughout your career. Always be flexible and creative in the job search process. There is something to learn in every situation — about yourself, about nursing, about health care and about the world around you.

What advice do you have for new grads? Share them with us in the comments box.

More resources:

Attend Donna Cardillo’s seminar, “Career Alternatives for Nurses

Get career advice from Donna Cardillo.

Continuing education for your career development:

Networking for Career Advancement (this course is FREE until Dec 31, 2013)

Preparing New Grads for Entry Into Professional Nursing Practice: It’s Not the Way it Used to Be!

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13 Responses to How to Get a Job as a New Grad Nurse: Advice from the Career Guru

  1. Hi Donna Cardillo
    Totally agree with everything this article says. Thanks for sharing informative post. Finding work is a full time job and there are some age-old tips that truly never fail like stay connected, ask to your mentor/professor and stay focused. Stay connected on various social media. Totally agree with your Create Linkedin Account suggestion. On this we can create our professional identity online.

  2. Barbara Logan says:

    Continue your education. Work on your communication and leadership skills. Become a Nurse Practitioner, Educator, etc.

  3. Thom Bastian says:

    “…our health system is moving from an illness treatment model to a prevention and maintenance model”

    I just want to say that I couldn’t have described our current healthcare model more concisely and eloquently as you just described. An excellent article!

  4. iClinicRN says:

    Reblogged this on iClinicRN and commented:
    Yes, this is a growing problem in Nursing. I thought readers would get something out of this reblog.

  5. Hi Donna Cardillo
    Thanks for sharing such a timely post. Be patient with yourself. You’re just starting out. There are some tips to keep in mind during interview: Prepare all the basic interview questions, Create a Portfolio, Dress professionally.

  6. Mim says:

    Much of the article is valuable advice, but as a more mature new grad with several prior degrees and real world experience, I think there are other issues at play. I have been searching high and low for new grad jobs since I graduated in June, as has most of my class. I think 8 of 100 have found jobs so far, so the job market for new grads is extremely tough. When I have done online searches for RN jobs, they come up by the thousands, but when you concatenate that with the words “new grad” only about 100 or so are listed for the entire country. It seems to me everyone wants an experienced nurse, but no one wants to train one! The HR folks are so locked down on what a hiring manager even sees that it is very difficult to get through the small gate door. Is it possible nursing management is trying to restrict new grads from coming in so they can keep experienced nursing salaries high?

  7. sasa says:

    hi donna!
    i wanted to get a CNN certification through ANNA. Application requires 30 hours of CEUs. DO you happen to know if the CEUs offered here are accredited to satisfy the requirements in NNCC.

  8. Kyle Schmidt says:

    RE: “engage the recruiter in conversation about what his or her facility has to offer”

    I’d recommend that job seekers ask questions about the challenges that employers face and about the goals that employers have set for themselves as an organization. Then, express a desire to help them achieve those goals or conquer those challenges. Try to apply your knowledge and expertise to offer solutions. The goal is to talk about how you can help the employer as opposed to having the employer explain how they can help you.

    • Nadine Shah says:

      Almost as bad are job seekers who have no questions at all. We recently interviewed an applicant (not a nurse) who seemed not to have the slightest curiosity about our organization and what we do. Applicants could have so much more success at finding employment if they would focus – at least temporarily – on the needs of prospective employers.

  9. Maria Nannyonjo says:

    This is a very interesting and encouraging innovation for graduate nurses who had resorted to abandon the profession due to frustration caused by failure to get employed .

  10. Romaine Bourquin says:

    He is a recipient of numerous awards Georgiann

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