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From Boise to Baltimore: Chris Hughes encourages peers to aim high when applying for jobs

Applying for jobs can be daunting, but recent graduate Chris Hughes is convinced it doesn’t need to be as hard as people make it out to be. And he should know — he likes to face a challenge.

“If there’s something to do that’s really hard, or there’s other things to do that are easier, I’ll kind of pick the hard one. Which, that sounds…not intuitive,” he admitted with a laugh.

Chris Hughes wears a Boise State University tee shirt and smiles by a blooming tree.
Chris Hughes graduates with his bachelor’s of science in nursing in May 2023.

Hughes has a track record of choosing the hard path. When he joined the military, he attempted Green Beret training instead of going straight into the Army infantry. And in nursing school, he pursued working with the sickest patients in intensive care units.

And upon graduating, he foresees challenging himself again. Chris wants to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, an advanced practice position that requires several years of intense schooling.

So when it came to applying for a job to begin after graduation, Hughes aimed high again, applying to nationally-recognized teaching hospitals like Duke University, Yale, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins.

And his hard work paid off.

Moving forward with purpose

When applying for jobs, Chris found it helpful to have some criteria or a dream in mind to give him direction. “I know a lot of people apply to the places they like, but for me it was about applying to the hospitals and the jobs that I wanted rather than the states or cities,” said Hughes. “I made it a goal to try and apply to those hospitals that had [certified registered nurse anesthetist] programs attached to them,” he said.

Many of these are in the eastern United States. But with the rise of remote interviewing, Hughes didn’t view distance as a barrier when looking for a job.

“I’m sure a couple of years ago it would have been in-person visits and flights, and I was willing to fly if I had to,” he said. “But with Zoom being such a thing, it made it so much easier. You could just apply anywhere.”

So he did. After graduating in Spring 2023, Hughes began his career at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Getting practical: where should I start?

Hughes’ advice? “In terms of trying to find a job, just apply,” he said. “Apply early. Work on your resume, then find a mentor and show it to them. Have them look it over and then…apply early.”

Hughes didn’t stumble blindly into job applications. He had a network of support, from the encouragement of friends – “I didn’t even really think about applying to [Johns] Hopkins [Hospital] until one of my friends actually applied,” – to multiple people reviewing his resume.

Hughes sought feedback from Sarah Wilson, a mentor and the director of the academic integrity program in the Office of the Dean of Students. He also asked Emily Davies, an employer engagement specialist and School of Nursing liaison in Career Services, to look over his resume.

“Chris was very self-motivated and I was there for support on the job search process more than anything else,” Davies said. “I helped provide him with resources on ICU new graduate programs that he was interested in and connected with some recruiters to get more details about the programs. I helped him with his resume and some interview tips, but he was prepared tremendously from the start.”

Boise State’s Career Services has many resources for nursing students, including resume and cover letter assistance, mock interviews, job search advising and help connecting students to recruiters. Davies encourages students to contact the office early on in the program.

“It is never too soon to connect with Career Services,” she said. Her top piece of advice? “Schedule a mock interview with us so that you are well prepared for your interviews.”

Finding the right job: trust the process

From building a resume to submitting applications and interviewing, the job search process can feel long and daunting. But Hughes is quick to reassure his peers not to get discouraged; if anything, raise the bar for yourself.

“If there’s a job that you think that you’re not qualified for, just apply anyway,” Hughes said. “The worst they can say is no. And obviously it sucks,” he said with a laugh, no stranger to disappointment himself.

Chris Hughes wears his apricot nursing stole and stands in front of a building on campus.
Chris Hughes will begin his career as a new nurse in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The first time he went to college right out of high school, Hughes didn’t invest much in his education. And although he first was exposed to medical training in the Army, his military career didn’t work out the way he hoped it would, either. “I’ve obviously failed at a lot of things up to this point,” he said. “But it’s all just really good lessons that I’ve learned and things that have helped me.”

Hughes now looks forward to his new job with anticipation, excited to be in a work environment that emphasizes learning.