Topic 3: Jobs in Counseling – The Search & Application Process {by 6/14}

Based on the readings and assignment due this week consider the following discussion points:  *(1) Discuss your thoughts and feelings about your recent job search experience.  For example, did you learn anything?  Do you feel more (or less) optimistic about obtaining a job upon graduation?  (2) What are some potential anxieties and/or concerns you have about interviewing for a job in the mental health field upon graduation?  (3) Although your potential employer may want to know certain qualities about you, what organizational qualities are important to you?  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 6/14.  Post your two replies no later than 6/16.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

*Yes, the first discussion point is very similar to your second reflection question for your assignment. Thus, you can use the answer for your assignment (or a part of it) for the blog. The rationale is that this will give a chance for your peers to read a few responses and potentially provide some helpful insight with their replies. This will also help with “priming” for in class participation.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kat Rondina
    Jun 13, 2018 @ 20:16:59

    1) I have several mixed feelings about this job search and what I’ve found. I have concerns that it looks like many of the jobs may not provide health insurance. With the repeal of the ACA health care mandate, the news has suggested that the options that will be available in upcoming years on the Rhode Island exchange may become increasingly limited. As I’ve had medical issues in the past, and at some point in the next five to seven years may consider starting a family, the idea of a job that does not provide medical insurance seems unworkable. While I would be open to maybe doing some per diem or teaching position on the side for extra money, I will need my main position to provide medical benefits.
    I also noticed that the vast majority of jobs do not given any information the salary for the listed position. These jobs like to use terms like “competitive salary” but not actually say what that salary is. I feel like it will be important to learn what other individuals are making and what is standard for income in this field, and if different working conditions or client types impact what I should be expecting to take home.
    The job search also provided me with a number of questions. Some organizations phrased in their description that the job comes with “free supervision”, which makes me wonder if some organizations expect you to pay for supervision (beyond just paying you less than licensed staff). Also, some jobs are specific about having a Massachusetts Driver’s license, which I am hoping just means I have a license that allows me to drive in Massachusetts rather than does not allow out of state applicants. Also, I’m curious as to what a CANS certification actually entails. I looked at the webpage for the CANS in Massachusetts, and the information seemed a bit vague (it looks like it may be some sort of online class, but if it costs anything is unclear).
    I was also surprised that the majority of clinical work seems to be doing in-home visits. I am honestly a little bit concerned that with the long commute many of these jobs entail that at an organization that requires services in-home I will be spending the majority of my days driving and will not be able to take advantage of the commuter rail. Also, I’m realizing I’ll have to become more comfortable with the idea of going into other people’s homes. There’s a part of me that feels like being in an individual’s home may leave you vulnerable to physical danger. I know that for these organizations to exist they must be doing some kind of safety evaluation or screening before sending clinicians into environments, but it is a discomfort I’m going to probably need to learn to overcome.
    2) Job interviews are actually something I’m pretty good at. Struggling to find employment after my graduation from undergrad (I was initially rejected from my first batch of grad school applications, and my second batch were all rejected because my program advisor went on sabbatical and “forgot” to send my recommendations [still bitter]) I went on more job interviews than I can count. I’m actually pretty solid at selling myself, I prepare questions before I go, I do some research on the organization, and scope out the location beforehand to plan for parking and traffic.
    My concerns center more around things specific to this kind of work. I feel like I need to be better informed about what is a reasonable salary so that I know when I’m being lowballed. I also am a bit concerned about how many jobs have very specific population and job type requirements. With every job requiring at least “a year of experience” with whatever group or job type, I feel like I need to pick a population and service type for internship and practicum because that same group will be all I’m technically qualified to continue working with. I’m solid at spinning information to my benefit, but some populations are so disparate there’s no way of making a claim of experience (ex. if you’ve only worked with children under 12 with autism, there’s no way to pitch that as experience of working with adults with substance abuse issues).
    3) As I mentioned in part 1, it is very important to me to get a job that provides health benefits. Beyond that, it is important to me to work in an environment with experienced individuals who I can rely on for supervision and consultation. I feel like the best work is done when there are other individuals you can bounce ideas off of or go to for a second opinion, because each person sees things differently.
    I’d also like to work at an organization that provides upward mobility. If I find an organization that I think is a good match for me, I’d like it to be a place where I can advance my way up to a higher and better paying positions. I’ve worked before at many places that only really give higher level positions to outside hires, which can be very disheartening to workers.
    A final hope is to work at an organization that understands the difference between supervision and micromanagement. I understand and appreciate the value on following through and making sure that work is complete, accurate, and up to par. On the other hand, I really don’t appreciate being needled to do things that I am already doing. I really don’t like the feeling that I’m being “watched” rather than supervised because I pride myself in doing my work well and it feels like an accusation that I can’t be trusted to do my job. I’ve found that many organizations can’t seem to walk the line: they fall either on the side of being totally hands off and leaving workers adrift or being on everyone constantly like they’re corralling a bunch of children.

    Reply

    • William Nall
      Jun 14, 2018 @ 12:09:23

      Kat,

      I honestly did not think too much about benefits but I am very glad you did. After reading your blog post about how that is very important to you I am now realizing how it should be important to me as well. When I begin to apply to jobs the benefits are now going to be on the top of my list of things to look out for so thank you for mentioning that. Also that story about your advisor is frustrating, I would for sure be bitter too. You also raise a good point about salary, I ran into that problem a lot too what does “competitive pay” even mean?!? As far as the supervision aspect goes, I have heard of place in the past requiring you to outsource your supervision and therefore pay for it yourself. My suggestion to you is ask companies if they provide free clinical supervision towards the license.

      Reply

  2. Tinh Tran
    Jun 13, 2018 @ 21:54:39

    1. Job search has given me new experiences about the field of counseling psychology, especially in my homeland. I found that job search is helpful because it gives me information about jobs that would fit with my training in the Counseling Psychology Program at Assumption College. I feel that job search can be hard work and take lots of time and effort, but at the same time, I also realize that it is worthy of doing it because I am now able to know which jobs and/or organizations that may match my interests. General speaking, mental health counseling is considered as a new career in my homeland. However, after doing job search, I feel somehow optimistic because there is growth for employment in the field of counseling. Although I only can find few mental health clinics which are located in remote areas or countryside, there is great increase of mental health clinics or counseling centers in cities. The emergence of these agencies somehow indicates that people begin to realize that mental health counseling is important and mental health counselors play a critical role in lives.
    2. There are some concerns that I have about interviewing for a job in the mental health field upon graduation. For example, employers/agencies may require years of experiences in the field of counseling which I do not have. In a sense, I may not be hired due to lacking of professional experiences. In addition, it is not easy for me to stay calm and relaxed during a job interview. My signs of nervousness or uneasiness in answering their questions can cause to lose my points! There are often more candidates for positions than there are openings!
    3. When people look for jobs, they may consider every aspect of agencies or organizations that they are going to work for. For me, there are some organizational qualities in mental health systems that I feel are important, such as integrating quality improvement for mental health into service management and service delivery, or establishing well-functioning accreditation procedures. I also think that an organization or agency that is willing to change or reform when necessary is also significant. An agency that gives its employees trust and learning opportunities are also necessary. Good organizational quality can create good enviroment for employees and so can ensure that clients are able to receive good care and services.

    Reply

    • Liz Bradley
      Jun 14, 2018 @ 12:52:07

      Tinh,

      I think it’s really interesting that you were able to focus your job search on your homeland, and I’m glad you are feeling more optimistic about finding jobs when you return home! I am really curious what methods you used to search for jobs outside of the US. Are these postings listed on typical job boards like indeed.com or did you have to really go out of the box to find job postings?

      I agree with you that an agency being willing to change/reform when needed is a very important organizational quality. I actually wrote about similar thoughts in my blog post. You also brought up a really great point about how a good work environment translates to better client care. I think this aspect is often left out of the equation and it really deserves more attention!

      Reply

    • Kat Rondina
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 21:18:10

      Tinh:

      It’s interesting to hear about the state of psychology in your home country. It’s very easy to get very America-centric and forget about issues with access and care outside our own country. It is really impressive to hear that you’re intending to bring important services to an underserved community.

      I’ve always found one of the best ways to build confidence in interviewing skills is with practice. It can be a useful role play with friends who are in field. It can be useful to find people you know who have recently left the program and pick their brains about their interview experiences to guide you on what to prepare, and preparation may make you feel more confident (I know it works for me). Also, its good that you have some ideas on what’s important to you in an organization. I agree that it is important for organizations to consider change and reform when it becomes clear that systems are not providing best care.

      Reply

  3. Allison Shea
    Jun 14, 2018 @ 10:59:05

    1.) After conducting my job search, I feel more optimistic about getting a job since searching “mental health counselor” or “clinician” will bring up many, many pages of “hits.” I also feel more hopeful after completing the search because there are a lot more license eligible or license preferred postings out there than I had imagined. On the other hand, although I feel more optimistic that we will all be able to get a job in this field, I feel slightly less optimistic about getting a job in my preferred setting. For example, I’m hoping to ultimately do outpatient work, but many of the postings are for in-home, residential, or fee for service clinicians. Although I would really not prefer to do in-home therapy, I feel I should try to be more open minded to residential settings. I also have to keep in mind that I might not necessarily get the most ideal job right off the bat but that doesn’t mean I won’t ultimately end up at a setting I love. Despite this challenge, one thing I learned from this assignment was that there are many jobs out there that I am qualified for and would consider applying to, but you do have to sift through the pages of postings to find them. In fact, many of the postings that come up are for residential counselors who don’t need a master’s. Another observation I had after this assignment is that very few postings include information on salary and what supervision would entail. In addition, few postings mentioned anything about theoretical orientation, although a couple mentioned placing value on evidence-based treatments. These details would be important to obtain information on as I actually begin applying and interviewing at different agencies.

    2.) Although I am usually pretty good at responding to general interview questions about myself, strengths, weaknesses, and experiences, one anxiety I have is regarding inevitable case questions. For example, how would you respond if your client said X or what type of treatment goals would you create for a client with X? I think some of these questions can be prepared beforehand. For instance, it’s important to think about some general client considerations, such as what we would do if a client was suicidal, lacked boundaries, etc. I do think, though, that we can’t prepare ourselves for every case-specific question and that certainly is anxiety-provoking for me. I try to remind myself that when interviewers ask very unique questions, they may be looking not for if we can rattle of the perfect, rehearsed response but that we are able to act on our feet to compose an answer. I think the fact that we have been trained in evidence based practices will be helpful on an interview. For example, if we get asked how we would treat a client with a certain anxiety disorder, our program has taught us specific interventions, even though we might present the interventions differently depending on the nuances of the individual case. Another concern I have about interviewing is discussing salary if I was offered a job. Bolles wrote a chapter in his book about this negotiation, and a big takeaway for me was that we have to do our research so we know what the typical range is. But as new graduates, should we even try to negotiate salary? I feel like I would just accept whatever they offered but maybe that’s the wrong thing to do. I definitely have some anxiety regarding this awkward conversation!

    3.) One organizational quality that is important to me is having a good supervisor. Having a supervisor that practices evidence based treatments and is supportive while also being able to give a lot of feedback is essential. Because of the turnover at my internship site this year, I had 3 different supervisors. It is very important to me that a supervisor appears available. I had one supervisor who seemed very stressed out, which was understandable because she had a ton to do herself. However, it made it so I didn’t want to knock on her door because I felt like I was interrupting her work. In addition, having group supervision would definitely be a benefit. I loved the consultation I had at my internship with the other interns and also discussing cases with my internship class. This consultation was not only helpful to discuss cases but also beneficial because we had similar anxieties. Hence, having that consultation in the future with new and more experienced clinicians would be a great asset. Lastly, I am looking for a location that really has a good culture among employees. I understand that some tension, for example between residential staff and clinicians, is normal. Still, I hope to work in a place where people are generally positive and helpful to one another.

    Reply

    • Liz Bradley
      Jun 14, 2018 @ 12:46:16

      Hey Allie,

      I definitely found similar problems as you during the job search process. One thing that helped me in narrowing down my search to exclude more of the bachelor’s level positions was using the term clinician instead of counselor, or searching for MA in mental health counseling jobs. By searching using these terms I definitely had an easier time finding jobs that were appropriate to the master’s level.

      I hadn’t even considered your point about the specific how would you treat X questions we could face on an interview. I completely agree that this is a bit anxiety provoking though! I do think our training in this program will set us up for success though, as well as our field experience during the practicum and internship. I am also wondering about whether we should even discuss salary as new grads too…I a curious what others will have to say about this.

      Your point about supervisors appearing available is so important! I have had many times where after a session I needed a minute to ask questions about how I handled a situation, or just needed to process a frustrating session before taking in a new client. Having supervisors and other clinicians available all the time has really been helpful and important to me during my internship and hope to find similar settings in the future.

      Reply

  4. William Nall
    Jun 14, 2018 @ 12:00:52

    1) I had mixed feelings about the job search overall. The main thing I learned was that there are a lot of companies out there, but not a lot of good ones. One thing I noticed about a lot of these jobs was that some of them only required an undergraduate degree. These jobs I did not spend any time looking into further. If I could have worked there out of undergrad I would have, but I will have my master’s degree and expect a little more serious job. Another thing I found deflating was the lack of LMHC required positions. It felt like a lot of place were okay with just a master’s degree and a few years of experience. It made me question how seriously do companies take a state licensed professional. However, this job searched helped me narrow the scope of what I was looking for in an organization and that is evidence based practice, good supervision, and support for licensure.
    2) The only anxiety I have is if they ask for specific experience. As of today, most of my experience is in working with adults with schizophrenia. I do not have a lot of work with substance use or working with clients in an outpatient setting. My worry is that companies may see my past experience and believe all I did was hangout in a residential home and work on finding folks a job. My hope is that companies realize that a lot of the difficulties the folks I worked with faced are very similar to those in an outpatient setting, it just may be the degree of functionality that is different. Although, interviews have never been that anxiety provoking for me. I always feel well-rehearsed, know what the job is looking for, and how to present myself as the person fulfill that role. However, I have only been on three real interviews in the mental health field for my internship so my experience is lacking.
    3) I have mentioned this before in my first comment but I am looking for proper supervision, evidence based practices, and a company that supports licensure. Proper supervision for me is a supervisor who performs evidence based practices, is not afraid to be critical of performance when need be, and provides support and encouragement. In my mind, a good supervisor points out things that you are doing that could be improved, or lets you know when he or she is does believe an intervention is most effective. I think one of the only ways to become better as a professional is for constructive criticism to be a part of supervision. I also hope to work for a company that supports evidence based practices. If a company is not providing the most effective evidence based practice or at least learning and searching for such, they are not providing best practice to their clients. The clients are entitled to the best practice and by not providing that we are acting unethically. Lastly, I want the company I work for to be encouraging of its employee’s aspirations to become state licensed. The two year road to becoming licensed seems like a long one and I think it could be defeating if you did not have a company supporting you. It would also be nice if the company provide financial incentives upon receiving licensure.

    Reply

    • Allison Shea
      Jun 14, 2018 @ 19:55:28

      Will, I agree with your point that although there are a ton of job postings out there, many of them are not good. I learned about the importance of sifting through the job postings, through in-home and bachelor level positions that I don’t want, to get to a job I’d be interested in applying to. I was surprised when you said you felt deflated at the lack of LMHC positions. I felt the opposite–I was more optimistic that there were a lot of opportunities to get a job right after graduation. I can see what you are saying, though, that it could put into question how serious some companies take licensure, but I think most place high value on it. I understand the concern about your experience being specific to a certain population. However, we are all in the same boat in terms of having limited experience and the companies that are advertising for license eligible candidates have to know that. I think the fact that you were able to work with a population that has many unique challenges will be looked at as an asset. I am looking for a lot of the same things as you are when it comes to organizational factors. It is important to me as well to have a supervisor who is supportive but also gives feedback. My last supervisor was overly optimistic about the interns’ work which can get frustrating when you’re trying to improve.

      Reply

  5. Liz Bradley
    Jun 14, 2018 @ 12:36:31

    The job search experience definitely has helped me feel better about the opportunities that await after graduation. I can say that I do feel much more optimistic about finding a job fairly quickly after graduation that would be a decent paying job which will allow me to pay my school loans – which has been a big concern of mine. It has also reassured me that I will eventually be able to move out of my parent’s house with a job in this field, and that I won’t be stuck here forever just because I chose a career in human services. One thing I learned from the job search assignment is that searching for “mental health counselor” jobs turns up primarily bachelor’s level jobs, whereas “clinician” leads to more of the master’s level jobs. This isn’t necessarily true for all postings, but it certainly is useful to know to be able to tailor my searches a little bit better moving forward.

    Some of the anxieties I have about interviewing for mental health field job is being able to adequately make myself stand out from others. I am someone who doesn’t really flaunt my own strengths or try to sound better than others, so I definitely struggle in differentiating myself from other candidates with similar qualifications. Learning how to do this professionally is definitely something I really need to work on, because I feel pretty anxious that I will be passed over for jobs that I am a good match for because I didn’t do enough to make myself stand out in the interview process.

    Some organizational qualities that I really value are a supportive work environment where everyone is willing to lend a hand or suggestion to others, without it becoming a competition for rank, an organizational expectation of work-life balance rather than expecting work to always come first 100% of the time, and an environment that is open to growth through new ideas and recognition of areas of failure. When a supervisor can recognize that they have made a mistake, own up to it, and work to grow and change around that, I think that really says a lot about not only the individual but the culture of the organization/workplace as this sets a precedence for others to be comfortable doing the same. This really shows integrity in a workplace to me, and I really value that.

    Reply

    • Allison Shea
      Jun 14, 2018 @ 19:49:42

      Liz, I also felt more optimistic about what jobs are available to us after completing the search. Although there weren’t a ton of salaries posted, I agree with you that they tended to be higher than anticipated. You make a good suggestion about what terminology to use when searching for master’s positions. I’ll have to keep your tip in mind to use “clinician” rather than “counselor” when we do our search for real in a few short months. I can also resonate with your concern about making yourself stand out during an interview. I think it can be a challenge because we don’t want to flaunt ourselves too much that we come off as arrogant. On the other hand, we don’t want to come off as insecure, so it has to be that balance of having confidence in our ability but also being humble since we are so new. I do think that being from this program will help us stand out since we have knowledge of empirically based practices. I appreciated your comment about looking for a work environment that is supportive to one another. As you mentioned in class, it can be very tricky when there is a lot of gossip and people try to pull you into it. Having a supportive staff with people who are willing to offer suggestions is especially important for us as recent grads.

      Reply

    • William Nall
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 12:59:49

      Hi Liz!
      I appreciated the honesty in your blog post. I can for sure relate to the living at home and trying to find a good enough job to move out. I am in a similar position. But I think it is more achievable than we may think. You bring up a good point about tuition, I know from speaking with you this has been a concern of yours. It sounds like you have it all figured out for the most part and I wish you well in the tuition reimbursement program your applying for, if anyone has earned it, it’s the you. For the interviewing anxieties, I would suggest actually practicing speaking about yourself confidently. It can be uncomfortable to try and “brag” about oneself but you are very talented and should let jobs know about this. I think a good example would be how you volunteered for an extra semester as an intern, shows true dedication.

      Reply

    • Tinh Tran
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 21:52:57

      Liz,
      Thank you very much for your sharing. I am glad that you feel more optimistic about jobs after doing research. I have also learned that Massachusetts is one of the states that pays much attention to mental healthcare, so I am not so surprised that it is not so difficult for you to find jobs in the field of counseling in MA. It’s also interesting to learn that “mental health counselors” are more about bachelor’s level jobs while and “clinicians” are more for master levels. In addition, you mentioned some good points when discussed some organizational qualities. For example, people in an organization/agency are willing to lend a hand to others. Yes, I believe that teamwork plays an important role and a good teamwork can make an organization become stronger!

      Reply

  6. Taylor Schiff
    Jun 14, 2018 @ 13:53:12

    As far as quantity goes, the job search revealed that a great deal of jobs seem to be available for qualified LMHCs. However, my main concern has more to do with my current level of eligibility, and less to do with how many openings there are. Most of the positions that I found either explicitly required or strongly preferred the applicant to have already obtained their license. While I can certainly understand the reasoning as to why this would be the case, admittedly it was a bit discouraging. Almost half of the available positions were eliminated due to licensing status, ultimately limiting my potential options even further. Beyond that, even the positions that are considered ‘license eligible’ are not solely restricted to individuals who need to accrue their necessary hours, meaning we will be competing against others who may already have their license in addition to several years of experience. Yes, I do realize it’s not all doom and gloom. There are still a number of positions available and coming from this program alone affords us a great deal of advantages in comparison to many others However, I’m not sure how much those strengths outweigh the limitations of being a new graduate in general. I guess the only way to know whether such a notion holds any truth is to begin applying and ideally follow-up with interviews thereafter. In spite of my previous rantings, I am optimistic about my future prospects and looking forward to exploring the different options the field has to offer. Furthermore, I welcome the new opportunities that will hopefully come with gaining licensure (like maybe a pay increase ha!) Overall, I would say the experience was not an entirely negative one. I am glad to have seen what is currently out there and how my qualifications compare so that I can tailor my expectations appropriately.

    As much as employers are looking to find the right match for their company/organization, I think it is equally important that applicants also look for qualities that they desire within their workplace as well. Because each individual is unique in that he or she places value on different things, examining one’s desires in relation to work environment can be an extremely profitable step in not only selecting a position, but thriving within one’s workplace (meaning that clients are not the only influence when determining an individual’s degree of happiness or overall mood at work). A plethora of other stressors (those resulting from organizational issues and those that can be attributed to other influences) can also have a large impact on an individual’s attitude. I think one of my main concerns in beginning to interview has a lot to do with being able to recognize some of those potential stressors as they apply to myself and further, appropriately identifying the opposing qualities that would help to avoid such distress. Just as we are giving the agency a first impression, they too are giving us an impression or a representation of the overall organization. Yes, interviews are meant to give both sides a glimpse into a potential working relationship, yet I believe each still aims to ‘sell’ the other their best qualities. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is actually about trust: trusting that I will be perceptive enough to tell based on just one meeting (or a couple) whether an organization aligns with my own values , and trusting that the interviewer will be honest and somewhat transparent about how their organization truly operates. The qualities that I view as most important within an organization are effective communication (especially within a team context), appropriate feedback/criticism (ideally will be covered within supervision), and overall high employee morale. I would like to think that employees value their position and have the desire to stay for a significant period of time.

    Reply

    • Kat Rondina
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 15:32:38

      I also felt a little bit concerned that most of the jobs seemed to list “license preferred”. I know that some organizations are capable of taking non-licensed staff are alright with taking non-licensed individuals because they are cheaper initial hires. I also feel like the organizations that mention they provide supervision for licensure in their benefits package (I mean its only like 5 or 6 out of the thirty jobs I found) are essentially advertising that they are willing and interested in hiring someone who’s a new graduate.

      I also agree that it’s hard to tell from the initial interview if an organization is a good fit. Sites like glassdoor list employee reviews that are pretty useful. Also, it is probably a good idea if its a local agency to run the name of the group past people you know in the field; word of mouth spreads pretty quickly about organizations. When I see friends on facebook who are counselors or who recently left the program praising or dissing their workplace, I’ll look in their profile to look at the name of the organization as something to keep in mind in the future.

      Reply

    • Tinh Tran
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 23:05:12

      Taylor,
      Although not everything is come out as it is expected and many jobs require or prefer licenses which you may not be qualified right after graduation, you still can find a lot of position available and you still feel optimistic about your future prospects and looking forward to exploring the different options the field has to offer. That’s a good news! Sometimes we don’t know the whole truth about each option or an organization/agency until we actually apply for and get hired and work for a while. Each one of us may have different expectations about jobs and finding a job in an organization/agency that matches our interest/expectations can be considered as one of the most important things. I like the idea when you point out that “interviews are meant to give both sides a glimpse into a potential working relationship, but I believe each still aims to ‘sell’ the other their best qualities” and you emphasize that “trust” plays an important role here. Yes, I think that in the interview process, both sides often try to give each other some kinds of “impression” about themselves, but still need to be honest and trustful!

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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