By Kate Saw MACN(Student) Stage One ACN Emerging Nurse Leader
Not every graduate gets offered a new graduate (new grad) transition program. While the support and guidance inherent in these is designed to help new nurses ease into the profession, it is by no means the only way to get your career off to a fantastic start. If you didn’t get offered a new grad program, here are five strategies to get on your way.
Here is your first opportunity to demonstrate resilience, initiative and commitment to ongoing learning and development – all attributes that employers are seeking. If you attended new grad interviews but weren’t offered a position, call the coordinator and ask for feedback. You literally have nothing to lose and by following up, you demonstrate valuable attributes that just might give that employer a reason to reconsider you, should a position open up.
Be respectful and appreciative of their time; they don’t owe you anything, but by demonstrating the right attitude, their feedback may mean your next interview is a success. Ask for their thoughts on where you performed well and where you could improve and incorporate these into your next application. If you didn’t get to interview stage, ask them if they will take a quick look at your resume to find out why. If not, the academic staff at your educational institution and your professional referees are already invested in your success; approach them to critique your cover letter and resume or ask if they will run a mock interview for you.
Apply for anything and everything
Any experience is good experience; remember that even those who get into a new grad program may not get the rotations that they want. Look for any position that will allow you to consolidate your clinical skills, improve your confidence and increase your professional network. Don’t just respond to job advertisements; research your ideal employers, call them to introduce yourself and ask if they will speak with you about the potential for joining their team. Be prepared for these calls and treat them like a mini-interview; this is your chance to let them see how you would fit within their team/organisation. They may not have open positions immediately however they might remember you if you are respectfully persistent.
If they say there is nothing available now, ask them when they would suggest you next check back in with them. Use your follow-up call or email to update them on what you might have done in the interim that adds to your value, be it additional courses you have undertaken or volunteering experience. Apply for roles even where the description asks for experience you don’t have. They may not find a suitable candidate and might then consider investing in developing someone with potential and the right attitude.
You may want a full-time role but also consider agency or casual work. For every interview or application you submit, follow up and if you are not successful, ask for feedback. Fine-tune your applications and your personal presentation; all you need is an opportunity to gain experience or impress the right person and above all don’t give up!
Consider alternative pathways
You might have had your heart set on working in an acute specialist hospital setting but are offered a role in aged care or primary health. However, don’t be so quick to turn it down. Specialist and acute care teams will want you to have excellent communication, time management and prioritisation skills down-pat before you develop your advanced clinical skills. You can refine these core nursing skills, as well as your clinical confidence, in a lower acuity role. Many fantastic careers have started for people who are willing to grab hold of opportunities and make the most of them. It’s always easier (and less stressful) to land your dream role when you are already employed as it shows you are valued by someone else.
Additionally, different pathways might surprise you and you may change your perspective and direction entirely. In all cases, any nursing role will teach you skills that are transferable, adding to your employability. If you are able to relocate, consider going where there is demand. Rural roles offer an amazing diversity of experiences and opportunities that wouldn’t be possible in other settings. Whether for a season or a reason, open your eyes to all the possibilities available to you!
Increase your appeal
Always look for ways to demonstrate your commitment to the profession through ongoing and proactive development. You can do this by completing free CPD courses, signing up for professional workshops or volunteering.
Importantly, look for opportunities that will give you transferable skills – search Seek Volunteering, or consider organisations such as St John’s or The Order of Malta. For example, NSW Health encourages volunteering through its organisations and Local Health Districts. You can complete free CPD through membership with The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) or on other online platforms. Proactive engagement not only increases your appeal but gives you a reason to touch base with prospective employers to update your profile and stay in the forefront of their minds.
Network like a pro
As they say, sometimes it’s who you know that can open doors. Professional associations like ACN provide networking platforms and events which allow you to stay up-to-date with professional issues, provide further education opportunities and engage with other members across diverse settings and locations. If you click with someone, ask if they would be happy to stay in touch – you might develop an informal mentoring relationship that will help you throughout your career. Be curious and authentic in your engagement – you never know where it might lead.