While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nursing employment is expected to grow by 15% through 2026, finding a job as a nurse is never as simple as filling out an application and submitting a resume. Even though the BLS indicates that 438,100 new registered nurse jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2026, navigating the nursing job market can be a challenge.
Nursing positions require a high level of training, often in a specific area of study or specialization. That can narrow the field of job prospects considerably. Yet, it also can work to your advantage if you happen to find a position that aligns with your education, clinical training and level of experience.
Of course, finding such a position on job boards such as Indeed, LinkedIn, the American Nurses Association and other healthcare job services is only one part of the job search challenge. Online job boards and career counseling services such as Jacksonville University’s Career Resource Center make it simple to search for advertised positions at hospitals, clinics, universities, primary schools, government agencies, insurance companies and other organizations that hire nurses.
The toughest part of the job search is taking steps to improve your odds of landing your preferred position. What follows is a basic guide to help get you started on a nursing job search.
Where (and When) to Begin
The first step in a job search is deciding when to begin. The answer generally is: It is never too early to begin your career research or to lay the groundwork for a future job. The more you know early on about the number of job openings, salary information and other pertinent facts, the better decisions you can make when it’s time to land that job.
There are many steps required to qualify for a nursing position, beginning with becoming a registered nurse and earning an RN license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Nurses also generally seek certification through professional associations. Some employers require certification, which can be earned in fields such as gerontology, pediatrics, ambulatory care and other specialties. Some employers might also require certification in certain skills, such as CPR, basic life support and advanced cardiac life support.
It is important early on to consider what, if any, specialty certifications you might wish to pursue. If there is one area of healthcare that appeals to you more than others, it might feel natural to gravitate toward that specialization.
On the other hand, focusing exclusively on one area of study or clinical experience might cost you if you can’t find a job opening in that field – it pays to research the job market in specific specializations before zooming in on one field. Does a cursory job search online reveal few openings related to your first choice of specialty? Perhaps another choice would be better.
The bottom line, though, is that if an area of study or healthcare work feels like a calling, then pursue that with all your passion – and look for a job that will allow you to practice that specialty.
Network, Network, Network
Just as it is never too early to begin to consider long-term career goals, the time is always right to make friends in the industry. It’s called networking – developing personal and professional relationships that could help keep you in the loop when it comes to finding a job.
If you are uneasy with the idea of taking advantage of interpersonal relationships to find a job, consider the statistics about hiring practices.
According to research conducted by LinkedIn, 48% of quality hires come from employee referrals, while 39.9% of hires are made through employee referrals and 14.9% are made through job board applications, according to Jobvite.
How does one network for a job through friends and associates? The relationships shouldn’t be forced. Networking should be a natural outgrowth of the friendships, acquaintanceships, partnerships and other working or personal relationships you develop in school and throughout a career.
If you take the time to cultivate professional friendships – while simultaneously proving your competence at your job – the people you meet along the way will remember your name when they come across job openings.
It is just as important to help others along the way. When you see a job opening that you know would be perfect for a former or current colleague, let them know about it. They will appreciate the kindness.
Tips for Cover Letter, Resume, Social Media
In addition to being mindful of career goals and professional relationships, every job seeker must make sure his or her job-search “house” is in order. That means maintaining continuing education credits and certifications, of course, but it also means keeping the basic tools of a job search professionally prepared.
The American Nurses Association suggests that you keep your resume updated and personalize a cover letter for every job application. It might take some time to find the name of the person who will read your cover letter, but doing so demonstrates initiative and will make your application stand out.
The resume also should be structured to reflect your qualifications and relevant experience for the specific job application. This often means simply re-ordering the information presented to place the most relevant experience or qualifications toward the top.
In addition to a well-crafted cover letter and resume, a job seeker must maintain a public social media presence that reflects professionalism. LinkedIn is the leading professional social media network, as well as providing detailed job boards and online groups.
The LinkedIn profile is a valuable job search asset. Recruiters and human resources representatives use LinkedIn’s search function to find candidates based on the words listed in the summary description, the list of current and past job positions, the endorsements received from colleagues and the account settings that specifically show whether a LinkedIn user is actively seeking a new job.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, LinkedIn should be considered a professional online setting. The profile photo should present you in your best professional light, and the written portion should be free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors.
While a well-maintained LinkedIn might help a candidate stand out in a crowded job market, public information on other, less-formal social media sites also can be a factor in a job search. Never assume that your posts, tweets or snaps are private – even if the settings allow only your friends and followers to see your content.