Your First Nursing Resume With Little or No Experience

Your First Nursing Resume With Little or No Experience

As you near the end of your nursing school experience, it’s time to focus on putting together your nursing resume to find your first nursing job. For some people, that’s relatively easy, as they’re already working in the health care field and have a job lined up with their current employer.

But many other freshly graduated nurses have little to no relevant nursing experience on their resume upon graduation. That sometimes can make finding their dream nursing job seem difficult if not impossible.

If you find yourself in that boat, don’t lose hope. You’ve made it this far in your nursing career, and that means you have many transferable skills and experiences that can help you get that nursing job. Here’s how you can use what you already have to your advantage.

How to Make Your Current Experience Work

Many nursing jobs want to hire nurses with relevant experience, but how can you get experience if no one hires you? It’s a conundrum you’ve likely seen or heard about in other specialties, and it holds true in the nursing field.

You might not be able to get your absolute dream job the first go around, but you should be able to use the experience you currently have to show potential employers why you’re a competitive candidate for a job. Also, keep in mind that the nursing job outlook is pretty good right now.

Resume Format

Your resume’s format can make or break it. You’ll find templates that recommend you put your relevant work experience at the top, but you can organize the sections of your resume however you feel would be the best. 

The top section of your resume below your identifying information should be the most important and relevant to the job. It’ll be what your future employer will see first when they start looking at your resume, so you want to give them a reason to keep reading.

For example, if you’re a brand new graduate, the most impressive aspects of your resume might be your education (to show you’ve already graduated from an accredited nursing program and passed the certification exams) and your skills. 

You might consider putting those two sections at the top before moving into your work experience if those two sections seem much more relevant to the job description. 

Listing Your Skills

Not sure what skills to put? Look through the job description and pick out the skills you have experience with or ones that relate to the skills you currently have. You can also look through other similar job listings and see what the most common required and preferred skills are.

Be honest and only list skills that you’re comfortable with doing. By looking through the job descriptions, you’ll likely find you have many of the skills they’re asking for — time management, organization, medication administration, interpersonal communication skills, etc.

Using your Educational Experience

If the other sections on your resume are a little more lacking, then try leading with your education and certifications. They’re relatively easy for potential employers to read through, and they can check off requirements quickly.

Important information to include should show that you’ve got a recent nursing license, you’ve graduated from an accredited program and a good school, you’ve got a current CPR certification, etc. If you’ve got any other relevant certifications, then definitely list them. This means to an employer that they don’t have to worry if you’re actually qualified to work as a nurse.

If you’ve made it this far to start applying for nursing jobs, then you have a lot of experience already that can be applied to a job. You don’t want to bog down your education and certification section, but if there are workshops or conferences you attended or presented at, volunteer opportunities you took, or research you participated in, consider mentioning them here.                                                                                                                                    

Non-Relevant Work Experience

Many student nurses work either before or during their nursing program. Maybe you’ve worked as a certified nursing assistant or home health aide, or you’ve worked in one or several non-medical jobs. 

Regardless of what field your previous jobs were in, each job brings you valuable experiences, and you can use these on your first nursing resume.

Think back on your previous work experience. What were the projects you worked on or daily responsibilities you had? Were you in charge of money, closing or opening a store, or managing other employees? Did you write or edit regular emails or written records? 

For each previous job, list the skills and responsibilities you had. Then start ranking them in the order of which ones can transfer to the nursing job you’re applying for. 

As an example, if you were in charge of regularly opening or closing a store, then you probably had a key and a lot of trust that you can do your job responsibly. If you did it alone, then that shows you’re self-motivated and able to manage your time. 

You might need to group like skills together or separate some out depending on the demands of the potential job you want. As you go through your previous work experience and the related responsibilities, think about how they relate to what you did and learned in nursing school and how they show you’ve got the skills needed to do the nursing job you want.

Cover Letters

Oh no, more writing. It might not be the favorite thing to do for many nurses, but trust us, a good, well-written cover letter can go a long way. It’s basically a way for you to introduce yourself to the potential employer, like a bio on social media. 

This is where you can pick and choose a handful of the most relevant skills or experiences in your background that you feel are excellent reasons why you would be the perfect fit for this particular job. 

A good cover letter also shows employers that you’ve given your application a lot of thought and effort, and you’re serious about getting the job.

Tailor Your Resume to Each Job Application

In the search for a new job, it might be tempting to just perfect one version of your resume and then send it to as many job listings as possible. 

While this can work with a particularly strong resume, whenever you’re just setting out into a new career, it can be more beneficial if you focus on a few jobs at a time and tailor your resume to fit the job listing.

You don’t want a resume that’s several pages long. The resume is meant to highlight the parts of your experience, skills, and background that would most interest a particular employer. This might mean moving around sections or rewording skills or listing job responsibilities in a different order. 

Be creative and concise in how you word your resume. You don’t want any creativity to be a distraction from what’s there, like using gimmicky fonts and blinding colors, but just mentioning unique aspects of your background, like volunteer work that showcases a particular, preferred skill, can make your resume stand out.

You may want to consider working with a nurse staffing agency while you hunt for your dream nursing job, too. 

The job hunting experience can be frustrating, especially if you don’t yet have the experience required by many of the jobs you want. But you can still make your resume work for you in finding a good stepping point for your new nursing career. 

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.

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