By Nathan Beel, 2018
In the second part of this three-part series, I discussed five strategies for increasing one’s chance of counselling employment. These included possess a minimum of degree level or higher, gain volunteer experience in counselling, be a member of a counselling association, become known within the profession, and develop a positive professional reputation. This final part of the series will address an additional four strategies that I believe will help enhance your chances of employment as a counsellor.
Ensure your CV is professional: Your curriculum vitae (CV) is often one of the first evidence for panels of what type of professional you are. It should be error free. Errors, particularly basic or repeated errors, send signals of lack of attention, diligence, or writing ability. It should be targeted to the job you are applying for. Customise it to the potential readers. What will you include? What will you exclude (that doesn’t add value to the application)? How will you express it? You might consider gaining help from a professional in resume writing. Your CV gives the potential employer a window into who you are, what skills and potential you have, and your communication abilities.
Ask for critical feedback: Sometimes it is our blind spots that can undermine how others perceive us or weaken our applications. When I prepare articles, I send drafts to people I trust will tell me where the mistakes are and give me hints on how to improve. I will have done this with this article, and I guarantee there will be corrections that will spare me the embarrassment of putting my name publicly to a document with errors I missed. Get someone to critically look over your CV and cover letter as a means to help enhance it. Ask someone to take you through a practice interview and then give you critical (and supportive) feedback to help you learn how to do better. Supportive feedback makes us feel good and critical feedback is the path to enhanced awareness and improvement. Intentionally ask for feedback, particularly from someone you think has strengths in the area you are seeking feedback in.
Prepare for the position: Study the company website, research about the target client group, target issue, and recommended therapy approaches for the target group, and research anything else that will help you gain a sense of what might be required in the role. While you may not be an expert and should not pretend to be if you are not, it shows the interview panel that you are committed to preparing for the position. If you don’t get the job, you still will have benefited by learning new information about a referral source and information about a target issue that you may not have understood much about previously. Conversely, if you underprepare it sends signals to the interview panel about a lack of care about the role and/or lack of willingness to demonstrate diligence that might be required for the role. It is generally evident in interviews which applicants have spent time preparing for the interview.
Cultivate professional character: The earlier tips are useful to enhance your chances of gaining employment. However, there are some more fundamental areas that form the substance of your professionalism that will likely be seen over time and contribute to the formation of your reputation. Cultivate the substance of a reputable professional. Seek to learn and grow as a counsellor. Aim to consistently practice ethical decision-making. Seek to excel in your studies and counselling practice. Seek assistance in the areas of your life which might be problematic. Continue learning. Read counselling books regularly even after you finish university. Actively seek to learn rather than merely meeting PD requirements. Practice what you preach. These may not be noticeable in first impressions but over time people will recognise them and give you regard accordingly. This is where your broader reputation will come from and will provide inspiration to younger members of the profession to follow the virtues you operate by. Your qualities will become a gift to others.
I hope these ideas will be helpful for both the younger members of the profession as well as to those currently seeking work. In my own experience, I have gained one job because a previous colleague of mine recommended my name to an employer friend of his seeking staff. My reputation with my colleague must have been sufficient that he had the confidence to commend me years later. I’ve gained jobs in which I applied knowing I didn’t meet all of the criteria. From what I have learned in two decades in the field from both sides of the hiring table, is that gaining work as a counsellor often requires strategic planning and development at multiple levels to give oneself the edge in a competitive process. Those who prepare best throughout their counselling journey and more specifically for specialised positions are likely to demonstrate greater value and attractiveness to future employers than those who haven’t paid attention to strategic preparation.
These blogs have highlighted one person’s perspectives. No doubt there is much expertise on this topic within the QCA. I’d encourage members to share their own ideas and tips in the comments below about how to increase one’s chances of successfully gaining counselling-related employment.