How to Land Your First Nursing Job

You’ve done it! You’ve graduated nursing school, passed your NCLEX and you’re ready and eager to start your first job as a real nurse. You want to be an excellent nurse, and you keep hearing about how nurses are so in demand. There is a massive nursing shortage, right? So why is that you still can’t seem to land your first gig as a nurse? If nurses are so in demand, then why is this so difficult?

Many reasons compile, but mostly liability and cost. New nurses naturally carry more risks than seasoned nurses they are also very expensive to train. We are in a recession after all, and hospitals are frequently having to cut positions, and even though they need nurses, they are very selective about who they choose to hire and invest their time and money in.

But fear not, there are some things you can do to separate yourself from the heard of other applicants that are going after YOUR job. Yep that’s that right. YOUR first nursing job is right there and ready for the taking.

First: Give up That Dream Nursing Job

I know you probably went into nursing with a dream to practice in a very specific setting. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take care of babies, work in the OR, ED, or with a cardiologist. The truth is that these exciting jobs are just as exciting to others as they are to you. And you are likely not going to get to work there in the beginning. I say this because I want you to do well, and I want you to love being a nurse, and because I care: GET OVER IT! Know that your first nursing job may not be exactly what you wanted it to be, but just like nursing school, it will help to prepare you to be the nurse you want to be. You may have to put in a few months or years before you can transfer to that position you want. But know that this is the goal, and once you have a few years under your belt, you can pretty much get a job anywhere.

Get Out a Be Proactive

While I am a big fan of LinkedIn, the simple fact is that this resource is only practical if you are established as a nurse and have some connections and references you can list. For your first nursing job, you need to make tangible connections and put some leg work in. Ideally you should start this process while you are in nursing school. Many hospitals will grant scholarships to students who agree to work for them after they graduate. This is doubly beneficial for you because not only will you get the added help with school, but you will almost be guaranteed a job after graduation.

You should also be actively showing your value and enthusiasm as a student during your clinical rotations. It is not uncommon for nurses and nurse managers to pick a few diamonds in the rough during your clinical practice and encourage them to apply for positions in that department. Even if they are sure you would not want to work in that department, you should always strive for your A game you can make valuable connections with people in power who can get you where you want to be as nurse.

Look the Part

Dress in business casual. Show up early to any interviews you land. Keep your hair neat and pulled back. Closed toed shoes are recommended. Even though you are not going to go to an interview in your nursing scrubs, you need to show the hiring manager that you are aware of standards in nursing dress code. Some may not agree with this, but every detail can count when you are in a pool with potentially dozens of other applicants.

Act the Part

When you’re applying for your first nursing job, it is imperative that you are confident in your abilities without being arrogant. You need to walk into your interview with your head high, smiling face, and an overall aura of professionalism. Even if the area you are interviewing is not the nursing specialty, you had your heart set on, no one but you ever needs to know that! You need to express interest and passion about the area in which you are going to work.

Talk To Everyone

Networking is key to success. Talk to people about how excited you are to be finished with nursing school and can’t wait to get to work. You never know who mind lead you to your lead! That waitress at the pizza parlor? Her mom could be the DON of a major medical center. In the job market, the key is often who you know rather than what you know, at least until you get the foot in the door. So be social, be funny, witty, charismatic and passionate. Make people want to talk to you! Be magnetic and inspire people to want to help you achieve your goals. People want to be around these sort of people, and they may introduce you to their friends. You can never have too many contacts or job leads, so make them whenever and where ever you can.

Make Some Facetime

If you truly do not have any connections to any healthcare organization or hiring managers the best thing to do is put on that business causal, get that portfolio and resumes, and head out on mid-morning or afternoon to the major providers of healthcare in your area. Don’t go on a Monday or Friday and avoid any time before 9 am, after 4 pm and between 11am-1pm. These are busy times and likely the people you need to see will be tied up. You want to go when they are going to have at least a moment to speak with you.

Talk with the recruiter at the hospital if they have one. Give them a copy of your resume, ask for any leads. You should attempt to go through this system. Fill out an application. Find out what department is hiring and make your way to it, if it as an open unit. Ask to speak with the manager. If you’re lucky and friendly to the staff, you may just get your face time! Extend a handshake, a smile, and charismatically give your elevator pitch and resume to the manager. Express your interests and ask him/her to find your application. Respect their time and thank the for it and encourage them to call you their convenience so you can discuss in more detail how you would be a great asset to their team.

Use keywords: Asset, motivated, positive, convenience, care, compassion, drive, goal, commitment, loyal, integrity, teamwork, customer service, service excellence, skills, (just to name a few) in your elevator pitch.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.[1] The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. via: wikipedia

Thank Yous and Follow-up

Thank them for their time and give them to the time review the information you’ve presented them with. Wait at least a week before you follow-up with a phone call. Use this an as opportunity to thank them for speaking with your briefly and an additional opportunity to express the benefits of an interview with you. Paraphrase your elevator pitch.

Do not picture or harass them, they will find you to be a nuisance and your name will go the bottom of the pile. But you do need to maintain interest in the job while giving their space.

The Waiting Game

Then you must wait. But you have plenty you can do during this time. For example, this entire process at a different hospital or doctor’s office. Make sure you keep note of the contacts you’ve made, where they are, and what the specialty is. You don’t want to make a mistake in speaking with a hiring manager at the maternity ward while you talk about your love of the ER. So seek multiple opportunities, but keep your leads straight and stay organized.

Your efforts and persistence will pay off, and you will soon find yourself in your very first nursing job. Be eager, be humble, and always be ready to learn. Be motivated and enthusiastic but understand that others may not always see you for what you are. You are not there to please everyone. You are there to be a nurse and take care of your patients. Be strong, brave, and confident.

Prove that you were worth hiring.

10 thoughts on “How to Land Your First Nursing Job”

  1. I have been a licensed practical nurse for 15 months and have yet to go a nursing job. I have been proactive and applied EVERYWHERE and called etc…no one seems to want a new grad………….HELP!!!

    1. 15 months with no lpn job that’s just not right… I am sorr to hear that… Have you tried being a volunteer at places you want to work at? I just have my license for 3 weeks and have the same experience as you, however i give it another month and if nothingcomes up i am going to volunteer at couple places and when they have an lpn opening i will apply. At least they will know that my work ethics are good. I used to work in HR and from my own experience: we used to look for new hires internally first, before giving a help wanted ad and hire outsiders. Good Luck!

  2. @besz first nursing job was terrible in the beginning, because of the lateral violence I experienced, pregnancy, death of my mother, and the overall difficulty of being a new nurse.t. Still there,on a different shift. It’s much better now. Unfortunatly, many nurses experience the same difficulties with their first job that I did, and as many as 25% leave the nursing profession all together within the first year.

    My elevator pitch: “With great power comes great responsibility. I know that I am going to be involved with people in their most vulnerable state and I have the ability to positively effect their lives while providing competent, compassionate, and efficient nursing care.”

  3. @@1pageproposal should have used your service for the recent proposal I just wrote… 3 pages and I couldnt for the life of me get it down any shorter wihout feeling like I was loosing relevant and needed info.

    Will be good for all involved if they accept and implement!

    1. @TheNerdyNurse Well you know where we are 🙂
      Would love give you a free trial for your feedback and comments. We are very proud of the success our job seekers are having! It is amazing how making the connection between skill and company wants are the key to getting through… and how easy it is!

  4. @1pageproposal

    The Nursing Industry right now is a very attractive sector to be in. It is one of the hardest industries to recruit for, and it truthfully comes down to going after the job you want. Like you said it is going beyond the “common channels”. We have had success with nurses getting jobs using job proposals in lieu of cover letters and also giving them to their contacts that they made networking. Take a look at We would be happy to donate the first 5 nurses to email us about writing a nursing proposal FREE access. Good luck. The world needs more nurses!

  5. You listed “Give up that Dream Nursing Job” – so many people are not happy with their jobs because of all the expectations they set from stereotypes or movies, and when those expectations don’t happen around them at real work, they feel unhappy with the job.

    Nursing and medical profession may be more chaotic than many others jobs [dealing with patients, wounds, sickness, people who are unhappy most of the time because they are sick, etc], so the focus can be on landing a job with good pay and to make the most of what one can to adjust to the situation. Or at least that’s what I think.

    How was your first job and what’s your elevator pitch? :p

    – Bes @

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