As the end of your training nears, most nursing students will start to consider applying for jobs around 6 months before qualification and the university will definitely have this in mind and will be providing information and advice leading up to this time. Having successfully managed to navigate the world of applications and interviews, I thought I would provide you all with insight and advice regarding another stressful but rewarding part of your final year in becoming a qualified nurse.
When thinking about where you would like to work upon qualifying it is important to take note and consider all of your placement experience. I have treated every single placement I have been on as a long job interview. If you are dedicated, enthusiastic and excel on your placements, the staff will see this and remember you increasing the chances you will be asked to apply and return as a newly qualified nurse. Over the course of your 3 years, you should have exposure to wide areas of practice including community, medical, surgical and acute care. Think about where you most enjoyed, where did you excel, where were you most supported, what held your interest. Ask on your placements what support and training they offer newly qualifieds, talk to the nurses themselves about what its like to work there. As a student you will be exposed to many different things and you will pick up where people are happy in their work and those who aren't.
Try to negotiate a placement in an area that you are curious about as this will either confirm your interest or highlight that it is not what you thought it would be. Making the best use of being a student and the flexibility this provides is vital while you have the chance. If you try to do this once qualified you will be bouncing from job to job which is not ideal. I had a particular interest in cardiac and emergency care and managed to negotiate both as a placement which really helped me when considering applying for jobs.
Make use of the university interview days with the trusts, as these will provide you with good interview experience, an opportunity to ask questions and for many, their first job offer. If used correctly you may find yourself being allocated a position in an area you would love to work even if there are no job advertisements out for that area at the time. These have only just started at the university in the last couple of years and have been a real hit with both the students and the trusts.
Work on your NHS jobs profile and make sure that it has a good solid personal statement. The first time you fill in an application on NHS jobs can be quite long as you have to cover addresses, qualifications, full employment history including gaps etc. The hardest section of this to do is your personal statement. You want to give yourself a good structure with relevant content and experience that can be used in all applications. Once this has been done it will be saved so that you do not have to do the whole application again, however I would advise tweaking your statement to make it reflect the position you are going for if you are planning on applying for a number of different positions. Proof read and use the employment services at the university on your first draft to make sure it is going to be effective and sell yourself as a nurse, making them want you for the position.
When preparing for interview, there are a couple of important things that I would advise you to cover. Read up on the trust you are applying for, note any important campaigns they are backing or any important changes that are happening that could affect you as a nurse. For example, The Success Regime is going to hugely impact Basildon, Southend and Mid Essex services in several different areas of care and knowledge of things like this show an interest in the trust and your position as an employee. Prepare your portfolio and take any extra certificates or achievements with you to show in interview. Many people don't ask to look at this however it is better to have it and not need it than be asked for it and show you haven't prepared anything. Only 1 of my 4 interviews asked for my portfolio and reflections but it was extremely useful having them there. Try not to script answers to common questions in your head as you are more likely to sound like you are reciting and miss something important than if you just answer honestly and truthfully on the day. By all means think about what is important to include in these answers beforehand.
On the interview day ensure you are dressed smartly and appropriately and smile, smile, smile. Be at ease with yourself and the people in front of you. It is natural to be nervous and they will expect this but don't work yourself up into a mess - the interviewers are not trying to trick you or trap you. Make sure you get there early and bring your portfolio with you to show you have extra information for them to look at if they want. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not try and make something up as this will show and interviewers will not take kindly to this. It is better to say 'this is what I would consider at this stage in my training, however I am unsure and would ask for help from someone who knows'. This shows that you are able to identify your limitations and work safely as well as learn for future situations. Patients and their safety is the most important thing in healthcare and as long as this is kept in mind you cannot steer far wrong. The interviews are likely to consist of different types of questions including your background and experience, general questions such as ' what can you bring to the team' and 'what is your biggest weakness', role specific questions, trust specific questions and scenarios. Take your time answering and think your answers through fully to give yourself the best chance of covering all the information you need. Make use of the interview to ask any important questions you may have about the role too as this shows an interest and will help you decide if the role is right for you.
Finally, if you are offered a job before your sign off management placement commences, contact your head of course to see if your sign off can be arranged in that area, or even that exact place if your placements are in that trust. My sign off is now in the place I have accepted a job and I have been allocated to a mentor in the team I will be working in upon qualifying, meaning they will look after me as a student and as a newly qualified. This really helps the transition from student to nurse and means I can truly make the most of my management placement in preparing me for working when I am qualified.
I want to wish you all luck on your job applications and future careers as nurses. Good luck everyone!