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New Nurse? What Sets Your Resume Apart?

New Nurse? What Sets Your Resume Apart?

Joyce Harrell, RN

Across the country is seemingly a contradiction of needs. Projections point toward a nursing shortage while in reality at this time, hundreds of nurses are graduating from nursing school and cannot find a job. I read story after story from new nurse graduates who cannot find employment and desperation is setting in. As a former nurse manager I read these stories and try to offer suggestions and hope. I believe this trend is only temporary and the tide will turn soon and we will see the shortage of nurses as anticipated.

In the meantime, what do you do if you are one of the new graduates that cannot find a job? I tried to sit back and think objectively toward the new nurses needing employment. I quietly asked the question, “What is it about your resume that sets you apart and would prompt me to hire you?"

Realistically a new nurse graduate is like a blank slate. New graduates present with recently completed nursing school and a victorious pass on the NCLEX exam. Unless you as a new grad have extensive experience in the area you wish to apply for, there is really nothing about your application that looks any different than the other applicants. For example, if I was an emergency room manager, and you were applying to work in the emergency department and had previously been a paramedic or an emergency medical technician, you would obviously have an experience edge over someone with no previous experience in the emergency department.

I am an “outside of the box” thinker. When I see a “lemon” situation, I make “lemonade.” What I would like to do is get your mind, as a new grad, thinking about possibilities. I am going to make an assumption that most of you have a desire to work in a hospital upon graduation. If the local hospitals aren’t hiring, then you feel like you have hit a brick wall. Desperation and hopelessness sets in your mind and then you get stuck. Does this sound like any of you?

This is where we need to look outside the box. If you don’t have experience that sets you apart from the next graduate, it is time to change that situation. I am going to share some creative ideas to get you thinking outside your box.

1. Find a local “free” clinic and volunteer. You have a nursing license. Use it. You may not get paid, but you will get experience. You also do not know who you will meet and make connections with. Employees, physicians and managers from local facilities usually volunteer at these clinics. Get to know people. Connections can be very valuable.

2. Check out your local Red Cross chapter. Volunteer there. Again, same principal as in suggestion #1.

3. Connect with one or two of your friends who haven’t found a job yet, and approach a local clinic and ask about setting up free blood pressure sites in a local pharmacy or store like Wal-Mart. Again, you are doing for the community, and getting your name out there.

4. Realize your passion. Do you have an area where you really want to work, but there are no openings? Get online and find all the CEU’s you can on that particular subject. Build your portfolio. Become an expert in the area you wish to work. Sign up for your local area nurse education, usually known as an AHEC center. See what classes are offered, and take them. Do you want to work in the emergency room, or ICU? Take ACLS. Do you want to work in pediatrics? Take a PALS class.

5. Realize you have a nursing license. You have taken years of classes now on patient education. Start your own business. Develop education material for an area of interest for you. For example, you love health and prevention? Find others involved in wellness programs and teach. People pay to find effective ways of losing weight and improving their health.

6. Do you have a BSN? You can apply for a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, or nurse educator in a pharmaceutical sales company.

7. Are you willing to relocate? There are areas in the United States that are hiring. You may have to re-locate.

These are only a few suggestions, but all convey an “outside of the box” mentality. You need put yourself in my place as a manager. What is it about your resume that would entice me to hire you when I am looking at several applications from new graduates? Remember unless there is something that sets you apart on your resume, you all basically come with a clean, but equal slate.

One other thing I would like to say: I feel your frustration and discouragement. Don’t be desperate to take anything that is offered to you. My daughter just graduated last year, and she was in a similar situation. She accepted a position for something I felt was not a job for a new graduate. She was there for only a few weeks when she realized this place was not safe for a new grad and some unethical things were going on. She got out very quickly, and was eventually able to find a good situation. Don’t put yourself in a situation for your first job that may give you a bad taste in your mouth for nursing. Your license is very precious to you. Your reputation is all you have. Selling out just to get the paycheck may have long term consequences.

Be positive! Set your intention out there for the type of position you want. Take steps that go toward your dreams and goals! Have faith in yourself! I do!

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