Case Study 1: Janet is a new grad who is fresh out of school, driven, and ready to learn what it takes to become an outstanding nurse and employee. She recently received confirmation that she passed the NCLEX exam. Three full days of celebration which included an impromptu trip to Las Vegas just concluded. Reality is kicking in. The jobs market is not what she expected. Through her four years in school and each time she reads a nursing journal, someone is commenting on the shortage of nurses. We are about a million nurses short, they all say. This should present the best possible situation for a new nurse. One would think.

Why does Janet not see an endless request for nurses in the want ads? This makes her wonder if she made the right choice.

Case Study 2: Cori is forty-five. Nursing is her second career after a brief stint in the IT industry. She has been a nurse for 12 years and loves to take care of people. Cori finds being a nurse more rewarding but decries the dismal pay she gets in rural South Carolina. She has grown unexpectedly restless in her current job. She is also suffering from a bad case of burn out. Cori loves nursing and does not want to quit. She believes that a change of scenery and pay will do a lot to re-infuse her excitement about her chosen profession. Ideally, she will like to move to a larger city and work in a busy ED. Unfortunately she is having a hard time finding the right job, at the right place, for the right pay.

What if you are like Cori and Janet? What resources are available to aid you in your search? This is a five part series on job search strategies to help you land that dream job. We'll discuss one major thing you can do to make your job prospecting a very successful one. First we will discuss how to find the job, then we will explore the different things you can do to make yourself the ideal candidate for the job.

The ideal way to begin is to take an impartial look at you. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Write them down. For each weakness, counteract it with a positive. For example, let's say that you are late leaving work once in a while. That can be a negative since a lot of hospitals are watching their budgets. You can spin this in the interview and say that you are very hard-working, to a fault. So much so that sometimes you stay over to finish your work and have to remind yourself it is twenty-four hour care. This is music to a future employer's ears. What employer will not want to hire a workaholic? That is how you counteract your negatives. What skills do you feel most confident about? As you write down your appreciable skills bolster them with words like “demonstrated”, “excellent”, “superb”, and “superior.” This is the one time you need to speak very highly of yourself .

Next, define your ideal job. What is important to you? Is it location? Is it pay scale or training or reputation of the hospital? Why is this important to you? Knowing “why” you seek this job is important. It will help later on when you tell the interviewer why you are the ideal match for the job position, over all the other candidates. We'll explore this in more depth later when we discuss interviewing skills. Now that you have written down your strengths and weaknesses it is time to begin your search. There are a number of ways to do this. We'll explore the most common methods. A combination of these usually works.

  1. Check out the website of the facility you are interested in. Search through their jobs database. Some might require you to fill out your application form in the HR department. Others are very strict about online applications only. Fill out each application with your strengths in mind. If you are a new grad, toot the skills you performed well during clinical. No one expects a new grad to have a long list of accomplishments but people do tend to navigate towards confident people. However few your skills may seem to you, share them with flourish. You have one chance to make an impression. This is it. Attach a cover letter and resume to your application, even if it is not requested. Make sure that you look at the job description and tailor your strengths to what the employers are looking for. Be sure you can back up every claim. Do not say you are excellent at starting IVs when you have never inserted one before. You get my drift. Do add any notes of appreciation or consent you received from instructors, colleagues. Whatever it takes to stand out. Remember to sign up for hospital “alerts” which notify you when new positions are posted .
  2. If you have some experience, sign up with a staffing agency or travel nursing agency. A simple search on Google, Bing or Yahoo will produce a long list of nursing agencies, some local, some not. Working with a temp agency presents an ideal opportunity to visit different hospitals and units. It is like running an undercover CIA mission. You get to check out the hospital culture, how nurses are treated, the group dynamics, location, and nurse-patient ratios, first hand. Your current job position may start looking like heaven after you have checked out a few facilities. On the flip side, you may fall head over heels for a certain organization and decide to apply. Additionally, you can request a letter of recommendation from the charge nurse or manager on that unit. That's what I call networking. You got paid to network . Lucky you!
  3. Using the same search engines as above you can also connect to sites like Monster or Craigslist that also have a large nationwide database of needs. Fill out an application that shows what an excellent candidate you are and you are on your way.
  4. Get a Google account and sign up for Google alerts. Basically, the way this works is that when a job position is posted anywhere in the country that meets your criteria, you will receive an alert. You get to choose how often you wish to receive these alerts; once a day, twice a week, etc.
  5. Do you belong to a nurse's association or organization? Get involved. Talk to people. You'll be amazed by how much information you can get simply by asking or sharing your story. Do not go around scaring people off, however. A good time to mention that you are in the job market is when someone asks where you work. A natural conversation about job search can ensue from that starting point. You never know with what you are talking. Carry yourself professionally. This person could be your future employer.
  6. With the advent of social media, a good many facilities post link on places like Facebook and Twitter. Keep an eye out as you communicate with your friends. A word of caution. A future employer will not hire you if your profile has you pictured in any number of compromising positions; such as drunk and inebriated, barely robbed, etc. Delete those photographs. Unless you are heading for a future on Reality TV, you have no reason to share them publicly. You are a true nurse professional, after all.
  7. Classified ads, penny savers, and other local papers are a good alternative to add to your search. Since most papers are moving online, be sure to check out the websites of local papers for job information.

We have covered 7 job searching strategies and more to get you started. One parting piece of advice on this section; be sure to research the companies you apply to. A little comment about some accomplishment that they touted on their website can go a long way to show your interest and diligence. Weave that piece of information into the content of your cover letter. And always, always customize your resume and cover letter to the position. The employment outlook for nurses is very positive. With an expected growth rate of 18% by 2012 (HRSA), the future of nursing is promising.

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