Tag Archives: nursing career

Tips for nursing students attending your first Job Fair

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Job Fairs?

Here in Hawaii we don’t often conduct a “job fair.” It’s  not how things are organized here.

but now I have readers from That mythical place known as The Mainland,  and a Job Fair is one of those ways to get face time with people who are involved in hiring.

Here is how it works: somebody gets a large public space, like a hotel ballroom during a conference, and rents out booths to exhibitors or vendors. Often the organizer is one of the Nursing Specialty Organizations or the State Professional Association such as ANA-Maine or The OR Nurses. The revenue from the vendors is part of the conference budget. The sponsoring organization brings the nurses, the vendors are promised that the schedule will include free time for the attendees to wander around. Often, the conference program will list all the vendors or exhibitors in advance.

Here is a story about Speed Dating

Ten years ago was the first time I taught the senior level management and issues class at a small college on the east coast. We had thirty seniors, since it was a residential college they were all about twenty-two years old. Our career center organized a small job fair right on campus, to which about two dozen local employers came. The Job Fair was held on the day of the class, and I decided to cut class short so as to allow all the students to attend.

I wandered down to the job fair myself about fifteen minutes later and watched what happened. Where was everybody? Half the students were gone within a few minutes; they had strolled through and spoken to nobody. The others were standing in small clumps on the other side of the room from the vendors. This is not good, it’s like a junior high school dance, I thought to myself.

Within a half hour all the nursing students had left. We were a bit embarrassed, as the hosts, because we had hoped that each vendor would make some kind of meaningful contact with our group. Fortunately we had not charged the vendors very much, and nobody came from a long distance, or I would have felt like we should return them their money.

The Assessment

At the next class meeting we spent a bit of time talking about getting over your nerves when you make a “cold call” to a job recruiter. The students expressed the idea that they didn’t know how to start the conversation, or how to act. Now, when these same students were in uniform in clinical they were confident and verbal, comfortable with the hospital setting where they meet patients and families every day. But somehow when the setting changed, the confidence took a hit.

The Plan

We needed to role play a job interview, and we needed to have a better strategy. So, the next semester, when we repeated the Job Fair, we did things very differently.

The week beforehand, we role played an interview, and assigned readings from the book using the chapter on the hiring process.  This included a review of basic body language that people fall back on during times of threat or stress.

The Implementation

The day of the job fair, we did two things. first we paired the students, and gave them an actual role to play. for each booth at the job fair, one was assigned to be the Talker, and the other was assigned to be the Observer.

The Talker was expected to ask all the questions and do the interacting. The Talker was expected to bring a list of questions to ask. At any interview there is always a time when the job seeker is asked “what questions do you have?”  – this is a time where the Job Seeker can display their verbal ability and enthusiasm. If you are the kind of person whose has a brain cramp at this moment, it helps to write the questions down and practice them. There are some standard questions used by a lot of interviewers, and you should be prepared to answer.

The Observer was given a small checklist, and told to stand back and – Observe. Complete the checklist during the interaction, as if this whole thing  were an experiment in a sociology class.

The checklist was simple. it included:

eye contact?

handshake and introduction?

“open” body language?

asking three questions?

answers to questions?

looking enthusiastic?

positive statements?

Each pair was to use this at six booths, taking turns so they Talked three times and Observed three times.  In between each booth, the pair was assigned to go to a corner and debrief, so the Observer could give their partner feedback as to how she did in meeting all the elements.

Picking the order of booths to visit is a strategy

I also told the students  to choose the order in which they approached each booth. If there was a vendor that was truly the one they really really wanted, they should go to that one last. If there was a vendor there representing some hospital or agency that was too far away or where they Talker never intended to apply, don’t simply omit this one. Go there anyway, and talk with them. You might find that they are more interesting than you think, and also, the stress will be lessened because there is nothing at stake.

The Evaluation

When we used this approach, the students stayed a lot longer, and after it was over, the vendors expressed their appreciation. Every vendor at a Job Fair works to send people who will be approachable and nonthreatening, and every Human Resources Professional knows that the person being interviewed will be nervous. The vendors could tell that the students were not so nervous as the previous time.

At the end of the exercise, the paired students submitted their raw notes to me. This wasn’t really “graded” but it did support the self-learning about socialization and seeing how you come across. The only way to do this better would be to video the interaction and allow people to have an instant replay.

One of the students said “it’s like Speed Dating for job interviews”  which is exactly what it was. The Observer partner was the “wing man” for the Talker, and the opportunity to discuss the interaction with a nonthreatening friend was very valuable.

You can go a long way with the dating analogy. Just because you talk to somebody does not mean you need to go down the aisle with them…..

It goes without saying that you should dress for a job fair as if you were being interviewed; and that you should consider writing a followup to each recruiter for whom you have a specific interest.

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Is FaceBook hurting your search for a nursing job? 1 Corinthians 13:11

UPDATE: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing now has a video on Social Media for nurses. click here to see it! I strongly recommend that every nurse, new or old, become familiar with this.

Now you have graduated from nursing school and you are out there looking for a job.

Only it is  taking longer than you expected to find that dream job that caused you to study so hard and to dedicate your life to nursing school. Is it me? You ask. Nursing is a profession that demands a high degree of emotional investment, and if you are not getting a job, it’s easy to second-guess yourself down to the core. Think back to when you started nursing school. There were stories about nursing as being recession-proof. The Baby Boomers will all retire and who will replace them? When you started nursing school, you may have met new nurses who were walking proof of what a good career choice nursing is – and it’s true, just three years ago the job market seemed to be wide open compared to how it is now.

It’s the economy.

If you have the sense that the Clock of Doom is ticking, or the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head, lighten up. Look around. The national economy is not some abstract thing that happens only on TV or to everyone else. In the USA we’ve had nine per cent unemployment, part of a worldwide slowdown and the daily news says Europe is in big trouble. Here in USA,  one party in Congress has done everything it possibly could to prevent expansion of health care funding, even though it is needed by an aging population. As long as the anti-Obama forces control congress, it is my belief that the nursing job market is going to be more difficult than it needs to be.  That’s little consolation while you are searching, but it should help your self-esteem: it’s not you.

Small things make a difference.

When there are five applicants per nursing job, sometimes there will be very little difference between the winning candidate and the second- or third- place candidate. It may very well be that some extraneous factor beyond your control, made the difference, such as which high school the winning candidate attended, something they said about being a baseball fan in the interview, that sort of thing. It can be very superficial. The best advice is to be yourself. When you read things like the paragraph above, there is a tendency to try to over-control things and get nervous about saying the wrong thing, or writing the wrong thing. You still need to wake up every day and be who you are. Make a schedule of exercise and time with friends.

There are things you can and should control.

That’s where social media and the internet come in. Any hiring manager will be under pressure to choose the best employee, and they will attempt to learn as much as they can about their applicant, which is why the “foot-in-the-door strategy” (which I will call “FITD”) is so important. I will discuss the FITD strategy  in a future blog, (subscribe now so you won’t miss it!). Now that you have graduated, though, the FITD strategy may not be available to you. In that case, it’s time to take another look at social media.

What does your FaceBook page say about you?

In the past several years we have all been cautioned about HIPAA, over and over again we are warned never to post anything about our patients, online. At every hospital you sign a HIPAA acknowledgement during orientation. All too often the student overlooks the idea that confidentiality affects them too. Your potential employer can use the internet to check you out. They can check your FaceBook page; they can Google your name; they can run a background check (for a fee) and a credit check (nowadays they pressure you to agree to this by putting a box on the application for you to check and give permission.  Did you give them the okay?).  They can legally learn a lot about you  – it’s all there for them to see. Most often, you are the one who put it there.

There are internet “reputation-monitoring services” available to which any employer can subscribe. The way these work is, they run a search for the name of the company, they scour the internet for any possible mention of a given employer’s name, and automatically send an alert to the Human Resources Department for review by a person, whenever the keywords appear. One the one hand, it’s all an invasion of privacy, but on the other hand, when we posted it to the internet, we enabled it ourselves. So, think about it.

Then do the following: Look at your own social media profile from the perspective of your potential employer. Be advised, the H.R. Department person who will look at your profile is likely to be a person older than you with a different sense of humor.   They will have a different idea as to what is funny or disrespectful. If you have to, find a person about your mother’s age who will look at your profile objectively and tell you what it says about you.

Set everything to private.

Learn about the privacy settings on FaceBook, and use them. You don’t have to make it easy for a stranger to find things they don’t like. From the employer’s perspective, a conservative approach is always preferred – if an employee is ever named in a lawsuit, it is inevitable for the attorneys in the case to dig up dirt to discredit that employee. Do you want to be that person? Take yourself out of the “search.” You can hide your FaceBook profile so it won’t show up on a Google search.

Rethink your friends and what they can tag you with.

There is an old saying among high school guidance counselors that to learn about a student, all you need to do is to look at their friends. (I hung out with the nerds in high school.  I was an Eagle Scout for gosh’s sake.  To this day that just about sums me up).  If your friends are presenting themselves in some out-of-the-mainstream way, a reader might conclude that you too, are out-of-the-mainstream.

Look at it from a risk management viewpoint

In the hospital’s defense, they know that errors occur in the hospital industry and they don’t want to ever get sued. They know that if they are ever sued for malpractice, the attorneys will dig up every thing they can on every person involved in a potential problem. Ask yourself: If I was ever sued for malpractice, would I want to explain in court, why I thought something on my FaceBook page was funny or hip?

Scrub your photos, your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes.’

When I reminded students of this a year or two ago, one person approached to express his gratitude and admitted that it was long overdue to remove some fashion photos in which he appeared wearing only a speedo and  a Mardi Gras mask, covered with gold body paint holding a champagne glass in hand. Another told me she was prompted to remove photos that revealed that her entire torso is covered in tattoos. TMI! (tattoos are a generational thing, and so is body piercing. twenty years from now, it will be okay. For now, the HR person is the same age as your mom, and so it’s not quite in the mainstream).  Set the album to private or remove it altogether.

Go to Google and run a search on your own name.

You will be surprised what you find. Everything you have ever done on the internet since about 1995, is still there. If you ran track in sixth grade, your time is searchable. Don’t believe me? Try it.

That brings up another issue: what is Okay? well, if your profile shows that you are an active churchgoer, humanitarian, well-balanced, hardworking, dependable, loves small children and has a Golden Retriever for a pet – these are good things.

To be continued.

I present these ideas to raise your consciousness level about nursing as a professional career. You can find a Biblical Quote that backs me up. Please consider subscribing to this blog, and sharing as widely as possible. Go to the little box on the right that says “sign me up”

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Filed under resume and cover letter, resume writing