Job Search 101 for Nurses

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By ANA Career Center Staff – June 2014

Whether you’re looking for your first nursing job or are well established in your career, it’s important to know the basics elements of a successful nursing job search. The first step is being proactive about your career by always staying on the lookout for new experiences and better opportunities, not just when the situation at your current employer becomes unpleasant. 

Here are some tips on how to do that and how to find a nursing job when you need or want a new one.

Keep Learning

Don’t ever stop developing your knowledge and participating in training. Doing so will help boost your experience and skills and put you in a better position to get jobs that will advance your career.

“Nurses can be more proactive in their careers by asking for leadership and professional development courses opportunities at their current and future employers,” says Rae Ellen Douglas of recruiting firm Kaye Bassman. “They should seize every official and unofficial learning opportunity presented.”

Lisa Kapps, a health care recruiter with Fortus Healthcare Resources, agrees. “Nurses who are proactive about developing their careers — through continuing professional development, cross-training when available, attaining advanced certifications and joining professional associations — make themselves more marketable when they begin their job search,” she says. “One great option for nurses is to attend an industry conference where you will be able to meet directly with employers and network with other nurses.”

Promote Yourself

Because of the nature of nursing work, it can be hard for nurses to promote themselves in a professional setting, Douglas says. But learning to brag is important.

“Nurses are by nature caregivers and think of themselves as humble servants,” she explains. “An interview situation is not a time to be humble, however. Nurses need to do a better job of preparing themselves to site their strengths and accomplishments in the interview setting and to do so without feeling awkward or boastful.”

Figure Out What You Want

Developing an idea of what you want to do and accomplish in the next one, three, five and 10 years can help you put your career on a successful track. Consider things such as where you want to work and what specialties you’d be interested in pursuing.

Nurses need “to be thorough by knowing what they are really seeking, first and foremost,” Douglas says. “This includes the type of role, environment, culture, location — these should all be decided on before a nurse even interviews.”

Create a Detailed Resume

Putting work-specific details on your resume can help it stand out, says Mark Slack, a career adviser at Resume Genius. “Nurses can give themselves a boost in their job search by including their availability in their resumes. They should let the hiring manager know if they are open to working eight-, 10- or 12-hour shifts, and whether they can work days, middays, PMs or nocturnal shifts.”

Slack recommends including this information even if the job you’re applying to mentions scheduled shifts because “they may have another opening that hasn't been advertised yet.”

Expand Your Search

Community connections and local resources are a great place to start your job search, but you should also look at job boards and other state and national resources. This can help you see the wide array of opportunities available across the country. Nursing-specific job boards such as the ANA Career Center can help you save time and effort as you access the nursing jobs you want without having to sift through postings for unrelated fields.
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