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What I wish someone had told me about job hunting in nursing

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Eight years ago I clearly remember being sat in a tutorial group one month before finishing my nursing course. I knew I was going to pass and become qualified but the idea that someone would hire me, over any other applicant, was ludicrous.

Despite our tutor’s reassurances, everyone in that group felt the same. The rumour that year was that on average 70 people applied for every nursing job. Statistically speaking at least, things looked bleak.

At the Nursing Times Careers Live jobs fair on Saturday I learnt that my cohort’s concerns are exactly the same as those qualifying next year.

The question “How can I stand out over other newly qualified nurses?” could be heard echoing around the exhibition space.

”The advice was applicable for anyone applying for a new role in nursing”

The answers the students received made me wish I’d taken the initiative to attend a jobs fair when I was the one asking. In fact the advice was applicable for anyone applying for a new role in nursing.

Firstly, attendees were reminded to be proud to be nurses. Sounds obvious but as Peter Carter, former chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, told delegates nurses have a habit of “hiding their light under a bushel”.

”The first question in an interview, however it’s worded, always means “why should we give this job?””

In the jobs market this translates to more than just positive thinking. Exhibitors could not stress enough how much they want applicants to tell them why they should give them the job. The first question in an interview, however it’s worded, always means “why should we give this job?” And isn’t that the easiest question to prepare for?

We were also reminded of common mistakes that employers are tired of being on the receiving end of. Every nursing role is unique and requires a personal statement or cover letter that reflects this. Again, this may feel like our exhibitors were stating the obvious but they know only too well that when a person doesn’t feel like they’ve got a chance, it’s all too easy just to fire off the same application they’ve used before.

The trouble is, our exhibitors explained, they can tell if you’ve read the person specification or not and if you’ve not bothered doing so, they probably won’t bother interviewing you.

”Every nursing role is unique and requires a personal statement or cover letter that reflects this”

Later in the day Helen Smith, director of student education at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Leeds, gave an inspiring talk on post-registration education. She was joined on stage by two current students, one under-grad and one post-grad. Helen surprised her captivated audience by admitting that she still has days when she walks into the university and wonders if today will be the day that someone taps her on the shoulder and tells her that there’s been a mistake and of course she’s not really a nursing lecturer.

She could relate to the feelings of imposter syndrome that job seekers often experience.

”It’s never too early to consider post-registration education”

The gem of advice from her session that really stood out for me was that it’s never too early to consider post-registration education. She and her students acknowledged the anxieties the audience expressed but argued that if you want to study further, even when you’ve only just qualified, there are opportunities. And of course further education can only enhance your CV. She urged the audience to simply have a conversation with the university and find out more.

Job hunting can be stressful, daunting and frustrating but there is help and advice, not to mention inspiration, on hand. If you’ve not yet attended a jobs fair, I would highly advise doing so.

Find out more about future jobs fairs: https://live.nursingtimes.net/

Our next event is in London on November 12.

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