It’s 2021, the Year of the Nurse, and many nurses will be looking for a first or new job this year. But, is anything new about job searching this decade compared to the last few decades? The answer is yes, so if you’re looking to learn about finding a nursing job, keep reading.
In this article, you’ll learn about some of my go-to job search strategies for nurses. Plus, important ways to give yourself a competitive edge in the process of finding your dream nursing job.
As technology advances and the way we use the internet changes, there are many new ways that nurses look for and apply for jobs. In some ways, the digital age is beneficial, but there are also some ways that it could be hurting you.
Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?
When you’re thinking about finding a nursing job, it’s easy to assume that getting a nursing job should be easy, especially with the buzz-phrase of “nursing shortage” over the past 10-20 years. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Institute of Medicine have projected the need for large growth of the nursing profession.
This is due to Baby Boomers reaching old age, which leads to more older adults needing healthcare as well as more nurses retiring. As a result, organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) have supported initiatives to make nursing education more accessible and to increase enrollment.
However, calling this a nursing shortage is not entirely accurate. The Nursing Executive Council Advisory Board has redefined the “nursing shortage” as an “Experience-Complexity Gap.” Their report suggests that there are more new, inexperienced nurses entering the workforce as the patients are getting sicker. As newer nurses graduate and prepare to enter the workforce, health care organizations are wanting more experienced nurses to replace retirees and care for an increasingly sicker patient population.
This experience gap can create challenges for nurses looking for jobs, especially nurses who are more novice in their careers.
Job Searching Strategies for Nurses
Newer nurses entering the workforce are used to the technology advances that have defined the past twenty years. Many aspects of nursing education are now online, and coursework participation can have a similar feel to social media. Additionally, many nursing programs and job networking websites are speaking directly to the younger nurse with their own social media profiles, advertising, and networking group forums.
As a result of this comfort with online technology, many job applicants are treating their job search passively.
They are scrolling job boards, hoping to be shown their ideal position, and easily clicking apply.
Applying to a job online is fairly simple, since once a résumé is uploaded and saved, it can be sent to many jobs in a small amount of time.
The Disadvantage of Applying Online for Finding Nursing Jobs
So, do you have an advantage if you are using technology and applying to jobs online? Not necessarily.
While there are plenty of job websites and recruitment companies, various statistics report that between 40-60% of job vacancies are being filled by referral (or word of mouth) – not by online candidates.
Career acquisition reports have noted that approximately 35% of vacancies are being filled by job or career sites, and 75% of the applications come in through this method.
What do these statistics show?
If you apply online, you potentially have a lot more competition for fewer opportunities.
Find Your Next Nursing Job on the Hidden Job Market
Another thing to consider as you plan your job search strategy is the hidden job market. This refers to the job positions that never have any formal posting. This can include positions that are open that employers try to fill by word-of-mouth prior to posting publicly, as well as open positions that employers do not wish to pay to advertise.
The earlier statistics showcased how the majority of job seekers are using online applications as their primary application method, creating a lot of competition for positions.
Exploring positions that may not be posted online – the hidden job market – has the potential to be less competitive.
This can give you more of an opportunity to stand out and connect directly with the decision makers.
There’s a Better Way to Finding a Nursing Job
Step 1: Research your community first
When thinking about finding a nursing job, it’s easy to turn to your computer. But instead of using your computer time to scroll job postings in hopes of finding your ideal position, use the time to research your community (or the one you plan to move to) and the healthcare facilities in it. Come up with a short list of places you would ideally like to work.
Things to consider when doing this community research include:
- Commute time
- School of Nursing affiliation (if you have an interest in going back to school)
- Trauma, Burn, Stroke, and Magnet designation
- Whether your preferred specialty is practiced at the facility
- Orientation, residencies, and mentorship programs
Step 2: Identify influencers (not the kind you think!)
Once you’ve identified a short list of ideal workplaces based on your interests, experience, and goals, it’s time to identify some influencers who may have connections or advanced knowledge of those places.
This isn’t about reaching out and asking someone to recommend you for a job, but rather doing further research to learn whether you would be a good fit at this location. These individuals may eventually be able to introduce you to someone or recommend you for a job, but that’s not the primary purpose of this step.
Consider your warm and cold networks
As you think about potential influencers, you will want to consider people in both your warm and cold network. Warm network refers to anyone you may already be acquainted with, whereas cold contacts are essentially strangers to you.
Warm network contacts to consider include:
- Former classmates
- Friends and family
- Your own healthcare providers
Cold network strategies:
- Searching and connecting on LinkedIn
- Joining professional organizations
- Attending local events
Set up a meeting
Next, you will want to set up an in-person or virtual meeting or phone call with the potential influencer. This will serve as your opportunity to “pick their brain.” During this meeting, consider asking questions such as:
- How did you end up in your current position?
- I have a lot of respect for [healthcare facility] – what’s your favorite part of working there?
- Is [healthcare facility] an organization that values and invests in new graduates and mentorship?
These questions will help you connect with the influencer while also giving you some clarity about whether the healthcare facility would be an ideal workplace for you.
After your meeting, be sure to thank the influencer and follow up with them. If you have decided to pursue working at their facility, let them know that your conversation helped you with that decision.
If appropriate, you can ask them if they know who you should connect with at the organization, or to whom you should direct your application documents. Even if you ultimately end up applying to an open position through the facility’s website, it will be helpful if you can direct your application to a hiring manager or decision-maker directly.
Step 3: Time for more research!
Once you have met with your influencers and have decided which facilities seem like the best fit, it is time to do some more research.
At this point, you can start browsing the facility’s website for job openings that match your interests and experience.
You can also find out if they have a nursing recruitment department within the hospital. Often times these departments are responsible for filling nursing positions, and they can help provide information about new graduate programs, hiring events, and informational interviews.
This is also the time to research and read the facility’s mission statement. Find out what they value as an organization. Reflect upon why and how you feel professionally and personally aligned with them. If you haven’t yet figured out your dream nursing job, check out these easy steps to make sure you pick the right niche!
Step 4: Prepare your documents and application
Take time to reflect upon your skills and accomplishments. Use the summary section and the cover letter to showcase the value you bring to the organization and how you feel aligned with their mission statement.
At this point, you can also circle back around with your influencers and let them know that you have decided to apply for a position at their organization. Again, you don’t want to take advantage of this relationship in any way, but if it seems appropriate to leverage them as a contact, you can ask if you can mention them during the application process.
You can also reach out to the nursing recruitment department directly. Contact them via phone and express your genuine interest in joining their nursing staff. Ask about how an applicant can stand out to them during the application process.
While speaking with nursing recruitment, you can also Inquire about the possibility of an informational interview. An informational interview is a sit down meeting during which you are not interviewing for any particular position but rather using the opportunity to learn about the facility and also showcase your potential value as an employee.
If there do not appear to be any opportunities at the moment at this facility, don’t give up. Follow up regularly via email or by phone in order to stay top of mind when a vacancy opens up.
If you are an upcoming graduate and you have started this process in advance of becoming licensed, checking in every 3-4 weeks is a good practice for this.
Ways to Stand Out in a Competitive Market for Finding a Nursing Job
Ideally, you have started setting yourself apart before you are looking for a job. If you are still in nursing school, the following activities can help you stand out as a new graduate:
- Get a healthcare related job or regular hospital volunteer position while in school. Here are 5 common nursing volunteer opportunities to consider!
- Attend professional activities and grow your warm network
- Involve yourself in leadership activities at school such as student nurse association and community service activities.
Consider your future educational path
Many healthcare facilities value education as a way to help the Experience-Complexity gap. Certain facilities require (or at least strongly encourage) RNs to be bachelor-prepared due to Magnet or union status.
If you are planning to further your education, or you are already enrolled in a BSN program, be sure to leverage that in your résumé and cover letter.
If you don’t yet have your BSN but would like to have it, you can refer back to the research you did in an earlier step to find a facility that provides tuition assistance for nurses. Prioritizing your future education can potentially be a huge benefit, especially in geographical areas that are densely populated with nurses and therefore can be selective with who they hire.
It also affords you some additional earning potential, meaning you may be paid more compared to non-BSN nurses. Additionally, if you have goals of advancing your education into advanced nursing practice or leadership, Master’s programs most often will require a BSN for entry.
Overall, Be Strategic Throughout the Process
As we enter the Year of the Nurse, it’s important for nurses and future nurses to recognize how to use up-to-date information and technology to support job search and education strategies, and not leave them at a disadvantage.
Whereas technology has advanced tremendously over the past couple of decades, statistics show that online job searching and applying only online is not the most effective way to finding a nursing job.
Next time you wonder finding a nursing job online, I encourage you to consider this:
Rather than being a passive applicant who applies for many job openings hoping for a match, taking a more strategy, research-driven approach has a higher likelihood of leading to not only any job, but the job that is the best fit for you.