Never Give Up: My New Grad RN Job Search Experience

I am happy to announce that I got a job as an acute care RN and started my new grad program at a hospital! I did not post last week because I was in orientation all week and transitioning into my new role. I am thrilled to be part of my program since it is at my top choice hospital and provides comprehensive training. While I’m excited to share my good news, I wanted to discuss what led me to land a spot in my new grad program. I share my job search experience to offer encouragement, hope, and advice to future new grad nurses.

I applied to the same program after getting rejected the first time.

I got rejected the first time I applied to my program last Fall. The hospital did not even invite me to interview. I applied a second time to the new grad program in January, interviewed in March, and got an offer two weeks later. Some differences when I applied the second time:

  • I had gained several months of experience as an RN (COVID tester),
  • I had earned additional certifications to add to my resume,
  • I finally knew a couple of nurses working in the hospital, one of whom put in a good word for me to their manager,
  • I tweaked my application based on what I heard about the need and availability of positions; I emphasized wanting acute care experience instead of working in a specialty.

I applied to 74 RN positions before I got my offer at my hospital.

The new grad program at my hospital was the very first RN job to which I applied. I continued to apply to other positions, but I was narrow in my search. I focused on the specialty I was interested in and expressed this in my new grad program personal statements. After months of submitting applications and not getting any interviews, I expanded my job search to include Med-Surge/Telemetry positions. I finally landed my first acute care RN interview in a Telemetry unit. In the interview, I expressed strong interest in eventually transferring to a specialty unit within five years. I learned they were interested in me but concerned I wouldn’t be happy in the department and abandon them. They did not give me the job offer. 

As my search continued, I learned not to narrow my focus to a specialty unit when I had no hospital experience. Once hired, it’s much easier to switch positions internally than to be an external hire. I still have a strong interest in the specialty unit. However, my priority as a new grad is to gain acute care experience and develop my nursing practice in a supportive and safe environment. In my new grad program, no specialty unit positions were available where I initially focused my search. Still, I applied and was determined to have a spot in the program because of the training and development I knew it would provide me. So far, I’ve been happy with my choice and have been learning a lot!

I worked as a COVID tester and vaccinator while applying to new grad programs and acute RN positions.

One of the 74 positions I applied for was a contract RN supporting studios as a COVID tester. Thankfully, I got the job. It was a great way to get experience working as an RN while still having enough flexibility to apply to hospital RN jobs and interview. More recruiters were interested in me once I became a working RN. Also, after working several months, my employer wrote a lovely reference letter for me that I submitted with my applications and included in my portfolio. A handful of positions required an employer reference. It was nice to be able to provide an employer reference from the healthcare industry.

I interviewed at five hospitals before I accepted an offer to join my program.

I applied to many acute care RN positions, with numerous ones at the same hospital or same unit but day and night shift positions. After applying, working, and networking, I eventually got invited to interview for some hospitals. However, most of these interviews took place only because I knew someone internally who advocated for me. 

After unsuccessfully job searching on my own, I began to reach out to friends and family members in healthcare to let them know I was searching for hospital RN jobs. I also spoke with other nurses I met in my per diem job about their hospital jobs or connections. One of my coworkers got me an interview at her hospital! Most of the hospital interviews I had were because someone I knew convinced a hiring manager or director to interview me. 

If you don’t know someone, it’s not impossible to get an interview. One of the interviews I had where I knew no one in the organization resulted in an on-the-spot job offer. I eventually turned it down and accepted a spot in my current new grad program instead.

I persevered after rejections or no feedback.

I applied to many programs or positions where I received no feedback for months or not at all – I would be listed as “under consideration” several months after applying. The first time I applied to my program in September, I didn’t receive my official rejection until November, months after my application submission. I tried contacting and leaving messages with some of the recruiters for other job submissions but would still get little to no response.

It was frustrating to hear people’s surprise at my difficulty finding a job: “Isn’t there a shortage of nurses? We’re in a pandemic – don’t they need nurses?” I had to explain that organizations need experienced nurses, and I had no experience. 

My lack of experience working in healthcare was a disadvantage for me. I knew many of my classmates that quickly found jobs had prior healthcare experience working as surgical technicians, CNAs, Patient Care Associates (PCA), EMTs, or nurse extenders. The majority of my cohort completed their preceptorships at a hospital that used them after completing their clinical hours as nurse extenders or surge nurses in preparation for and during the COVID surge. I’ve learned if you can work in healthcare before you graduate, it’s much easier to find a job as a nurse.

Additionally, new grad programs were difficult to find or were highly competitive since many had been canceled or delayed. While I was disappointed at not getting accepted into programs earlier or not having acute care RN offers to consider sooner, I wonder if the rejections were God’s grace saving me from starting a job amid a COVID surge. A former classmate shared she cried before most of her shifts due to the deaths she witnessed. Another friend shared that many new grads in her unit were pulled off orientation less than two weeks into their training to help with the surge. In various ways, new and veteran nurses that worked during the surges were traumatized by the pandemic. If I had started working in a hospital sooner, COVID would have impacted my nursing experience in a much different way. In retrospect, I’m thankful for the rejections and disappointments in my life that led me to where I am today.

Never Give Up

I did not envision starting a job in a hospital almost nine months after graduating from nursing school. However, I trusted in my skills and abilities and knew that I had something to offer and had to keep trying. I was unsure of when or where I would work as an acute care RN, but I was confident in eventually getting a job somewhere and remained passionate about wanting to help people. 

If you have a calling, go for it. If it’s truly your calling, opportunities will present themselves to you to lead you to your vocation, no matter how much you try to ignore it. The road may not be easy and may come with disappointments and rejections, but it might be what you need to direct you to your ultimate calling. Good luck on your journey!

MLK Career Inspiration

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day in America, where we celebrate and remember this great activist. Most people are familiar with Martin Luther King Jr.’s (MLK) “I Have a Dream” speech but may not be aware of his other speeches or the origin of some of his inspirational quotes. He was a great preacher and gave many more rallying and inspirational speeches promoting justice, non-violence, and people’s dignity. One of his speeches that inspired me in my career and career change was “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” I wasn’t aware of this speech or its contents until I attended a performance at my work years ago where someone had assembled parts of MLK’s speeches and presented/recited it for us during an MLK day celebration. I was lucky to have an active African American employee resource group host the presentation over lunch at our company.

Martin Luther King, Jr. presented “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” to a group of students at Barrat Junior High School on October 26, 1967. It is a timeless message that is relevant today and applies to all ages about being the best you can be. Footage from that day and video of his entire speech can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/kmsAxX84cjQ, thanks to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In honor of the holiday, I encourage you to watch the footage, which is only about 20 minutes. Below, I have gathered some motivational quotes and excerpts from his speech that were not previously familiar to me. I hope you reference them whenever you need inspiration!

Keep striving for excellence as you pursue your future endeavors, whether it be nursing or otherwise! Have a blessed day!