Like any industry, healthcare undergoes cycles during which jobs become relatively scarce, only to be followed by periods during which new nurses are greatly in demand. When the labor market is tight, it may be harder to land that first job right out of school. So it pays to be prepared for the job hunt of your career before you even pick up your diploma.
While it’s perfectly fine to fill out online job applications and send out your digital résumé, announcing your pending eligibility to join the workforce, it may be a better strategy to focus on networking. Networking involves making personal connections, getting seen and noticed, and getting your foot in the door. But how does one get started?
Dress the Part
Any actor can tell you that getting into costume can help bring a character fully to life. Dressing the part applies to nursing too. To begin your pre-graduation job hunt, start with appropriate attire. While working nurses seldom require business attire, but professionals of all stripes certainly do. As you begin networking, you’ll want to present yourself as a professional. So dress the part.
For better or worse, first impressions always matter. Make a good one. Pay attention to grooming. Avoid any aspects of your personal grooming that may be considered distracting. A nose ring, for example, may be fun for clubbing, but it won’t open any doors for you out in the working world. Similarly, if your arms are covered in tattoos, it may be wise to wear a long-sleeve shirt or blouse. Expressing one’s individuality has its place, but the goal while networking should be to make a professional impression.
Women should consider wearing a conservative, skirted business suit, and men a traditional one. Keep jewelry and accessories simple and minimal. For women, makeup should be understated. You want to be taken seriously, so you’ll need to project an image of serious professionalism. Get basic business cards with your contact information and have them at the ready.
Widen the Net
Consider attending chapter meetings of professional organizations related to nursing in general or your specialty in particular. If you went from RN to BSN in school, look for professional chapters who have an emphasis on people who made the switch. These are excellent venues for networking; meeting working professionals on their own turf, catching their eye, or bending an ear, and introducing yourself as a soon-to-graduate nursing professional. Be sure to close any interaction with a handshake, a smile, and an offer of your business card.
It’s a good idea to solicit cards for others you meet, too. Follow-up phone calls never hurt, either. They’re a good way to keep you fresh in the mind of someone who may be in a position to be of assistance eventually. The idea is to kindle and foster relationships so you’ll have a leg up when it comes time to find that new job. Attend conferences, career fairs, and other potential nursing-related events where networking prospects are ripe.
Another aspect of expanding your network could involve the willingness to relocate. Certain regions and states may be undergoing nurse shortages. A willingness to at least consider relocation may lead to a lucrative offer of employment in one of these places. This may be especially helpful if your own area is experiencing a temporary glut of qualified nurses. Keep in mind, too, that hospitals are not the only institutions that employ nurses. Prisons, the military, schools, universities, hospices, and even public health facilities all need nurses, too. Don’t be shy about casting a wide net. It’s the only way to fully assess your employment options.