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updates etc…

16 Feb

I know it’s been a while and I have a LOT of posts to catch up on.  First things first, updates

Since I last wrote, I have (1) graduated from Capella University with my Masters in Mental Health Counseling, (2) gotten hired on at my previous pre-graduate internship site, (3) taken and passed the National Counselor Exam, (4) Applied for and been accepted as a Counselor Intern (C.I.) with the Louisiana Board of Examiners, and (5) begun researching the National Health Service Corp.

When working on graduating, taking the licensing exams, and networking in a down economy it is essential to minimize distractions.  Any one of these activities could be considered a full time job in and of itself, so my recommendation is to not be too hard on yourself and to pick and choose.  It’s importance to balance professional pursuits with self-care.  While I have done a “lot,” there is also a “lot” that has had to take a second place to self-care (or risk personal overload)!  For instance, the article I am working (and hoping to publish) has been untouched since things began getting hectic (as has this blog).

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing/updating the site.

My number one recommendation to Counseling graduate students is to put every effort into putting your best foot forward at your pre-graduate internship site.  Now this does not mean that one should feel pressured to be “the best most empathetic intern ever!”…in fact, far from it!  The goals that one should set for oneself at a pre-graduate internship site may seem simple and include the following: (1) be 5-10min early for your scheduled shift, (2) call in advance to speak with your supervisor if you will be late or absent, (3) be willing to WORK (and I mean get down and dirty, do whatever goofer work is asked of you type work), (4) try to be proactive with your work rather than re-active (the site will expect you to make mistakes – making it easier for a pre-graduate intern to make a “mistake,” revise and learn from it…so RISK it)!, and (5) show gratitude to the rest of the work staff team (admissions, the nursing staff, doctors, and counseling in a multi-professional environment all work together and their work affects that of each other!…a box of doughnuts on a busy Wed morning can go a long way to meeting the rest of the team and to increase communication/learning opportunities which could later bridge into career opportunities).

I’m hoping to continue updating weekly and will have more details to come.:) Thanks everyone for all your patience while updating/catching up.

CSI officially accepted!

15 Sep

I’ve been officially accepted into Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), the international honors fraternity for professional counselors:)  I also followed up with my potential site supervisor and should (hopefully) have her half of the paperwork before I leave to go to my second residency:)

In preparation for conferences and professional/academic residencies, there some steps I like to take to help improve the odds of being able to network:

  1. update my digital portfolio which can be found HERE
  2. order more business cards – I use a site called MOO.COM  (they are very professional looking and have tons of fun themes)
  3. review my wardrobe – (if there is anything I need to replace so as to have suitable outfits for a professional event…it’s better to know in enough time to go shopping)
  4. skim over post-residency course requirements – for instance after the residency for Capella, we will have to complete a separate Digital Portfolio…(it always better for these big projects to NOT be a surprise)

I can’t emphasize this enough.  Whether working toward a degree, pursuing a competitive position, or managing a business…”following up” and taking personal responsibility is essential.  It does not matter if it was the “school’s” fault that “you didn’t know” about a big course catalog requirement in enough time to complete it – especially if five minutes spent looking ahead in that catalog could have prevented the issue to begin with.

Step 5: Finding a Counseling Graduate School Internship Site

17 Aug

Well it’s been a while since I wrote…again:)  I had planned to post a lot between semesters, but wound up using the break to search for an internship site.  If you are in Mental Health Counseling (or seeking an LPC)  part of the graduate requirement (per-graduation) is a practicum/internship (the hours required vary from state-to-state).  I’ve found a site, all I need to do now is get approval from my university **fingers crossed!** The process of “finding” a site went smoothly, in part because I prepared early and

Tips to finding an Internship Site (Graduate School):

  1. Create a resume or update yours when (a) you first start school, and (b) once more 9 months before job hunting
  2. Use University career centers and/or a professor in YOUR field of study to review your resume and edit it! (Every profession has things it looks for, keywords/etc, in resumes.  Catering your resume to your field is essential.)
  3. (Note: Counseling/Psychology fields like “Bulleted” items in their works.) For a sample resume please see mine HERE.
  4. After you have a polished resume make sure you review/update it before searching for a site.
  5. Begin searching for a site no less than 6 months prior to the scheduled date of internship – this will give you ample time to complete paperwork for your university and/or have a site rejected by said university (giving you time to freak out and find another if need be).
  6. If every place you go to seems not to want you, get a teacher or friend to “interview” you informally (try to find someone in the field you’re going into) and critique your interview-ability.  Something you are saying (or not saying) may be putting potential sites off you!
  7. DON’T forget to mention that (A) the internship is UNPAID for graduate school and (B) you will have your own INSURANCE via a professional organization.  There are “paid” internships/career openings that you may not qualify for; however, if you are working for “free” the company may employ you anyways to save money and receive help that budgetary limitations would otherwise not allow for…
  8. You have a site but it’s still 6 months away?  Follow up!  At least once a month check in with your potential supervisor.  Keep up with the paperwork that must be done.  Ask about additional training sessions you may need, if you have to foot the bill for these sessions, and ask about background/medical/other checks may be needed in order to work at your chosen site.
  9. A little work NOW can mean BIG results later.  It will also keep you from needing to be committed due to last minute rushing/panic attacks.

Are you a procrastinator??? Well guess what me too!  What you don’t believe me??? Here’s a trick I do to FORCE myself to keep ahead of the game:

On my calendar (physical or the one on my cell phone) I set the most annoying reminder with an alarm for whatever I am trying to accomplish.  For instance, tomorrow I need to call and follow up with a potential internship site and have been procrastinating because of the false sense of security gained from finding one so quickly.  I have the most annoying alarm/sound set to go off every 3 hours tomorrow until I call.  Once I call, I’ll delete the alarm(s).  Additionally, it’s important to FORCE yourself to do something to prep for future school requirements (like an internship or a portfolio) at least once to twice a month.  The act of accomplishing something also decreases anxiety/stress by increasing feelings of accomplishment.  There are times that even doing a bit here and there is not enough to keep away the mad rush at the last minute.  On the other hand, even when the mad rush is unavoidable, previous feelings of accomplishment and work can make the act of coping with the stress more manageable.

GOOD LUCK:):):)

Step 4: Communication & Initiative

5 Apr

In graduate school “effective communication” and demonstrating “initiative” are more than mere personality traits driving successful academic completion.  These particular traits, developed, can save a student from unnecessary stress and workload – and goodness knows graduate students have enough stress/work as it is.  How can doing more work actually make for less work?  Sounds like an oxymoron at first, but let me provide an example.

The school I’m attending is making some changes to their Professional Portfolio requirement and Residency curricula – they are going from a hard copy portfolio that was supposed to be turned in at the next residency to a digital portfolio that will be completed after residency. Moreover, they apparently forgot to tell the students.  Our class was still under the impression that they were completing a hard copy portfolio.  So we were all getting ready to work on it.

If I had not called to double check requirements for the portfolio we would have (1) never realized there were changes we needed to prepare for, (2) had to re-do all the work on the portfolios – we’re talking hours and hours of work, and (3) not completed the work that was actually required.

Communication in graduate school is more than communication with one’s teachers.  It involves taking the initiative to keep up with course/curricula requirements, and maintaining contact with one’s advising center (whether you go to school online or in a traditional setting).  Never ASSUME you know something.  If your curious, ask.  Now I know it can seem petty to ask for every “little” thing.  Some things, seem more important than others….it’s tempting to think “well it will all work out” or “the school would let me know if…”

Never assume a school/adviser will let you know anything.  If the question(s) seem petty, make a list of 2-3 questions and call/schedule an appointment to ask them all at once.  If an advising session (meeting with a counselor face-to-face) seems like overkill for the situation, try just calling.  The original question I had was about a form that was listed as a requirement for the hard copy portfolio.  I called about that “form” and instead discovered the whole portfolio had been scrapped.

Summary:

  1. know your course/program requirements – is there other components to the program outside of coursework or are there courses that will require work as part of their curricula
  2. if you have a question, ask
  3. make a list of minor questions and curious concerns – call and ask about them all at one time to minimize having to call back repeatedly
  4. colleges are businesses, they won’t hold your hand especially in graduate school – never assume an important email will go out to update appropriate information

ACA conference 2011 – New Orleans & wonder of Twitter

25 Mar

Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend the conference…however, thanks to the wonder of Twitter searches…I…and “you” can live vicariously through the tweets of others.  If your interested in following the conference check out #acaconf (the offical hashtag of ACA) 🙂

If you think twitter is just for the tweenies, think again.  It is an awesome place for news and information.  My personal preference is to use it as a short/live feed mini RSS on topics of interests – including counseling/psychology.  As a result, beginning professionals are able to network with established professionals around the world.  I highly recommend that graduate students/ new professionals create a “generic” / professional page…(we’ll call this Step: Ongoing in the process of professional development) :);)

After creating a professional page, search out others that are in or pursuing the same profession.  You never know who you might meet and how he/she may be connected professionally.  It’s “6 degrees of separation” turned active participation.

Graduate School Pursuits….to M.S. or go straight for the PhD.

15 Mar

Not everyone going to graduate school realizes that you do not necessarily NEED to pursue a Masters prior to going for a PhD.  In fact, in some cases (career goals etc.) the PhD may be necessary “end-goal.”  However, before you run straight to the college entrance people to see the requirements for your degree of choice, there are some pros and cons to bypassing a Masters.

Pros:

1) Shorter time in school and therefore less debt

2) Higher pay due to level of education

Cons:

1) Graduate work is VASTLY different than undergraduate (and this is coming from someone at the Masters level), don’t overwhelm yourself with too much too soon or you may not complete the degree.

2) A PhD or PsyD takes longer to complete than a Masters (4-5 years instead of 2-3).  Having the ability to sustain pace and to financially support the completion of the degree should be considered.  If you get halfway through the PhD and have to dropout due to a financial crisis, you will have no degree to show for it.  On the other hand, if you complete the M.S, some of your courses may transfer to the PhD (if they are in the same field).

3) If you are making a career change, it would be better to get a M.S. and work in the field for a year or two to be sure you enjoy the work.  No matter how much you think you know about a job, it never compares to actually doing the work.  It would be horrible to spend 5years (post undergrad) only to find you despise your new vocation.

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Personal preference is to go for the Masters first.  The only instance in which I would have felt comfortable bypassing the M.S. would have been if money was no object.   The household would have to be 100% secure without the potential graduate student’s income so that if the student could not work the degree would not be at risk.  Additionally, the individual should have experience in the field he or she is pursuing, so there is knowledge about the career that will result from the degree.  Finally, the person bypassing the Masters must be prepared to work harder than ever and to play catch up on academic writing.  The PhD dissertation process is much more involved than simply writing a “long” paper.  Research that process before making a decision.