Job-Hunting Challenges Take Some Troubleshooting

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

You finally get the courage to pound the pavement. You develop a resume, comb the classifieds, even snag a few interviews. But although you think you’re doing everything right, you’re not getting the results you want. What are you doing wrong? Here are some solutions for the most common job-seeking hurdles.

Challenge: Getting interviews, but not getting jobs. If you’re being called to interviews, that’s good. It means something on your resume is interesting enough that prospective employers want to learn more about you. Still, no job offers are on tap.

Assessment: Ask yourself: “Am I putting my best foot forward? Am I coming across as professional and confident and having a positive, can-do attitude? Am I able to articulate my strengths and assets? Are my interview skills up to snuff? Am I wearing a business suit? Do I shake hands and make frequent eye contact? Can I answer the usual questions? Do I send a follow-up letter and make a follow-up phone call when appropriate? Am I smiling at the right moments? Am I revealing negative or inappropriate information about past jobs or personal issues?”

Solution: Get to the public library or bookstore and get some current best-sellers on interview techniques such as The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses. They can teach you a lot about what to say and not to say, how to make the best impression, and how to stand out from the crowd. You’ll learn how to answer the most common interview questions and how to deal with sticky situations.

Consider calling someone who recently interviewed you, but didn’t offer the job. Pick someone whom you felt comfortable with or admired. Say something like: “You may recall I interviewed for the nurse-manager position a few weeks ago. I was the nurse from Central City who is currently working at Central High School.” [Give the person something to jog the memory – he or she may have interviewed scads of people.] “I’m always trying to move forward in how I present myself. You’re someone I respect and admire, and I hoped you’d give me some tips on improving my interview skills.” Though this takes a little courage, it can yield valuable feedback.

Challenge: You get no response. You’ve mailed out resumes, but nothing is happening – no callbacks, no interviews, no nothing. Or you get a postcard weeks later that says, “We’ll keep your resume on file.”

Assessment: Take a look at your resume. Is it written in a current format? Is it concise and easy to read? Is the layout consistent throughout? Are the headings easy to find? Is it one or two pages, printed from a laser printer on good quality stationery and in 12-point type? Does it focus on accomplishments? Is it error-free?

Also, consider which position you’re applying for. Suppose you’d like an entry-level job in pharmaceuticals. If you’re applying for positions that say “experience required,” you may not get a response if the company needs someone to step into a project already in progress.

Solution: Review some current books about resume writing. Styles and standards have changed over the years, so be sure yours is up to date. Have a respected colleague look at it – ideally, someone in the industry you want to enter – and get some feedback. Eliminate anything that is old, outdated, or irrelevant.

Don’t rely solely on print ads for job openings. Use all sources available. Consider using a staffing, travel nursing, or temp agency. Network, network, network! When you can’t get in the front door, try the back door. Don’t hesitate to apply for jobs where they’re not looking for a nurse, but you think you can do the job. A nurse practitioner recently told me she successfully applied for a physician assistant position. She convinced the prospective employer she could do the job as well as, if not better than, a physician assistant. Talk to a professional recruiter (aka headhunter), too. Make things happen.

Challenge: Obstacles to overcome. Say you have unique circumstances – a disability, for example. Or maybe you’ve been out of work for a while, have an erratic work history, were fired from your last job, or even are in recovery for substance abuse.

Assessment: Take stock of your skills and abilities. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. List your accomplishments and focus on the positive. Regardless of your situation, you have a lot to offer, and there’s a need for your services.

Solution: Use your contacts. Get on the phone and call everyone you know in the business. Tell them you’re looking, and ask for help, advice, referrals, and leads. Get out to career fairs, conventions, association meetings, open houses, and other places that people gather. Face-to-face networking is effective because people get to meet and interact with you rather than relying on paperwork to be persuaded to consider you.

Be prepared for tough questions on an interview (or networking) and have appropriate responses ready. Consult a nursing career coach for help if necessary.

Think about volunteering to get some relevant experience, gain confidence, learn new skills, and make contacts. This is a great thing to do if you’re presently unemployed, whatever the reason. Volunteering often leads to gainful employment.

If what you’re doing now to get a job isn’t working, step back and look at the situation. Do a self-assessment, take steps to correct the problem, and work toward a solution. Become a troubleshooter for your own job search and get the results you want!

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness(sm) Online (, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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