Congratulations to graduates from mental health counseling and social work programs. Your journey to becoming a new counselor will be exciting and transformative for you.
Here are my ten pointers for surviving your first job after graduation.
1. Know who your supervisor will be in your first job after graduate school.
One thing I learned is that having an unprofessional boss who exhibits unethical behaviors and is simply “rude” and “unkind” to you is not worth staying on the job. Know your rights when you have been taken advantage of and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
2. Select a new job where the commute is reasonable and feasible.
Why take a job that can wear and tear on your car and is far away from your home. If you do home visits as well, pick a job closer to home. Car repairs are very expensive.
3. Be aware of the parameters when taking a salary job as opposed to a fee for service job.
If you don’t make productivity, you are in danger of losing your salary and benefits and being stuck as a fee for service clinician. Choose carefully and wisely.
4. To add to number 8, if you are in job that requires reaching unfair productivity quotas, be ethical in your billing practices.
There are too many clinicians who bill for hourly sessions when they saw their client for a half hour if they double booked them that way.
5. Provide support for your colleagues by being non-competitive and being a good listener.
Select an employer where the work environment can be a “second family” to you. I have been blessed twice over the years to have worked in this type of environment. It helped to decrease my stress levels very much.
6. Be nice to the administrative staff that does your billing and filing.
Even though you are educated, it does not mean you are better than them. Treat them with compassion and kindness.
7. It sometimes pays to be choosey in deciding what clients you want to counsel.
It is not ethically appropriate to see a client where their issues may push your buttons or is out of your league. If a client is not a good fit, please remember to not take it personally. If you wish to grow and expand your horizons in working with different clients, that is OK too. Just remember to know your limits and not use your “ego” to reach productivity standards that are beyond your control.
8. Customer Service applies when seeing your clients.
If you offend them by accident, say you are sorry and be humble. Thank them for coming in to see you. Don’t forget to smile as well.
9. Keep up on the latest trends and knowledge in your profession.
Go to conferences; attend workshops; read books and magazines; and stretch yourself to read books outside of your profession. I read books from the business sector to get ideas on how to perfect my customer service skills and to market my work to others.
10. Take care of yourself.
If you need to speak to a counselor, go and do it. It does not help you and your client if you are not able to counsel them objectively and fairly. Choose at least three interest/pleasurable activities to engage in to get grounded and focused. Go inside and ask for inner guidance on how to handle difficult situations. Listen to the inklings that come to you. Take a breath and decide which proactive option will work for you.
Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; spiritual counseling; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, “Miller Chat” in Massachusetts.