Ten Steps to a Successful Job Search

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Let’s face it, job security is a thing of the past. With downsizing, mergers, care and cost shifting, nurses are on the move more than ever before. All of us need to get ourselves professionally in shape to meet the future. This includes adopting a more business-like approach to job hunting by presenting a professional image and learning to market ourselves. There are ten essential steps to the process.

1. Take Inventory of Your Skills. Make a written list of your strengths and assets. Most of us don’t take time to consider what we do well. In addition to being introspective, ask your friends, spouse, coworkers, and supervisors what your strong points are. Be sure to consider all the skills you have developed as a nurse, including counseling, teaching, problem-solving, the ability to function under duress, and yes, even selling. These are just a few examples of skills every nurse has. Don’t forget to consider your particular strong points, such as your ability to get along with others or sense of humor. You can’t effectively sell yourself in today’s job market if you don’t know what you’re good at.

2. Update Your Resume. Whether or not you’re getting ready to look for a job, your resume should always be current. You never know when a fantastic opportunity will present itself. You don’t want to dash home to frantically throw your resume together only to find that your printer is malfunctioning or that you’ve omitted something important. You also need a resume to put in for a transfer or promotion, if you’re running for office in a professional association, or if you’re asked to speak or write an article.

Read some current books on resume writing such as The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses because resume styles have changed over the years. Be sure the format, language, and style you are using are current. Your resume must also look picture perfect. Good quality paper and print are essential. The content should highlight your accomplishments, achievements, and more interesting or unusual experiences.

3. Brush Up On Your Interview Skills. Most of us have much to learn about going on a job interview. Start by doing some reading. There are many excellent books in the library and bookstores on interview skills, including how to answer the most commonly asked interview questions. If you have an opportunity to interview for a job, do it. Even if you’re not actively looking or aren’t sure if you want this particular job, it will give you an opportunity to practice your interview skills. You’ll also find out more about the job or the industry, learn what prospective employers are looking for, and make some valuable contacts along the way.

4. Invest in a Good Business Suit. Although other attire is considered acceptable, nothing makes a better impression than a business suit on a job interview. Don’t underestimate the power of first impressions. Most prospective employers make a preliminary hiring decision within the first two minutes of meeting you. Maximize your impact and dress your professional best. You want to be one of the best – if not the best – candidate for any job you go after. It’s easy to distinguish yourself, even in a tight job market, through excellence.

5. Join Professional Associations and Attend Meetings. The best way to stay on top of what is happening in your profession is to be active in professional organizations. You’ll get cutting edge information through association publications, at meetings and through networking. Associations provide educational opportunities pertinent to your field. Most importantly, you will have the membership for support, mentoring, and information sharing.

6. Attend conventions, career forums, open houses, and seminars. These are some of the best places to get information, make contacts and connections, and get an opportunity to talk face to face with people who work in and hire for a particular industry. It is also an excellent way to stay on top of what’s happening and what’s available in a field. Presenting yourself in person to a prospective employer at these events is a far superior approach to sending out resumes hoping someone will call you back.

7. Network, Network, Network. Networking is a highly effective method of finding and getting a job. More jobs are landed through networking or “word of mouth” than any other source. Get out there, meet people, make contacts, exchange business cards, and connect with people you can call on for advice, information, or job leads. Networking is also a good way to get information about a specific industry, specialty or company you are interested in.

8. Work on Your Education and Training. Information and skills are changing rapidly today as are hiring standards. Each of us needs to incorporate learning into our lives or we will be left behind. Formal education has become more important than ever and you should have a plan in place to further yours if necessary. But there are also many opportunities for informal learning as well. Keep up with technology and become familiar with social media. If you have an opportunity to learn a new skill or work on a project at work, take it. Stretch yourself. Education, experience and knowledge will empower you.

9. Spend Time in The Library. Get to know your public and university libraries. They contain a wealth of free information, including books on career-related subjects and periodicals and trade journals with up-to-date information and classified ads. Universities that offer degree programs for nurses will have an extensive selection of nursing periodicals. Many libraries also offer free classes on job hunting and computer skills. You can even gain free access to the Internet at virtually all libraries today along with instruction and assistance on how to do so if not yet proficient in that.

10. Motivate Yourself. Motivated people work very hard at getting and staying that way. Listen to motivational CDs and read motivational books. Talk to successful people. Ask them what they do to stay motivated. Associate with positive, upbeat people. Keep a journal of your accomplishments, your strong points, and positive things people have said about you. Have written goals. Read inspirational biographies of people who have overcome obstacles in their lives and achieved success. Believe in yourself and the fact that you have something unique and significant to offer.

Remember that job changing is a process. Take time to do the work you need to do to be successful. Like everything else, you’ll get better with practice. Success in today’s job market is well within your grasp.

Copyright Gannett Healthcare Group (www.nurse.com). All rights reserved. Used with permission.