In my last article I discussed how “older” (more mature) nurses can compete against younger nurses. To be fair, I want to tell you, the new nursing grad, inexperienced nurses how you can come to the interview more experienced than you are now or more than you think you are now!
When I was fresh out of nursing school, I looked into working in many different places. Almost all nurse jobs said “prefer 1 to 2 years experience in field”. Was that discouraging? Yes and no, because I was focused on what I wanted to do and found a way to do it.
Follow these tips to gain experience or “appear” more experienced than your peers at a nursing interview:
Get a nursing tech/nursing assistant job. When I was in nursing school I knew early on that I wanted to work with children. Although very busy with school and my family, I attained a nurse tech position at the local hospital on the pediatric ward every Friday and Saturday night. What did this do for me? First, it gave me experience to put on my nursing resume. Secondly, it gave me a foot in the door.
Volunteer. Unfortunately, when I graduated nursing school we moved to another town. So much for the foot in the door, but I was not discouraged! I still had the experience to put on my resume. When I got to the new town, it was difficult at first to find a job. But the school my children went to needed a nurse, and knowing I wanted to work with children as my career, I became a volunteer nurse! More experience for my resume. At the same time, I earned a part-time nursing position as a school nurse, a field that I knew I did not want to work in for the long term, but gave me more experience for my resume.
Notice I said "prefer" 1-2 years experience? Don’t be discouraged by the word “prefer”. Apply for the position anyway. With your skills, experience and positive attitude, you might just land that nursing job! Maybe none of the applicants have experience, but with your exceptional resume you will be in the forefront to be hired!
Know you may not start out where you want to end up. I was fortunate. I worked in a pediatric ward, volunteered as a school nurse, and was the perfect candidate when a school nurse job opened up at a local private school. I did not have any “paid” school nurse experience, but I knew the basics and loved working with kids. If you find you are not as fortunate to land your “dream job” – as the song goes “Love the one you’re with”, get a position where you can gain knowledge and experience, work hard, arrive on time, and establish a positive work reputation. Don't undersetimate the power of this! Your reputation will follow you throughout your nursing career, so wherever you start, make sure you establish yourself as you want other professionals to see you.
Write a great resume. You may not have specific experience, but write your nursing resume toward what the interviewer is looking for. If you want to work with children and have experience volunteering in a classroom or working with foster kids, tout this information on your resume. Make sure to include any clinicals that you did during nursing school that may be applicable to the job you are applying for. Did you get good grades in school or have a leadership position in college? Don’t forget to include these in your resume. Every little bit helps!
Never say "just". You are not "just” a new nursing graduate, or “just” a nurse with no experience. You are "you" and you need to market yourself as experienced, confident, hard working, and don’t give the hiring authorities any reason not to hire you! Saying “just” shows a lack of confidence in getting one of those nurse jobs.