Prepping for Your Dream Nursing Career

It’s never too early to start preparing for your dream nursing job post-graduation, EVEN IF you don’t know what nursing specialty you’re interested in yet.

Today, I’m sharing some of the BEST tips from a recent podcast interview with Justine Bailey, RN, a nurse educator and entrepreneur who is just as passionate as I am about improving the way nursing education is done. She’s also the founder of Its Jus Like That, where she empowers students and nurses of color to lead meaningful lives and careers (you can also find Nurse Justine on Instagram!).

Prep for Your Nursing Career from Day 1 of Nursing School

It might sound a bit premature to start thinking about job hunting as soon as you enter nursing school, but guess what? The process of building your professional persona starts on day one. Whether it’s your professors, peers, or clinical staff during placements, everyone forms impressions that could impact your future opportunities. From showing up on time, dressing appropriately, to how you interact on social media, every detail counts towards your professional marketability.

Which Nursing Specialty to Pick?

Even though you need to be thinking about your future nursing career from the very beginning of school, there’s no need to make any final decisions yet, either. Nursing is incredibly diverse, and many nurses only find their true calling after exploring different areas of practice. Whether it’s pediatrics, emergency, or a niche area, each experience will refine your interests and skills.

There are lots of ways to approach exploring a nursing specialty, too! Remember, clinicals are a great start. You’ll be exposed to a variety of care facilities, specialty floors, and different types of nursing as you go through your classes. Pay attention to all of them, and start noticing what you do (and do not!) like about each area of nursing you rotate through.

Even more importantly, keep in mind that the old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is misleading. It implies that you can only be ONE kind of nurse when you graduate, which is so far from the truth that it’s laughable! It’s perfectly okay to start broad and specialize later, or choose one specialty to begin with and switch to something else later. Nursing is a journey of continuous learning and adapting, and that’s one of the things I love most about it. It’s never boring!

The Importance of Professionalism

Professionalism isn’t just about wearing the right attire or showing up on time—it’s even more about how you communicate, interact, and respect others. Every interaction you have with your nursing faculty and staff are telling them something about you…and you want that message to be a positive one.

That’s why considering how you communicate is essential. In our casually speaking culture of text messaging where almost everyone’s on a first-name basis, it’s easy to forget that nursing school is a different environment. When you are emailing, make sure to use correct punctuation and grammar, and write clear and complete sentences.

But even before you write an email, make sure you’re considering the content of your email. You wouldn’t believe how often nursing instructors get frustrated by receiving emailed questions about things that were answered in the course syllabus. Your professor will view questions like that as a waste of their time, and a sign of disrespect–which is not what you intended at all.

But now that I’ve pointed it out, I’m sure you can understand how annoying it would be to spend all that time an energy into writing a syllabus…only to have to provide the same information again for multiple people in your class on an individual basis.

Same goes for expecting rapid, after hours response to your emails–make sure you respect your instructors time. Believe it or not, they don’t get paid for answering emails in the evenings or on weekends! And they have families and personal boundaries too, so be patient and give them a chance to respond.

And if you’re ever not sure if you’re communicating professionally…simply ask! Most instructors would be more than happy to offer you grace, as long as they know you are trying to learn and improve. This can be as simple as asking your instructors what they prefer to be called, even!

After all, many nursing faculty have worked hard to earn a doctorate, and it might feel unprofessional to them when you call them by “Ms” (or even by their first name only!). With all the hard work they’ve put it, it’s not uncommon that they’d like the respect of being called “Dr”.

Then again, other nursing instructors don’t like the formality, and don’d mind being called by either their first name, or simply referred to as “Professor”. In either case, it never hurts to ask their preference. Just make sure that you honor that preference, and refer to them by their preferred title.

Networking and Relationships

The connections you make during your studies can be your greatest allies, and this is an often-forgotten aspect of nursing school. That’s why engaging with faculty and securing mentors can provide guidance and strong references that are invaluable when job-hunting.

For example, when it’s time to apply to your first nursing job, and they ask for references…who are you going to list? Will any of your nursing instructors be willing or eager to give you a positive review?

What about if you want to continue your education and go to graduate school? You will definitely need some sort of letters of references for your application, as well as any scholarships you may want to apply to.

When you focus on networking and building relationships with the nursing faculty in your program, as well as any nurses you may encounter throughout your nursing school journey, you’ll have a variety of people you can rely on to give you a good recommendation for any nursing opportunity you want to pursue.

Building a Strong Foundation with Soft Skills

At the end of the day, “soft skills” like communication, adaptability, and empathy will beat out your technical nursing skills every day of the week. This goes along with the discussion on professionalism, but is also essential because it demonstrates your ability and willingness to learn as you go.

So don’t be afraid to ask respectful questions! Keep a spirit of humility. If someone doesn’t respond positively to you when you ask questions or need help, always remember that it says more about them than it does about you.

And if you need a community of positive, focused, like-minded nursing students (and nursing student mentors!), then you’re always welcome to join Your Nursing Tutor’s Group Tutoring Membership! Because whether you’re just starting or nearing the end of your nursing education, every step you take builds towards your future…and it’s easier to keep going when you have a community of people behind you, cheering you on.

And don’t forget to get more amazing tips, coaching, mentorship, and nursing career help from Nurse Justine at, too!

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