How to Land Your First NP Job After Graduation
- Dec 06, 2023
Picture it: You’ve graduated from nurse practitioner (NP) school and passed your board certification exam. Congratulations! Now, the only thing left on your to-do list is to land your first NP job.
Well, maybe not easy. But if you work hard, you’ll succeed!
In this post, we’ll walk through everything you need to know, from when you should start looking, to questions you should ask during interviews, and how to choose among multiple job offers. So, let’s get to it—let’s go get that dream job!
Looking for more structured support when searching for your first NP job after graduation? Join us in our new Job Hunt Course: How to Thrive After You Pass Your Boards! This course will help build your resume and cover letters, prep for interviews, understand how to negotiate your contract, and more.
How I Found My First NP Job
When I graduated from NP school as an FNP in May 2015, I didn’t think I’d have trouble finding a job and that I’d be able to get started right away. I had student loans to repay and I really just wanted to start working as a nurse practitioner. I didn’t think it would be difficult to do that—little was I prepared for the journey ahead.
The Job Search
I didn’t start looking for a job until after I graduated and before I took the boards. I was mostly looking for long-term care positions because I really wanted to work with older adults.
At first, I put most of my effort into finding those positions, but there weren’t many available that were within a reasonable driving distance. Then, I focused on any primary care job that was accepting new graduates. I had three not-so-great interviews before applying for the position that became my first NP job.
The position was in a family practice clinic in a well-established medical system with a long-standing history of utilizing nurse practitioners and other advanced practice providers. While they weren’t my first choice, they were accepting applications for new graduates, so I took a chance and applied.
The Job Interview
During the interview, I really connected with the staff and the physician I’d be working with. Overall, it was just a very positive experience. I accepted the job at the beginning of August with an anticipated start date of October 1st. That’s right, it was approximately five months after I graduated before I started working, which is actually the typical timeframe!
My Journey Since My First Job
Since then, I’ve moved on to working in long-term care settings, and now I practice in pediatric primary care. It’s safe to say I have a lot of experience with job searches, interviews, and finding a job that fits your wants and needs.
When I think back on my experiences, two questions I wish I’d known the answer to my last year in NP school (and that I get from students all the time) are, “When should I start applying for jobs?” and “How do I find them?”
Let’s take a look at each.
Finding Your First NP Job After Graduation
When should I start applying for nurse practitioner jobs?
There are two trains of thought about when you should start applying for jobs: the sooner the better, and it’s better to wait. On the one hand, some students start applying as far as five to six months away from graduation.
By the time they apply and interview, it can take a few months to secure a job, plus there is credentialing. But the right employer will wait for you to graduate and pass the boards if they really want you for the position.
On the other hand, there are students who wait until graduation when the stress of school is over to start applying. Some even wait until they pass the boards so they can say they’re an NP on their resume.
Which approach is the right one? My advice is, apply when it feels right to do so. If you haven’t graduated yet, but really want to see what’s out there, then go ahead! If you haven’t graduated yet and the thought of applying and interviewing for a job right now stresses you out, then wait!
Either way, we’ll go over how to ensure you land a great job.
Where do I look for NP jobs?
I get this second question all the time. I suggest checking out sites like Indeed or Monster. There are others you can use to search for advanced practice positions as well. I commonly start with a Google search for “NP jobs near me” and start sifting through the results that way.
The other great option is to use your network! Did you have a clinical rotation you just loved because you got along great with the staff and providers? Ask the office manager if there are any positions opening soon, or check out the openings for that particular health system.
You can also network at conferences. There are local, state, and national NP organizations that host different conferences throughout the year. Job recruiters are almost guaranteed to be there and you can check out several different opportunities all in one spot!
Finally, check with all the NPs you know. That could be your faculty, your own healthcare provider, and any preceptors you’ve had. Many times, NPs land jobs just by asking around. So, if there’s some place where you really want to work, but they don’t have any positions posted, don’t be afraid to ask!
NP Job Interview Tips
Ok, so you applied for a job you really want and they’ve called you in for an interview. Amazing! But what now? How do you prepare?
1. Educate Yourself
First, make sure you read up on the company. What’s their mission statement? Is the website inclusive and welcoming? Do you see any other NPs listed as employees? Those are important things to look for because they’ll give you a sense of the company culture.
2. Stay True to You
During the interview, be yourself! It’s hard not to be nervous, but try to be personable, professional, and polite. Even if it’s not your first choice for a position, treat every interview as an opportunity to learn about different positions and what other companies are willing to offer. You can use those as negotiating points at your next interview!
3. Prepare Questions to Ask
Lastly, make sure you interview them. That’s right. They need to impress you just as much as you should impress them. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be providing services that generate substantial revenue, which gives you bargaining power. They want your skill set as much as you want to work for them!
So, be prepared with a list of general questions that’ll help you gain insight into what the role will be like, such as:
– What kind of orientation will I have?
– How many patients will I see a day?
– How does this company support the nurse practitioner role?
What to Look for When Accepting Your First NP Job Offer
So, just as a recap of where we are in your job hunt journey:
Pass boards ✅
Apply for a job ✅
Receive offer letter ✅
Pat yourself on the back for making it this far! So, now what?
Let’s say they make you an offer, and while you’re reading through it you just aren’t sure if it’s really the best fit for you. Should you take the job?
Here are some things to consider before you make a decision. (Plus, be sure to check out our podcast episode on Job Offers: Red and Green Flags for some more insight!)
1. Work-Life Balance
First, will this job give you a good work-life balance? Only you can decide what that looks like. Is it important to have weekends off? Do you mind working into the evening?
Maybe you have children in school and need to be home when they have a day off. Will you be able to do that? We’re all at different phases in our lives and we all have different priorities. Make sure the job fits with yours.
2. Respect and Comfort
Another thing to consider is whether you’ll get the respect you deserve. Did you feel comfortable during the interview? Were you welcomed into the office or practice setting, or were you on eggshells the whole time?
This also goes back to the culture of the company. Do they have the same values as you? Also, has the office ever employed a nurse practitioner before? That’s not to say it’ll be bad to work there if they haven’t, but do they understand your scope of practice and ways to best utilize it?
And lastly, look at the non-salary related benefits. What kind of paid time off will you have, including vacation, sick time, maternity/paternity leave, etc.? All NPs are required to participate in continuing education credits. How will your potential employer support that? Do you get additional time off and money towards conferences and travel? Do you have to participate in the on-call rotation, and if so, what’s the compensation? What kind of insurance benefits (health, vision, dental, short-term disability, ect.) do they provide and at what cost to you?
In the end, the perfect job isn’t all about the salary or location. There’s so much more that you need to look at and negotiate. . Remember, you hold more power than you think! What is truly important to you?
My Final Advice About Your First NP Job: Don’t Settle!
And so, the biggest piece of advice that I give to students venturing into the job market for the first time is: don’t settle. You’ve spent too much time and money furthering your education to be stuck in a job that you don’t like! Especially considering most positions take 60-90 days to be credentialed (set up with licensing boards and insurance companies) before you can even start seeing patients.
In addition, most contracts have a pretty standard 90-120 day resignation time frame. Yep—not a two-week notice, but a 3-4 month notice. The reason is because it takes so long to hire someone and get them credentialed, so the 3-4 month resignation provides a head start for the company to replace you.
So, if you settle on a position, you can set yourself back from being in your dream job by up to six months. This may mean working as an RN for a few months more than you intended. That’s ok! It may mean going to more interviews. That’s ok too! Ultimately, you deserve to find a job that you love.
Good luck out there!
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