New Grads: How to Stand Out From the Crowd

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All the hard work you put in with graduate school is coming to an end and now you’re ready to get your career started. Distinguishing yourself from other fresh grads is essential to landing that first position out in the field. Below are eight tips to help you get started today.

Join and assume leadership in a professional organization. Get involved with your local AAMFT, CAMFT or NSW chapters. By actively participating in established organizations in the mental health community, you’re demonstrating a commitment to the field and your career development.

Network and make friends in the field. Not only does networking give you a broader circle to turn to when you’re looking for jobs, it also give you people to turn to when you need advice in the field.  Building a broad network takes work and this task should be a top priority as you transition from student to clinician.

Find a mentor. We’ve discussed tips on finding a mentor before, but let me emphasize how important having a mentor can be in your career development. The right match in a mentor can help you navigate your path towards licensure, hone your skills, develop marketing techniques and provide valuable insights, especially in the early stages of your career.

Maintain affiliation with your school. Keeping in touch with your graduate school is a great way to stay current with what’s developing in the mental health community.  Take advantage of ongoing training opportunities in order to stay connected and to continue your learning.

Have a well-polished resume. Creating a solid resume that effectively showcases your experience can be key in helping you land that first job out of grad school. Now that a majority of job postings are found online, which increases the number of applicants per position, making sure that your resume shines is more important than ever. Don’t just brush up that old resume you used to apply to practicums, take this opportunity to make sure to start a fresh; highlight your qualities and strengths, include your professional goals and put the most important information first.  Have your mentor and several colleagues review your resume to ensure that you are effectively selling yourself.

Switching Careers?  Use this to your advantage. For many therapists and social workers, the path to the mental health field wasn’t a direct one.  If working as a clinician is your second career, don’t think that your prior experience is moot.  What challenges did you overcome in your previous profession?  Did you have an opportunity to build relationships with clients or vendors?  Any leadership experience? Identify and emphasize your transferable skills in your resume and cover letter and make them work for you.

Be flexible. Everyone is looking for their dream job. Make a list of things that you want in your dream job. Is it flexible hours? Working with a specific population? Do you need to make a certain salary? Rank what is really important to you in finding that first job out of grad school and what you are willing to work for later on.

Remember why you chose this field.  As you make the transition from student to clinician it is easy to get distracted .  Keep yourself grounded and focus on what matters most…your clients.  You have dedicated a lot of time and energy to become licensed in a field where you can truly make a difference in the lives of others.  Congratulations and good luck.

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