As you go through a counseling. psychology, or social work master’s program, there will frequently be guest speakers coming into the different counseling classes to give presentations. Typically these are individuals in the area who are also in the profession. Personally, the presentations from business professionals in the community were the best learning experiences. Listening to someone who was already in the field and hearing what they were doing in the field really opened up my idea of the various possibilities that one could do in this career.
It was common among the speakers to be in different positions than they originally thought they would be in. Since I am a planner and live by a schedule, this was good to hear. It lessened my anxiety about what I would be doing after graduation and where I would do my internship. It helped me see beyond the black and white framework. Here are a few tips for you to connect with these professionals in a genuine way that will help you launch your career.
Tip #1: Initiate Contact
One thing that I would suggest throughout the program is to make contacts within the counseling community. If you find a speaker to be especially interesting, go up to them after class and introduce yourself. Tell them what you liked about their presentation and ask questions about what you heard. If they have business cards, take one and send them a follow-up email with your contact information reminding them how much you liked the presentation. Not only will this show your interest in the field, it will open you up to possible opportunities. You never know what that person will do with your name and information. It could turn into an internship or even a future job.
Tip #2: Keep that contact information
After the initial contact with that person, keep in contact with them. Find some common interests that you both have in the field of counseling. If you are interested in experiential therapy and they are actively involved in that, then find out if there is an opportunity for you to get involved. Share your personal career goals and ask if they have any advice on how you can get there. They might be able to help you or know of someone who is in that area of expertise to get you in contact with. When you align with their niche, they are more likely to remember you and want to help you out.
Tip #3: Get actively involved
Volunteer and get as much experience as you can! Get as much hands on experience as possible, that way you can experience the different parts of counseling and find your niche. You might think that you want to work with a certain population or in a certain environment. However, after you get experience, you could find out that it was completely wrong for you. As you volunteer and are more actively involved in the counseling community, you will meet more people and increase you contacts. Most jobs are gained through who you know, so it is important to keep this is mind when going through the program. It makes it much easier to find an internship or job at the end, not to mention much less stressful.
I hope this helps!
Tarah Elhardan is a Master’s Counseling intern at Northwestern Michigan College through Western Michigan University in Traverse City, MI. She is a regular contributor to www.PracticeofthePractice.com and is helping match LLPCs with supervisors through www.LLPCsupervision.com. Her other articles include:
Title photo is from the Creative Commons, thank you Kevin Dooley!