Do you remember a few months ago when President George W. Bush signed legislation specifically identifying counselors as providers of mental health care for veterans? In case you were wondering what has happened since, here’s word from Scott Barstow, the American Counseling Association’s director of Public Policy and Legislation.
“The American Counseling Association is working with the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) on this, but implementation of last year’s law is likely to take a lot more time. We’re working to gain development and implementation by the Office of Personnel Management of a federal job description for mental health counselors, which is the root of this problem. Until the VA issues final regulations on this, local VA clinics and facilities are still going to be hiring social workers, not social workers and counselors and marriage and family therapists. The local clinics can’t be expected to know about the law and won’t be able to do anything to implement it. Even if they did, the regulations aren’t in place.”
So what can you do in the meantime? Volunteering with veteran and military family readiness groups may provide you with a level of experience that will give you an edge in hiring when these positions open up. Just keep in mind that it’s a waiting game. The wheels of government turn slowly. Where do you think the saying “It takes an act of Congress” originated?
Finding salary information
How much are you worth? The salary calculator offered in ACA’s Job Center through our partnership with CareerBuilder can be a helpful tool as you review salaries in various parts of the country. (From www.counseling.org, select “Career Center,” then click on “Job Center.”)
Those who utilize this service must recognize that these statistics are averages and that many factors can affect individual earnings. Numbers published here should be considered as guidelines, not gospel.
The U.S. Department of Labor also has broad salary information available about the profession that has been developed through its Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/). Two helpful areas are “Wages by Area and Occupation” (look under the “Wages, Earnings and Benefits” heading) and the online Occupational Outlook Handbook (under the “Occupations” heading). You can also go to the Occupational Information Network Resource Center at www.onetcenter.org to access salary information.
Exercise caution when responding to Listservs
A word to the wise: Double check your distribution list before clicking “send.” Circulating a personal response to an individual through a forum with hundreds of “lurkers” could undermine your professional goals.
A recent example … A faculty member sent a position announcement to a Listserv. One of the faculty member’s friends who was interested in the position responded, thinking the response would go only to the faculty member. Instead, the response was posted to the Listserv, disclosing a variety of information about the person, including a willingness to accept a lower level rank than this individual currently held.
Two problems here: First, the entire list (including any colleagues working at the same institution) is now aware that this individual is seeking a new position. Second, any leverage this person may have had in negotiating for a higher rank has been lost because the disclosure of willingness to settle for a lower rank was accidentally made public.
If you are posting information to a Listserv that may invite responses of a personal nature, you can help your colleagues by providing a personal e-mail address. And if you want to respond to a Listserv posting with information that you don’t want everyone to see but a personal e-mail address isn’t included, you can still use the Internet — to look up an old-fashioned phone number through an online directory.
The 60 percent rule
I recently had a conversation with one of our members who was discouraged about her job search. “I don’t qualify for any of the positions that are listed,” she told me. When I asked her to elaborate, she said she met most of the qualifications, but not all.
What I suggested to her (and what I’m sharing with you) is this: Position announcements are a wish list for the perfect candidate. Search committees recognize that the perfect candidate may not exist, and even if he or she does exist, the position may not be of interest to that candidate.
If you meet roughly 60 percent or more of the “requirements” listed for a position, I encourage you to assemble the most professional application packet you can muster and apply for the job. Perfection is overrated, rarely identified and the source of much boredom. (How interesting could a position be if there’s no room for personal and professional growth?)
Career Center in Hawaii
If you are attending the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition in Honolulu in March and plan to participate in the Career Center as either an employer or a candidate, look for registration information on the Career Center section of the ACA website beginning in November. We are also seeking a few career counselors who would like to volunteer in the Career Center to help review résumés and provide job search guidance to counselors. If you’re interested in volunteering or have questions about the Career Center, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Amy Reece Connelly is the manager of ACA Career Services. E-mail questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone consultation is available to ACA members by appointment. Letters to the editor: email@example.com