I have noticed a concerning trend for newly-minted Licensed Professional Counselor Associates (pursuants of LPC license) in recent months and that is the shrinking job opportunities and difficulty navigating the job search landscape. Note that in North Carolina, most jobs will be found in the public mental health arena–agencies seeing clients with Medicaid or NC Health Choice insurances. So here are some quick tips on finding jobs.
1. Know your county’s Managed Care Organization (MCO). Each county is governed by an MCO, each being responsible for the delivery of public mental health services in their jurisdiction. And yes, you guessed it, each has their own way of doing things. If you don’t know who the MCO is for your region click here. Follow this link for each MCO’s contact information.
2. Obtain a provider list from the MCO’s website. MCOs generally have a list of their enrolled providers on their website. Download or reference that list to target your job search. You may also want to call MCOs to get a sense of who their big providers may be. Such a call may or may not yield a lot but it’s worth a try to narrow the search.
3. Go to individual provider websites to see job openings. With providers seeking to conserve money in this current climate they may not post all their jobs in the usual job search engines so check individual provider websites to see for yourself.
4. If possible, complete provider applications online. Most provider websites allow for this option but note that the formatting on the receiving end may not always be pleasing to the eye which means your application can get lost in a pile so ALWAYS follow up with an email that includes electronic versions of your cover letter and resume.
5. If possible, follow up with a phone call or visit to the agency. It is important to get the name of the hiring manager for the position for which you are applying since HR may not always be aware if the nuances for that department. NOTE: Do not engage in stalking-type behavior–even if you feel frustrated with the red tape. Incessant phone calls and/or emails can cross the line of tenacity and annoyance–with the latter getting you tossed out of the running for an interview before you even get in the door.
6. Keep cover letters succinct aka brief. Busy managers do not have time nor care to read a dissertation about you. You must capture their attention in the first paragraph with one or two short follow up ones. For those of you having no experience in the field besides practicum and internship job finding may be an uphill battle (more on why later) but not impossible. It is important to address this elephant in the room from the outset by stating the obvious but highlighting your transferable traits/skills that will make you a good investment.
7. Be sure to organize your resume to highlight your best virtues. Provide a bulleted summary of your professional skills and interests just below your letterhead. For those of you entering the field as a second career, I would suggest highlighting the transferable skills you bring to the table. For example, if you came from a banking background talk about your attention to details and ability to balance stellar customer service and maintaining productivity goals. If feasible, hire a resume writing professional with experience writing such for clinicians. Otherwise, enlist the help of a friend who has strong writing skills and professional experience.
Also, if you have a diverse work history, separate such history into “relevant work experience” and “other work experience.” Don’t be afraid to include applicable volunteer duties as well.
8. I strongly recommend looking for entry level direct care jobs in mental health settings like residential facilities or hospitals and day treatment centers if you have no experience outside of required fieldwork or if you are entering graduate school with no prior experience in the field . If that is not an option plan to volunteer in a mental health setting so you can meet people in the field as well as get a grass roots introduction to the field. Nevertheless, don’t allow yourself to be exploited either.
As a newbie to the field, expect that you may not land the cushy outpatient job in an office at the outset. So plan to work hard (long hours and multiple job assignments) for the first couple of years. Nevertheless, maintain dignity and decorum throughout. Do not stand for unprofessional or unethical dealings. And by no means accept belittling and other attacks on your personhood. Be sure to discuss these issues with a mentor or clinical supervisor to figure out the best way to handle such situations.
Finally, for those fresh out of school or looking for internship, do not assume that listing your GPA puts you ahead of the job line. As a hiring manager this information did nothing to move me besides saying you are academically inclined but my experience notes that such an inclination does not always translate into the most effective clinician in a direct care capacity. If you choose to list your GPA, I would suggest doing so in the summary and/or in the cover letter–in context of the applicable skills you employed to accomplish it. For example, “my hard work, persistence, and commitment to becoming an effective clinician converged in a 4.0 GPA.” Make a list of the virtues you utilized to acquire your GPA then format your sentence accordingly; remembering to be as succinct as possible.