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Oct 16, 2023

Career: Digital Presence - S3E8

Christa Butler:

Welcome to The Voice of Counseling from the American Counseling Association. I'm Christa Butler, and joining me today is Danielle Irving, who is here to talk about creating a digital footprint, mentoring, and our upcoming career fair. Danielle Irving is a licensed counselor in Maryland and currently a doctoral student working towards her PhD in counselor education and supervision. In Danielle's role as ACA's career resources counseling specialist, she provides career guidance, consultation services, and resources designed to encourage and assist counseling professionals in obtaining their educational, employment, and career goals. Danielle, welcome to the podcast.

Danielle Irving:

Thank you so much, Christa. I'm happy to be here.

Christa Butler:

Awesome. So let's hop right in. And could you share with us about ACA's Virtual Career Fair in November, and can you share some of the details about the event and what can our attendees expect?

Danielle Irving:

Absolutely. So I'm super excited that ACA will be hosting their second Virtual Career Fair event on Wednesday, November 15th from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. The event is going to be free for job seekers. There are also opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors, recruiters, and employers that are looking to fill vacant employment opportunities in various settings. There will also be networking opportunities, career-related resources, some sponsored sessions, one-on-one, and group chat interaction via text, as well as video. Registration is also now open and our listeners can find more information on our website at counseling.org/vcf.

Christa Butler:

Awesome. Thank you so much for all that information. It sounds like it's going to be a jam-packed event for people to come in and to get some opportunities to network with employers and to learn some skills towards helping them to find employment in the profession. So what are some tips for making your resume stand out to recruiters and employers looking to fill employment vacancies?

Danielle Irving:

Yes. So the first thing that I recommend is reviewing the job description, knowing exactly what the employer is looking for, and that will assist you in customizing or tailoring your resume to fit that specific need. And of course, highlighting your education, experience, those related skills, certifications, trainings, licensure, if you have it or if you're pursuing it. And then be sure to be short, concise to the point. Consider a summary or a header that shares what you're looking for and important details about you and why you would make the ideal candidate for that position. And then also proofread, utilize your network, whether it be ACA, who has career services available to you as a member benefit. Utilize your professional organization. If it's outside of ACA, they may have a career center and offer career-related services. Check-in with your school or your learning institute, they will have a career center. They may have alumni services if you've already graduated or if you're a recent graduate. And then check in with your peers and colleagues to review your document. They may have some experience or feedback or insight that you may not have thought of.

Christa Butler:

Mm-hmm. All very solid advice. I want to emphasize, one thing you said was proofread. It's so easy when you're typing your resume to put all that information on there, and then you have just these subtle mistakes that you might easily overlook. And you mentioned some really cool resources as far as how you can find someone to look over your resume, whether that be at ACA, whether that be at your current university. So yeah, I think those are some really good tips for helping people to stand out and to pay attention to the details in their resume. So can you share with us as well, when you talk about creating an online digital present or a digital footprint, how can people improve that?

Danielle Irving:

Yeah, so this question is very important because we're now at a time period where we go directly to the internet for information. If we're looking for recommendations or resources, even news or just searching to find out more about something, a specific topic. We have to acknowledge that and pay attention to our online presence just as much as we would with our in-person presence. So our online presence extends from business websites, blogs, photos that might be on the internet, articles that we may be a part of, whether we wrote it ourselves or we were interviewed, and then even to social media. So our profiles within social media platforms. And that shares details about not only our professional life but personal as well. And so this shines light on our values, passions, views, opinions, thoughts, and different behaviors and so we want to be mindful of that.

Danielle Irving:

And we can do that or improve that by self-awareness, paying attention to our content that is on these different platforms, making sure that it is appropriate. And if it's a business or professional, making sure that it's accurate, reliable, or valid, and then also keeping your audience in mind. Who are you trying to attract and what is the message that you are trying to share with them? And so just making sure that that digital image or presence has a positive reflection on you. And an easy way to see what that looks like. Search your own name, put it in a Google Search and see what comes up, and see if that messaging is what you are wanting to share with the audience.

Christa Butler:

Okay. So let's say someone is looking to maybe tweak some things. They've Googled their name and there were let's say an article or some information that they didn't necessarily prefer to have for the digital footprint as far as finding an employer, et cetera. What are some suggestions that you might have for help someone may course correct, for example, with their digital footprint?

Danielle Irving:

So that could be a little tricky because usually some things that are on the internet are there to stay and can be very hard to get rid of or delete. So that's where that self-awareness or being mindful of what does exist. You should just be able to explain that if it comes up, where did this come from or if a... Employers often may search people that are interested in a position that they are applying for. And so if this comes up... It's good to be aware that there's a possibility that this article or this statement may come up and being able to explain that and why it does exist and your thought process or opinion behind it, just being able to support it.

Danielle Irving:

So, that can be tricky because you know what they say, if you want it private or you don't want people to know, then do not share it on the internet. So, it's difficult to avoid that and the only way we can kind of rectify that is having an explanation or knowing that it does exist and being able to have information that supports that, why did we make that statement, where did it come from, what was our thought process during that time, and being open and honest. It's never a good idea to try to cover up or lie about it because there are different things that can support that it did exist.

Christa Butler:

All right, very good. Thanks for sharing that perspective with us. So switching gears here, let's touch on our needs of student graduates or of our new professionals. What are your thoughts on how folks who are recently graduated can navigate some of those next steps in transitioning from being a student to being a new professional?

Danielle Irving:

Yeah, so this is a tricky time just as any other transition. You're transitioning from a graduate student to a recent grad and a newer professional. And so some helpful tips would be seeking a mentor that can help guide you, provide some support along this career journey and that process. I also like to recommend joining different groups with your peers and colleagues that are in a similar position as you, maybe different path, different journey, but still navigating that transition nonetheless. And those different groups can usually be found on social media. So, there's some Facebook groups and it might be geared towards your state or your city, so more local. You can also check in with your professional organizations like ACA. We have the ACA Connect platform. There are other listers out there. And with your different local chapters or divisions, there's opportunities there as well. And then also checking in with career specialists and consultants for assistance with planning, exploring.

Danielle Irving:

And this could be again, within your learning institute or your school, your professional organization, or a setting that offers alumni services. Then also pursuing clinical supervision as you journey into becoming a professional counselor. You may not be interested in certification or licensure, but it's still important to have that clinical supervision to help guide you through the process and help you learn some of the things that go beyond the education that we learned in our master's program. And another note on that, it's fine to have several supervisors throughout your career journey, you don't have to just stick to one. I think it's a good idea to explore different settings and have different clinical supervisors because we all have different backgrounds, different experiences and specialties, and trainings, and we can all learn and grow from that and help to develop our own professional identity.

Christa Butler:

Mm-hmm. No, that's a really good point. Because what you get from one supervisor might look different when working with a different one. And your needs will vary depending on the position, depending on the clientele you're serving. And if you're working with clients, you absolutely need to be working with a supervisor, especially right out of grad school because there's a lot you... You're still honing in on your skills, right? You've got the master's degree and that's one piece to it but at the end of the day, we are always growing as professionals and supervision regardless of where you are in that process, whether you're licensed, not licensed, it's important to seek that feedback and to always be in alignment with best practices in the field, which we know those things change.

Christa Butler:

And so you may be in the field for 10-plus years and you end up working with the new clientele, working with a supervisor may be one of those things that would be helpful and help you to bridge some of those gaps between your previous skillset and knowledge, working with other clients to the clients that you're currently working with. So I absolutely second everything you're speaking to as far as finding a clinical supervisor, having mentors, having a community of counselors that you can rely on to consult with, and to always have that gut check with the work that you're doing with folks. So as far as finding a job, direct job seekers online where they can go to search and explore employment opportunities?

Danielle Irving:

Yeah, absolutely. So I always recommend taking advantage of virtual career fairs such as the event we have coming up, but there's also other organizations that have virtual career fairs. Your school may have a career fair as well, take advantage of in-person career fairs and career center opportunities that live there. And then also checking in with your professional organization and the local organizations near you. So your professional organization may be more national and have different opportunities across the US, but your local organizations may be more state specific. And so I always recommend checking there. Checking in with your local government, there's always job opportunities for counselors and mental health professionals. Then checking with LinkedIn, networking with your colleagues. Job search engines such as Indeed is a good one. We have the ACA Career Central job board, which has positions for counselors and counselor educators and even more.

Danielle Irving:

And then even doing your own Google search. This is something that I recommend because it helps you to see different employers that are around you. So they may not even have any job opportunities in that moment, but if you just search, I'm just going to use something local, counseling positions in Alexandria, Virginia, and then you can see the different positions that may come up, but you can also see different counseling agencies or hospitals that have employment opportunities for counselors within that setting. You can even see different colleges and universities that are seeking career counselors or counselors and mental health counselors in that space. And so this gives you an idea of different employers that may be looking for counselors down the line. So they may not have any employment opportunities in that moment, but you start a spreadsheet, make some notes of the different colleges and organizations, practices that are near you, and then checking back regularly to see if there's any employment opportunities that fit what you're looking for.

Danielle Irving:

And so in addition to that, checking in with career specialists. And you can do that with your professional organization or with resources available at your school or the school you graduated from. And they can assist you with exploring different opportunities that may be available to you. And you might not even be sure what you're looking for or what you qualify for, and that's where a career specialist could really help you, providing assistance with navigating the transition, planning, exploring, and preparing for the next steps of your career journey.

Christa Butler:

One thing I want to highlight. You mentioned local state resources, the ACA State Associations is a resource for folks to look into for those specific positions or trainings, opportunities that are specific to your state where you're located. And so I want to just echo and highlight that looking into your local ACA state association is a resource for you for not just career stuff, but training, supervision, different resources that would be really helpful for new professionals. Well, professionals at all levels, I'll just say that. Okay. So let's say for many professionals who are experiencing a career transition, what advice can you share for folks who are changing from one career to another or one position to another, and how can they highlight their years of experience that they've had in another field or in a different position?

Danielle Irving:

Yes, this is a good question because career changers, usually this means that you are somewhat starting over. And it could be after a long period of time. Maybe you had your first career for 10 years or 20 years, and now you've decided to go into the counseling profession. So starting over, it can be a bit stressful and a little difficult to navigate. And so with that, a career changer, you are entering into a new profession, but I think that it's important to highlight those years of previous experience, even if it's not related, something totally different because you've worked hard for those years and you gained some valuable knowledge, skills, and experience that often is transferable or relatable to the counseling profession and could even be a great asset or addition to this different role. You might bring a different perspective and a different set of skills in addition to those that we learn or acquire within the counseling profession.

Danielle Irving:

And so with highlighting that in your resume or cover letter, I recommend having a summary. So the summary could be at the top of your resume, and you can include right there, 20 years of previous experience as an business manager or accountant. So you can put that in there so that they already know, okay, most of this individual's career has been in another field practicing something totally different. And then you can highlight some of those skills that are relatable, transferable, and they may not be necessarily transferable or very similar, but you might want to highlight it because it may make a difference between you and the next individual that's applying for the same position. So adding that summary within your resume. You can also speak a little bit to it in your cover letter. Use that opportunity within that first or second paragraph to discuss your previous experience, and then even sharing a little detail about why you've transitioned in into the counseling profession, and then align those skills.

Danielle Irving:

Also looking at the job description and seeing how you can share some of those previous skills that you acquired within the new role. But don't be afraid to highlight that in your documents, whether it's the cover letter or the resume. You don't necessarily need to add the bullet points under your experience, you can include that within the summary and speak more to it after you've landed the interview, and you can talk a little bit more about those details. But definitely highlight those years of previous experience and share a little bit about it, about the knowledge that you gained in that role and the different skills and experience that you do have, and then focus a little bit more on those that are transferable to the counseling profession.

Christa Butler:

Okay. All right. So let's talk about money now. Another big question that a lot of people want to know is how can they negotiate their salary? How can they appropriately navigate that topic when it comes up?

Danielle Irving:

Yes. And we get this question a lot in the career center. Because after you've graduated, you may have little experience, you may have a lot of experience, you may be licensed, you may not be licensed, you may have some certifications and training, and so the money that you request or the salary that you request or want to negotiate will be contingent upon that. And so I like to recommend or suggest that you do your research first. Look at other job titles and positions that you are interested in and see what the range is. And usually in different job search engines, there will be a range there. It'll show the starting or the starting and the maximum that they are offering for that position. So do a little bit of research and look beyond that.

Danielle Irving:

The role that you're interested in, it will have its own salary range, but look at similar roles and see what they are offering for that position. Is it in a similar ballpark? Is it lower? Is it higher? If it's higher, amazing. But see where it's falling within that. And then also continue on with that research checking in with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They have an occupational handbook, and that's a good resource as well. You can see what the starting salary. I think they offer the median range as well for different positions based upon the title. So you can look at that. Payscale is another resource where you can determine what the range should be and if it's falling within that range. And if you see that it's not, then you may be interested in negotiating the salary.

Danielle Irving:

And with that, I would wait until a job offer has been made to then do that. You don't need to mention it in your cover letter, you don't need to share it at the bottom of your resume. You necessarily don't need to bring it up in the interview either. Wait until that job offer has been made and you see that number and you decide if you want to negotiate it or not. And then only after doing some research and having some data and some statistics to support your increase, then you can talk a little bit more about that. Ideally, you can safely negotiate about 5 to 7% above the offered amount. I probably wouldn't go too much further, but it's definitely your choice if you would like to do that. But just think about the employer, would they be willing to accept it or would they want to share the offer with another individual?

Danielle Irving:

So keeping those things in mind, doing your research is going to be the biggest tip that I would give. And just knowing your worth as well, but also not talking yourself out of the job because there is always room for growth and increase. And maybe it's not right in that moment with the job offer, but after being within that role for a certain period of time. And so then you can kind of determine, can I take this on? Am I looking to gain experience? Maybe I should take this role and focus on gaining experience, or am I a professional that's been working in the field for a little while and just seeing what your end goal is, that will help you determine if you need to negotiate a salary or not.

Christa Butler:

Alrighty, Danielle, there's so much wealth of knowledge and information that you've shared with us so far when it comes to career advice for professional counselors. We have a couple more questions before we wrap up. Can you share with us about specialties and certifications? What are some benefits that one may have to obtaining those in terms of their career trajectory as well?

Danielle Irving:

Yeah, I feel that specialties and certifications are another key point that sets you apart from other job candidates, other people that may be applying for the role that you're interested in. And so you might have the same amount of education, similar experience, and so what is going to set you aside from others? And it may just be additional skills that you have. Did you participate in additional training? Do you have a specialty... yeah, a specialty or certification that applies to the job that you are looking to be employed within?

Danielle Irving:

I think that that is an important concept, but also keeping in mind that because you have a certification or specialty or licensure that requires maintenance. And so maintenance demonstrates lifelong learning and lifelong dedication and commitment to the profession, which looks good to employers, hiring managers, and recruiters. So keeping that in mind that it helps you to be successful in your role, but also helps to set you apart from others while also demonstrating something about yourself professionally. It shows your commitment to the profession and to your clients. And keeping up with best practices like you mentioned earlier in our conversation, just keeping up with those best practices and the different changes and how we are assisting our clients.

Christa Butler:

Right, right. No, look, the certifications are... It's an opportunity to give you specialized knowledge, skills to advance beyond licensure potentially. Because I think the other piece to it is that it doesn't necessarily speak to your skillset or your competency but it's an oppor... There's no promise that folks who have certain certifications are necessarily better but it is an opportunity for advancement. And it's also kind of going back to salary negotiation, it's an opportunity to potentially market your skills in that regard as well, and potentially being able to negotiate a little bit better. It's a positive thing, but I also want to highlight that with specialty and certifications, they don't give you any legal authority is basically saying that beyond your license, you've done the additional work to have a skillset in these areas.

Christa Butler:

But that doesn't necessarily mean that you're necessarily better than those that may not have that certification. And so it's so complicated. It's nuanced. It's just like when that topic comes up, I think that there's a lot that goes into it and... Yeah. So lastly, can you share with us the value of mentorship? Can you speak to its importance and its value and how one might go about finding a mentor and selecting one that is a good fit?

Danielle Irving:

Sure. So mentorship provides an invaluable experience. It gives us the opportunity as early career professionals, early counseling professionals to be mentored by accomplished more experienced professionals who may share similar interests, experiences, similar goals. And ideally, that relationship is fostering the counselor identity and career development. So while advancing and improving your career development, you're also advancing the counseling profession as well. And so with that, in that relationship, mentors are guiding, they're supporting, they're offering encouragement. Think of when we are students, we have our professors that are there to do that. We have our peers, our classmates that are there to assist us. But after graduating from school, there's that transition period where we don't necessarily have that support system until we land a role or a position. So it's very important during the transition of students and new professional to seek that mentorship relationship so that you have that continued guidance and support.

Danielle Irving:

And I would say when looking for a mentor and finding a good fit, the key to that is going to be making sure that both parties are committed, mentor and mentee. It's a positive if you all share mutual interests and goals. So if you are looking to become a school counselor, it would be ideal to have a school counselor that is practicing as your mentor that can kind of lead you and guide you, and support you in the way that you need to be supported. That does not mean that a licensed professional counselor cannot do the same, but sometimes the path or the journey may look a little bit different. So the key to a good fit; commitment, effectively communicating with one another, and then also basically reaching a mutual agreement on what the overall goals and expectations of that mentorship relationship would be.

Danielle Irving:

And then different resources. ACA is planning to start their mentorship program in a couple of months. So your professional organization. You can also take advantage of conferences, networking opportunities, and building or finding a mentor. A good recommendation that I would give students when they are going to a conference in person or virtual, but in person, you know that when you're picking a session, it's more than likely going to be a session that you have an interest in and maybe you might be wanting a specialty, and so you go to that session. Let's just say it's on children and adolescents or around play therapy because that's something that you're interested in. More than likely, the individuals in that room have similar interests as well. And so starting a conversation with those individuals, and maybe there's someone that does have more experience than you, and you can build that network, build that relationship, and see if by chance they may be a good mentor for you.

Danielle Irving:

So that's more of a way of the networking and building your network and finding a mentor that way, so within conference settings, but then there's also checking in with your school, checking in with... ACA Connect platform is another way, different platforms that allow you to build that network and have the opportunity to find a mentor that fits what you're looking for. And then also speaking with your peers and colleagues, utilizing different job opportunities. And so it may not be your clinical supervisor or your supervisor in that role, but maybe there's someone within that setting or practice that could serve as a mentor to you. There's also ACA divisions. A few of our divisions have their own mentorship programs as well that are thriving and doing well, and those are good opportunities and based upon specialties as well. A good place to start would definitely be your professional organizations or an organization that you are affiliated with. Most of them typically will have a mentorship program or be able to direct you to a resource or another entity that could offer mentorship.

Christa Butler:

Awesome. Thank you, Danielle. Before we sign off, do you mind reminding us one more time about the upcoming career fair?

Danielle Irving:

Yes, absolutely. So the ACA Virtual Career Fair will take place on Wednesday, November 15th from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. And again, registration is now open. You can find out more information on our website, www.counseling.org/vcf.

Christa Butler:

Thank you so much, Danielle. This has been great.

Danielle Irving:

Thank you for having me.

Christa Butler:

Be sure to subscribe to The Voice of Counseling on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. And you can follow ACA on social media. To join the ACA and to get exclusive access to all member benefits check out counseling.org.

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