How I Landed My Dream Job


You’ve gotten through 16 months - 4 years of nursing classes, you’ve completed countless hours of clinicals, stressing out over exams, comparing yourself to your classmates (don’t lie… we all do it!) YOU ARE DONE! all that stands between you and the rest of your career is passing that NCLEX (I’ll have a post on this later, don’t you worry) and landing your dream job.

Haters are gonna hate.

I wish that I could say all my friends were 110% behind me cheering me on as I applied to jobs on labor and delivery and pediatrics. But unfortunately this wasn’t the case. I had more than one friend tell me

“I would never get a job on labor and delivery as a new grad”

or that

“I needed to do my time as a medsurg nurse, even if this was my second career”

Ouch. And the worst part about this is, most of these friends were not even in the nursing realm… they worked in hospital management, public health, or education.

So here is my very first piece of advice if you are wanting to go into a speciality straight out of school…. DON’T LISTEN TO THE HATERS.

Don’t do it. There are going to be a lot of people, unfortunately mostly the people we are closest with, that will doubt you. They will put their own fears on your successes and try to bring you back to their level. Don’t let them. Instead, thank them for their input and say (even if its just to yourself… this is coming from a person that absolutely hates conflict) “I’m going to give this a whirl. If it doesn’t work out, then ok, but I am at least going to try”

Because trying is all we really can do.

The amazing thing about our profession is that you have a lifetime to figure out your niche. You have a career to explore different options and make mistakes and learn from them, so trying is truly the first step.

So, I told myself “I am going to apply for jobs solely on labor and delivery for three months and if there are no interviews at that point then I will open my net wider”

Here is the thing about my situation, I was finishing my last semester at Duke University in Durham while my husband had started his graduate degree up here in DC. I was living with his parents and commuting up here every weekend to be “home”. The pressure to find a job was, to say the least, immense. Having haters tell me I wouldn’t get one, didn’t help either, but I have myself the time to search, apply, and follow up in order to get interviews.

So here’s what I did:

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  • I made a list of every hospital within an hour commute of DC (beggers can’t be choosers)

  • I found out which hospitals were offering positions in Nurse Residencies or New Graduate Training in Labor and Delivery OR PostPartum.

  • I talked with my few friends in the area (seriously… I think I had one from the peace corps that was a nurse up here) to get a feel for what the hospital culture was like at each place and where I should really focus at first.

  • Before applying, I had professors, clinical instructors, and my preceptor write me recommendations that I could add into the application portals.

  • I researched the best “new grad resume template and cover letter” for nursing students. Because this was a second degree for me, I made sure to list the highlights of my life BN (before nursing) to show I had some experience working in this patient population

and then….

  • I applied, I think to over 30 jobs total. Some hospitals allowed me to apply to multiple jobs with the same resume and different cover letters, but it felt like a full time job.

This was the hard part, waiting.

Most of my classmates and friends at Duke were being hired through their preceptor experience and pretty quickly into the semester, had a job lined up to start a month or two after we graduated. For anyone applying outside of the research triangle, this only added to the suspense of where we would end up.

Slowly, though I had a few interviews roll in and finally landed one with the hospital I am at now.

You do not need to go to an ivy league school to get these interviews. Following up with HR after submitting and application to reintroduce yourself, having a nurse on the floor let the hiring manager know you applied, and during your preceptorship— showing up like every minute of the 12 hour shift is a job interview, helping out on the floor (even if its taking vitals for another nurse), and acting professional will help you go a long way.

The other HUGE piece of advice I can tell you is

apply to new graduate programs

If you are wanting to specialize this is the best way to get seen by HR and then passed on to the hiring manager of the floor. Applying for jobs that ask for one to two years experience was very quick way for me to get the dreaded email “we went with someone else”. New grad programs are designed to help you transition from student to nurse, giving you a longer orientation as well as classes that go deep into the specific physio of your patient population, I learned far more about OB during my orientation classes than I did in my maternity rotation. In short they are designed for you to move through your first year of nursing and give you confidence to be that kick @$$ nurse you are.

But I will end with this note, when I applied to nursing school and was accepted, I was told by EVERYONE that I would never have to fight for a job, they would come looking for me. And as a new grad— this is just not the case. While there is a huge nursing shortage, this is mainly about experienced nurses staying at the bedside. It takes time and money to train us to become nursing that can function confidently and safely on the floors. So if you are feeling like you are hitting your head against the wall trying to get into a hospital, it can be a real challenge. But you can do it. Give yourself a deadline of how long you are willing to wait before applying to anything and everything. I applied to positions related L&D as well, just in case I couldn’t get one of these jobs. If you have your heart set on an ICU, but are hearing crickets on the other line, apply to step down units, oncology, or the ED, if you want a job in the NICU, apply to postpartum positions (you will gain VERY valuable experience taking care of couplets). If you heart is set on pediatrics find a floor that will allow you to gain skills to move up. If you put in the work and are dedicated to your floor, you can move to the floor you had your heart set on sooner than you think.

You are amazing. You can do this! Feel free to shoot my any questions if you are stuck in the application rat race, I am always happy to help.

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