Awesome, You passed the NCLEX - 5 Tips to Survive the Time In Between!
The time in between nursing school graduation, passing the NCLEX and working on your first job as a nurse can be unique. It doesn't always seem to flow perfectly for everyone and that is okay. This time can be short or it could be long, I personally call it my lapse time, the time in between. It is variable based on a lot of different factors but be prepared for the long haul just in case. This time can be scary because of the unknown aspects but I promise, you will overcome. The nervousness comes from you not wanting to loose any knowledge or nursing skills the more time goes by while also trying to make the best decisions you can for NCLEX testing and/or for future employment. In my case, it took a little over six months actually, from the time I passed my NCLEX to the time I started working on my first job as a nurse. Closer to eight months since I had graduated from school. Obtaining nursing jobs at the time just seemed so hard, so competitive, so 2011. Yes this was ten plus years ago and with the world now status post COVID, I don't think any nurse with a valid license would have trouble finding a job but I will share some tips nonetheless. It definitely doesn't hurt to be prepared, over prepared even.
I was worried personally during my lapse time but I had to have faith. I did all of the things listed below. One factor involved with me was traveling home was four plus hours away from my University. Networking, doing clinical rotations, and your schools' reputation in the community definitely will have an impact on your job procurement when its time. I had to have faith though that I was doing everything in my power I could do to find a job. I knew that I would end up in the right place eventually. The right place to gain experience and to kickstart my nursing career.
I worked at a local art studio during my time in-between, painting pottery and it was so much fun! I highly suggest doing what it is you need to do. The studio was just what I needed at the time. A creative outlet in a time of stress. My boss always joked about not really wanting me to ever find that first nursing job because she wanted me to stay at the studio for good but the art studio like many other things in life came right on time. It got me in the right mindset for the next chapter. I appreciated the time I was there but I did not ultimately loose sight of the end game, the nursing goal. I was able to work, study, regroup and be ready mentally for a long nursing career ahead.
Below are five helpful tips to survive the time in between:
Update Resume - This is how you are going to sell yourself to potential employers. Definitely update your resume and update it again. In a sea of electronic resumes and applications, how will yours stand out? Will it be the institution you went to for your education? Will it be the volunteer opportunities you participated in? Are you well rounded? Did you work in retail prior to going to nursing school? Don't forget to add any other leadership opportunities you were involved in including fraternity and sorority life. You want to stand out for positive reasons, not for an inappropriate reasons like having a childish email address or for spelling errors on your resume. Your goal is to get an interview. I always thought if I got an interview it was all good after that. My personality would shine and they would hire me without a doubt but guess what, I had to get the interview first. Unfortunately you will be fighting with lots of competitors and the positions are sometimes limited. I spent six months applying regularly for jobs when I got out of school with no success in landing one interview, not one. New grad programs and all. In the same token sometimes things happen for a reason. Do not be discourged.
DO NOT be discouraged - It is hard to stay positive and focused sometimes when everything seems to be going wrong, plus there is no longer professors or mentors to keep you on track professionally like there are back in University. Energy is going to have to come from you. Motivation is going to have to come from you. Adulting as its finest is to focus on your responsibilities or goals, figure out what it is you need to do to get there or stay there, then do those actions. Yes, you will hit road blocks. Yes, you will feel unsure but just think of how far you have come. That will motivate you to keep moving forward. You get a bunch of direction and reassurance in school to pass the NCLEX but not always much direction after that. Landing that dream job may happen fast for you but it also may not. It is okay either way as long as your are making the effort and don't let yourself become discouraged.
Research - If you are self directed in nursing school and know exactly what you want to do when you graduate then many props to you my friend. If you know that you want to work specifically in the NICU or in the ER, I would absolutely be doing research in your last semester of school as far as what the requirements are to get a job on that unit. I would recommend getting your preceptorship on a unit of your interest especially if you plan on living in the same area once you graduate school. That will put you in a good networking position with nurses who already work in the specialty plus a job offer maybe on the unit of your preceptorship. This was hard for me because I did not know exactly what I wanted to do, additionally I moved home after graduation about 4 - 5 hours from where I went to school. I did my preceptorship with a great nurse on a busy medical surgical unit in downtown Ft Myers. Unfortunately the wonderful reputation my nursing school held in the community working in the local hospitals was non existent at home. I had to start over in that way building trust and networking in my local community.
Be Assertive - Do not sit around and wait for the opportunity to appear. Make the extra phone calls, send the extra emails, be known by recruiters, make connections on social media, look up the hashtags and figure out who you need to talk to in order to get the job done.
DO NOT be Afraid of a New Field - Opportunities may arise in a new area you didn't even know existed. The medical field and need for nurses is changing. You may not even know a specialized unit existed within the hospital or that a big tech company was is search for nurses. Give it a try. You're gaining experience, making connections and figuring out what speciality you thrive in. Nursing is such a vast career with so many options it is really cool to see.