Landing Your First Nursing Job Right Out of School with Nurse Beth from

finding first nursing job

Today, I am excited to have Nurse Beth who runs the blog and also Ask Nurse Beth on share with you some tips on getting your first nursing job.  I personally can’t think of a more well rounded and qualified nurse to share these insights with you.  By following these 9 steps you will no doubt have much greater success in finding your first nursing job. . . . Enjoy!  –Jon Haws RN CCRN

The Assignment No One Gave You

Tiffany studied hard all through her nursing program even though she suffered with test anxiety. She succeeded in all of her classes thanks to her sheer determination and hard work. She passed her NCLEX with seventy nine questions and proudly practiced writing “Tiffany Brown, BSN, RN” after her name. Graduation day was one of the best days of her life.

Fast forward six months and Tiffany still has not landed a job. Here’s what no one told Tiffany and the most important assignment she was never given.

I hate to see nursing students work so hard for years and triumphantly graduate…only to struggle when it comes to landing a job.

In nursing school, there is an assignment that your instructors never gave you. It’s called “How to Make Sure You Land a Job” and the homework is outlined below.

Here’s what a lot of nursing students don’t know- you can greatly increase your chances of landing your first RN job, if you start strategizing right now while you are still in school.

Here’s why:

The challenge to getting hired in today’s market is to set yourself apart from all the other equally qualified applicants. You can do it if you start now!

Trying to find a “New Grad Nurse” job like . . .

Start Your Portfolio

Obtain letters of recommendation on school letterhead from your clinical instructors now. Your instructor feels most positive about you and most connected to you immediately following a clinical rotation. Don’t wait to request a letter of recommendation.

Letters from clinical instructors are highly valued by hiring managers because they know your clinical instructors have seen you perform under stressful circumstances.

Remember, too, that clinical instructors have strong ties to local hospitals. Many of them work in local hospitals, know many hiring managers, and can put in a good word in for you.


Volunteer for any possible community/health-related/school project you can. Better still, lead a project.

For example, volunteer at a booth at the county fair to take blood pressures or perform fingersticks. Participate in Toys for Tots at Christmas time. Create a “Volunteer” header on your resume with a list of your volunteer activities. The candidate with volunteer experience may well win out.

I once was part of a selection committee to award an externship spot. It was narrowed down to two candidates, both essentially equally qualified. The deciding factor came down to the one with the most volunteer work on his resume.

 Serve as a Class Officer

Run for an office. Holding an office demonstrates both service and leadership.

Join and become involved in the National Student Nurses Association (NNSA). It shows professionalism. Student nurses who belongs to NNSA are more likely to understand the importance of joining a professional nursing association down the road.

 Keep a Record of Stories

As a student, you will have many experiences that you will find moving, or that change you, or that you learn from. These are the cases and situations you talk about in post-clinical.

Later on, during your interviews, you will need to recall a story. For example, you may have had a time when you went above and beyond for a patient or a family member, or perhaps you resolved a conflict.

Have stories on hand because stories are remembered- which makes you memorable. Telling a short story of how you stayed up late to help a classmate pass a crucial test is far more effective than saying “I’m a team player.”

 Track Accomplishments

Make note of any awards, recognitions, speeches given, and so on. These help you to stand out. Were you voted “Most Collegial”? It’s an accomplishment! Put it on your resume.

Resumes should highlight accomplishments.


Make and keep connections with nurses you meet or who you are assigned to in clinic. Exchange phone numbers and ask if you can stay in touch. The clinical bedside nurse you worked with in second semester may be a hiring unit manager by the time you graduate!

 Work as a CNA

Here’s the big one. This one almost guarantees you will be at the head of the line when new grad RN jobs are given out.

Identify the hospital you want to work in when you graduate. Hire on as a nursing assistant or PCT. In most places, you do not need your nursing assistant certification after your first semester of nursing school as you are qualified to be a CNA. Work during school breaks, over holidays, and weekends.

nurse turn cna icu

 Here’s the secret- you are not doing this for the experience, although it is valuable. You are auditioning for your future RN job. As you get to know the coworkers on your floor, they are also getting to know you. Be an exemplary employee. Be on time, offer to help others, be friendly. Your work ethic will not go unnoticed. Let people know you’d love to work there after you graduate.

Hiring managers always prefer to hire someone they know over someone they don’t know.

Thank You Note

Following each clinical rotation, write a short, handwritten note to the unit manager. Tell them how much you enjoyed your experience on their wonderful unit, and mention one person in particular who was helpful to you or who served as a role model.

Here’s an example:

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for the opportunity to spend my Med Surg clinical rotation on your unit. Jessica was especially helpful and made me feel like part of the team. I aspire to work on a unit such as this someday. I especially enjoyed placing my first NG tube.


Melissa Brown

Make sure your name is legible as you want Jonathan to recognize and recall your name. Do not be surprised if you drop by Jonathan’s office at a later date and see your note tacked up on his bulletin board. With your name.

Not many students will write a thank you note, so you have successfully already stood out from the others.

Keep your GPA Up

GPAs do matter. In a competitive market, a high (3.75 or >) GPA helps you to stand out. It could come down to a tie-breaker between you and another candidate. The candidate with the higher GPA will get the interview.

Best of luck in your journey, and be sure to read more about resumes, interviews and job searching at

Looking at working in the ED?  Try this post HERE

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