You’ve done it! You’ve made it through your degree program and you’re getting ready to launch the next phase of your career. Congratulations on achieving an important milestone in your career and life, and on proving to yourself just how strong, persistent, and resilient you really are.
First things first: take a moment to savor that achievement. Give yourself the applause you so richly deserve, and celebrate how amazing you are. Yep, you’ve earned it.
Then, when you’re ready to start on the next phase of your career journey, the following actions will help smooth the path for you.
1. Strengthen your key relationships
You’ll find that one of the secrets to having great career opportunities (and lots of them) is to build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with people you come into contact with.
Your action item? Start building a base of good relationships with the faculty and administrators who meant the most to you as you progressed through your degree program. An easy and thoughtful way to do that is to simply e-mail them and say thank you for their positive impact on and contributions to your program experience. (Expressing your appreciation to someone is always a great way to start or strengthen a relationship.)
In addition, reach out to fellow students about staying in touch. If you had good experiences with fellow students, keep the positive aspects growing as you all move forward throughout your nursing path. Connections with these fellow graduates can become lifelong career assets and, even better, friendships.
2. Check your professional brand and visibility
This step is about shaping how potential employers see you. Your job here is to become “findable” online for all the best reasons. If you’ve created an online portfolio, make sure it reflects the type and quality of work you’d like to be known for. If you have a social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.), assume that potential employers will be checking out your postings there – make sure they reflect the person you’d like to be known as.
But absolutely most important, make sure you have an outstanding LinkedIn profile, complete with a professional-looking photo, recommendations from faculty or others who know you, and a summary that describes your key professional strengths. In the business world, this would be called your “value proposition.” Your LinkedIn profile’s summary statement is simply a terrific opportunity to highlight the best of who you are, and why you’d be a great employee and colleague.
3. Prepare your marketing materials
As a job-hunter, you want to make sure you have your “marketing materials” ready to go whenever you have an opportunity for a connection or further discussion. This means that you have:
- business cards with your name and contact information;
- a dynamite master resume and cover letter that can quickly be tailored to specific job opportunities;
- a familiar “elevator speech” that lets you comfortably and conversationally tell a complete stranger who you are, what you’re interested in, and perhaps what you focused on most strongly in your coursework (don’t forget to ask them about their background, as well!); and
- a positive, professional online presence that demonstrates intelligence, maturity, judgment, and a passion for your work.
4. Do your job-hunting research
A job search consists of a number of steps, often all going on at the same time. But one of the most important steps is identifying and researching potential employers. To build some job-search momentum, it helps to begin by identifying and investigating at least 25 potential employers to give you a “target universe” to start with. As you do this, you’ll want to give highest priority to those potential employers where you have some sort of personal connection, for example, a friend or relative works there and can recommend you, or you have a LinkedIn contact who may be able to help you find the name of the hiring manager.
As you research companies you’ll also want to research the industries and/or markets they operate within. This helps you in two ways: you can more easily tailor your cover letter to demonstrate an understanding of the company’s unique circumstances and in an interview you can discuss its challenges and environment knowledgeably. Translation: you look smart, prepared, and ready to start contributing value immediately.
5. Beef up your interview skills
In an ideal world, we’d all just admit that interviewing is an unnatural act that none of us should ever have to go through, and leave it at that. However, landing jobs in the nursing profession still seems to require interviews, so you might as well make it as easy on yourself as possible. Some ways to do that:
- Read up on interviewing “best practices.” Two good resources here are You’re Hired! A Nurse’s Guide to Success in Today’s Job Market by Brenda Brozek and Martin Yates’ Knock ‘em Dead Job Interview: How to Turn Job Interviews Into Job Offers. Also, search on “nursing interview questions” with your favorite search engine for dozens of articles and posts about what questions to prepare for.
- Practice, practice, practice your answers. The point of lots of rehearsal is not to memorize your responses but to become so familiar with them that the ideas easily spring to mind when you’re in an interview situation. The more you practice, the more relaxed and confident you’re likely to be when it counts.
- Identify the stories you’d like to tell. Interviewers want to learn about you and how you’ve handled life’s challenges, including those on the job and perhaps in school (if you don’t have a lot of work experience to call on). So start thinking back about the instances in the previous years that demonstrate how you’ve applied your unique skills and strengths, and be ready to tell those stories in an engaging, clear, and compelling way.
6. Help people help you
There are probably lots of people in your life who’d like to help you start this next phase of your career, including helping you find a job. But they can only do that effectively if you make it easy for them to do so.
So start by telling everyone in your network that you’re graduating, and what type of work you’re looking for. Ask them if they know of 1) any openings, 2) anyone you should speak with, or 3) any developments in your area (such as a new healthcare company starting up) that you should follow up on.
Also, make sure to check your LinkedIn contacts to see if any of them are working at one of your target companies. If so, reach out to them and let them know of your interest; most likely, they’ll respond by asking how they can help.
In addition, as noted previously, make sure you’re easily findable online so that if someone recommends you to one of their connections, that connection will be able to quickly find out more about you even if all they have is your name.
Building on your success
Job-hunting can feel lonely and discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be.
With the right preparation and attention to key areas like your network, your online “brand” and visibility, and your employer research, you’re likely to continue the success you’ve had at American Sentinel University. Remember what an amazing job you’ve already done, and let that confidence help carry your forward.