Tag Archives: nursing job search

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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tips on writing a resume for new nursing graduates

Tips on writing a resume for new nursing graduates

 Don’t miss the series

I am writing a series of blogs on the topic of making your way in the world now that you are being launched. I already wrote about cover letters for your resume. Please consider subscribing  to this blog. shar eit with your friends!

Future topics:

Some tips about asking the faculty for recommendation letters and how to enlist their aid;

My own response to the recent article on Medscape that asks whether there really is a nursing shortage; 

things you can do while you are still in school, that will help – the so-called foot-in-the-door strategy.

How to find a mentor will be part of your winning strategy – what I call assembling you personal Board of Directors. Than in and of itself, is a secret that is worth a million dollars.

To be sure to see these when they are written, go to the box on the right that says “sign me up” and click on it.

 The zen of resume writing

 To write a resume is always an assignment for the last semester of nursing school. The faculty is about to launch you like a rocket headed into outer space, and the resume is fuel for the trip.  Depending on the faculty for your senior level course, though, you may not get much feedback. Sometimes the person has not read many resumes in real life, or been a department head who interviewed any potential employees. They may not have the background to predict for you how a potential employer will react to your resume.  

 A resume is an exercise in zen, On the one hand, there is a formula for this. You need to have some dates, places, and accomplishments. But on the other hand, you also need to focus on what makes you special and what you wish to feature. If you can do that, your resume  will sing like a TV commercial. The question is, how to get to that point.

 Inventory your skills and pick your selling points

 The tendency is to write a chronology of your life. You will need to provide that sooner or later. But an important early step is to write down a list of what’s the most important, and prioritize those items. When you actually get to formatting the resume, find a way to put these first. If you can’t think of what would go here, ask the people who know you, or your mentors, how they would describe you.

 Overcome your humility

 There is something peculiar about nurses and nursing students. And especially if they were raised Catholic (like me). We are taught from  early in life that it is bad to seem like you are prideful, or to overtly bragging in some way. Take a minute and think about this. Then get over it. If you did something really good, here and now is the place to describe it – don’t bury it in the middle where somebody has to dig for it. Front and center! For example, a student of mine spent summer 2011 at a Mission Hospital in a truly remote part of Africa, where she delivered some babies, worked in the E.R., and developed skills of personal leadership while exploring some very high ideals of Christian service. She gave it exactly one line in her resume, and didn’t even follow the Outcomes Rule (below). She succeeded in a very difficult environment where more experienced nurses would have been overwhelmed. This was more than just a summer job in a USA hospital.  Say wha?

 The I word. is it really about – me?

Okay okay okay, it can be overdone – for example, go through the cover letter and see how often you use the word “I” – don’t start every single sentence that way – but usually nursing students are the last ones to fall prey to this problem. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!

 Focus on outcomes not tasks

 When I take students to clinical practice, the end of the day is occupied with writing a draft nursing note in the DAR format.  For a beginner, the usual first drafts of a note often consists of a  list of the tasks, not the assessments. For example: “dressing changed, tube feeding given, vital signs taken” etc. 

 When I read that kind of note, my response is “okay, but how did the wound look? What was the residual volume? Was there a problem with the B/P or the temp? what did you do about it?”  sometimes students take a while to ‘get it’ and start writing about nursing process others  take a little longer. When I read a note that says “wound is nine by seven cms, no undermining noted, scant amount of serous drainage noted.” Or “residual volume was less than fifteen cc, stool is soft, skin turgor normal.”  This gives a lot better info to the reader.

 The equivalent on a resume is to write:

 “2006-2011 – part- time server, Bubba Gump Shrimp co, Ala Moana Center”

 Or

 “2004 -2009 nurse’s aide, Hawaii Medical Center, SNF department”

Each of these could become much more valuable if they were reframed in the following way:

“2006-2011 – part- time server, Bubba Gump Shrimp co, Ala Moana Center. Assigned to six tables during busy dinner shift, including beverage service and daily specials, used computerized order-entry system. Received 2008 customer service award, worked 20 + hours per week to support myself during college. ”

 Or

 “2004 -2009 nurse’s aide, Hawaii Medical Center, SNF department. 50 –bed unit with average daily census of 35. Two patient populations – short term rehab after joint reconstruction and long-term post-brain injury  with severely altered mental status. Functional nursing model. Usual assignment was to share 12 patients with another aide. High emphasis on personal organization and accountability to licensed staff. Perfect attendance on rotating shift schedule.”

The key is, a well-written descriptor can guide the reader or interviewer with specific followup questions that are intriguing and beg to be asked.

 The original versions of each don’t get much of a reaction from the reader. The revised example, though, hint at skills that might also apply to a nursing setting. When a potential interviewer reads the revised examples, they are prompted to ask certain questions. “tell me more about multitasking?” “are you good with computers?” “what exactly did you do to achieve the customer service award?”  that sort of thing. The idea that they might be able to discuss this with you, makes them more likely to want to interview you as the next step. A well-written description can serve as a tease, begging for a followup from the reader or interviewer.

 Or the interviewer might followup with the second example by saying, “if I asked one of the licensed staff about what it was like to work with you, what would they say?” or “of those two groups, which was your favorite?” or maybe “how did you stay motivated every day when you knew that progress would be slow?”

 Outcomes, not tasks.

In summary, don’t simply describe what the job description was, focus on the what you accomplished. You want to portray yourself as a doer, even if all you have held were “worker bee” jobs. These sort of statements convey the idea that you have skills for accountability, dependability, and customer service.

 Final point for now

 If you have just graduated, be sure to put “(your name), BS Nursing, right at the top. When you pass NCLEX start putting RN right up there in big letters. You are applying for nursing jobs, after all, and you worked hard for that credential.

 I will continue this blogging theme  in coming days. Keep those cards and letters coming. send an email to joeniemczura@gmail.com with your question if you are too shy to add a comment. Feel free to browse this blog, and also consider buying my book about hospital care in Nepal.

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Filed under nursing education, resume and cover letter, resume writing