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5 Tips for a Successful Post-MSW Job Search

Happy Final Few Weeks of School 2023 Grads!

Around this time in 2020, I was definitely stressing out about the upcoming job search. It was also early in the pandemic, so I wanted to find something, anything, quickly. I am grateful for everything I learned, but there are some things I wish I knew before I started my job search.

Every Job is Tough. Think about Your Learning Self Care Habits

My first job involved working with people of all ages, including babies and adults. It also involved working with people needing both a low level of care (ex. Prevention and Early Intervention) and a moderate-to-high level of care (ex. Wraparound or Full Service Partnership). On top of that, the caseload was also relatively high, and the learning style was largely "jump in and learn on the job." I am grateful for how much I learned in such a short period of time. When talking to some of my therapist friends, I felt like I learned in a few months what some learn in a few years. That said, I was VERY stressed, and all of my loved ones noticed.

I was able to stay for the completion of my licensure hours, but I had to rely heavily on my support system and self-care habits. If you are considering a high-stress job and you do not have the supports necessary to help you create a self-care plan, you may want to consider a job with a slower transition into the role.

Slow Transition or Sink/Swim Situation? Think About Your Learning Style

There are many ways to learn, but the main two types I have seen are this: You get taught the basics and are sent out to figure it out OR you slowly transition in and learn at a slower pace. I am someone who works best with pressure, meaning I adapted to my first job because I HAD to. I often think I would have been less motivated to push myself if my first job was too slow-moving.

You may want to seriously consider whether you are a learn-by-doing kind of worker or a learn-through-training-and-shadowing type of worker. At the very least, ask what the training period looks like for new employees when interviewing.

Peer Support is Key.

In any mental health job, it is key to practice self-care. Social self-care is important to help you manage your workload and decompress when needed. I have been grateful to have met great friends when beginning my different jobs, who have been extremely helpful supports. When interviewing, you can ask whether the job you are considering values check-ins during group supervision, incorporates a buddy system for new employees, encourages peer-to-peer support, etc.

Another great thing that I have done in the years since graduating is to have open conversations with fellow MSWs about agencies they work for or have worked for to get information about the work culture. I have also talked to a few people who have gotten insight by reaching out through LinkedIn to former employees of the agency that they want to work for. Former employees are more likely to give an unbiased opinion.

Pay Does Matter

Short and sweet, you need to pay your bills. You may also want to be able to afford things to buy you back some time that you spend at work (i.e. cleaning services, meal prep services, grocery delivery services). Not to mention, sometimes you want to buy things like fidget toys, games, or snacks to carry for clients. These costs add up.

Do not be afraid to ask other mental health workers what is a fair wage in your area. Also, some jobs have systems set up to increase pay yearly or provide bonuses. Ask about these things.

Do You Want To Get Licensed?

Lastly, do you want to get licensed? If you do not, ask whether the job you are considering will eventually require you to be licensed. If you do want to get licensed, read below.

Not all jobs have licensed supervisors to help you get your hours for your license. Ask if the agency has enough supervisors and that they have appropriate supervisors. Check your license requirements. For example, if you are an AMFT, can an LCSW be your supervisor or is there a limit to the amount of hours they can supervise for you?

Additionally, ask if there is a waiting period for when clinical supervison begins, as some jobs have a waiting period before they assign you a qualifying clinical supervisor. Finally, consider the amount of training opportunities and one-on-one time with clients that you will have on the job. This will affect how quickly you accumulate your hours for licensure (i.e. 20 clinical hours/week will accumulate slower than 30 clinical hours/week).

Thank you for reading and I hope something was helpful!

Please browse this website for more resources and books for social workers and mental health professionals!

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