Student spotlight: What to do between graduation and your first job?

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Happy Wednesday! First off….if you’ve recently completed a midwifery program – congratulations! You. Made. It.

Midwifery training is no joke and you should celebrate your accomplishment.

Today’s post is what to do during the normal lull between graduation and your first job. Last week’s student spotlight was incredibly popular and I sensed a need for that kind of information for students. I’m by no means a career counselor or professional; but I do think I’ve done some time in the trenches to figure out what’s been helpful over my 12 years as a nurse and nurse midwife.

Today I’d like to recommend a few things that have been game changes for my midwifery career over the past six years. I definitely did some of these things as a nurse, but found I was recommending these to my students during their clinicials as well. Some of these may be mentioned in a school program, but for the most part I found you have to figure these out the hard way. I also think these tips could be applied a variety of jobs.

Lastly, keep in mind that it takes about 6 months from graduation to get started in your first job as a midwife. That’s plenty of time to knock out this entire list. Let’s get started!

Make a career binder!

This is the best thing I did after graduation. I picked a fun quote for the front of the binder (my quote was: “Go set the world on fire!”) then made categories according to what I thought needed to be in the binder: resume; continuing education; certification; trainings (basic life support, advanced life support, neonatal resuscitation); recognitions; transcripts; career advice. For example, when I passed my RNC-OB exam, I was featured in my hospital newsletter – I clipped that out and included it in my binder!

Another thing I organize is my continuing education (CEUs) by the years of my license renewal (i.e. if my license renews every other year, I put all of my certificates in a 2018-2020 folder). That way, if my education hours are audited by the board of nursing, it’s really easy to find them and send proof. If you’re a CNM, you usually have to send your CEUs to your credential person as well. Having them in one place makes this process easier too! Another helpful thing about my binder is when I have moved cities or jobs. Everything that human resources or credentialing needs is in my binder. It makes moving across the United States or to a new job across town a breeze! Still near some friends that graduated school with you? Have a wine night and do this together!

In midwifery school, one of our assignments was to make a “brochure” about ourselves and midwifery – this is part of the brochure I submitted. I’ve never given out my brochure but I keep a copy in my career binder for fun.

Make a patient education binder.

This recommendation is similar to one above, but centered on patient handouts. I LOVE patient handouts. You could call me a collector of patient handouts. I started collecting them when I was a student in school and now have a massive three ring binder sorted by trimester and gynecology concerns or health promotion. Look at this binder the same way you look at the one with your resume – when you move jobs (not if…when…), you want to be able to scoop up all of your handouts and seamlessly transition them to the next job. Do you meet with a group of local midwives in your community? Do a handout swap one night! We did one with the Hampton Roads ACNM affiliate years ago and it was one of my favorite affiliate meetings.

Don’t know where to start? Check out the RESOURCES page – it’s chock full of free handouts. You can’t go wrong. Start organizing now…and when your first patient asks about a handout for perineal massage you can say: “I got you girl.”


Your brain is probably playing tricks on you. You’ve been studying for years and now you think something is wrong because you don’t have homework due! Use this break to catch up on some reading. Read for pleasure, read for knowledge, read to sharpen a hobby or skill. Please just keep reading. There are so many books that I recommend to patients on a weekly basis. Do you have books you would recommend to patients? If so, tell me which and why?! If not, now is the time to read the books your patients are reading. There’s a new generation of women birthing babies that aren’t going to hypnotherapy classes – what are you going to recommend to them when they ask how to prepare for childbirth?

Not sure where to start, check out the BOOKS page.

Polish your resume.

Ideally, your resume has been good to go for a while. Maybe it was an assignment in school. Either way, now is the time to really make it shine! Don’t know where to start? Ask around for a few colleagues resumes. Ideally, you want to make your resume no more than one page and very easy to read. If you can’t speak to something on your resume, don’t put it on there. I’m not a business major, but I have interviewed and taken many jobs in nursing. I strongly believe your resume gets you in the door and your interview gets you the job. Want a pro tip? Always have a copy (or copies) of your resume ready to go. Even if you are in your forever job. You never know what’s around the corner. You’d be surprised at how often you need to access or email a copy of your resume during your career.

Don’t know where to start? I’m a big fan of Ken Coleman, Dave Ramsey and the Entreleadership podcast. Check out their series here.

Beef up YOUR library

I shouldn’t be the first person to tell anyone in healthcare that sometimes you don’t have the answers. And sometimes the Internet doesn’t work. Your break from school is a great time to scout out the desktop resources that you want to have access too. I realized something a few years ago…midwifery schools recommend different books to their students. Okay….everyone has to get Varney. It’s a classic. But there are some really good ones out there that aren’t in print anymore or that maybe weren’t recommended by your school. Still in school? When you go to clinicals, check out the books on the shelves in your preceptor’s office! Ask them what their favorite books are to reference? Is there a reference that they don’t like?

Lastly, if you’re a lucky duck that is receiving some graduation gifts…ask for some of these books as gifts and get your office off to a great start! My favorites are listed below and on the BOOKS page as well:

A Pocket Guide to Clinical Midwifery: The Efficient Midwife

Love this little book! I use it at least once a week (if not more). It is so well done and so organized. The authors just published the second edition last year and it makes my first edition look awfully ragged. Birthday present for Jamie this year? I think so.

Women’s Gynecologic Health (3rd edition)

This was one of two main gynecology books at my school…but this is the one I learned the most from and reference for everything gynecology. It’s a littler book but worth every penny in value.

Oxorn Foote Human Labor and Birth (6th Edition)

This book explains labor, birth and the cardinal movements of birth perfectly. If you want to understand clinical pelvimetry, this is the book for you. When students ask about pelvis types, this is the book we look at. The pictures are spectacular. Highly recommend this one!

Whew. That was a lot. Did anyone start a to do list? What tips helped you through the lull between graduation and starting your first job? Do you feel like your midwifery program set you up for success? How did they prepare you for entering the workforce? What other tips do you guys want to know?

Have a great day!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Amber Wilson says:

    This is a GREAT list of suggestions!! I wish this blog post had been around when I graduated. Thank you Jamie!

    1. Thanks Amber. I agree. It would have been lovely to have known some of this when I was a nurse or in midwifery school!

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