I feel very privileged to be an adjunct professor at Westminster and University of Utah. I really enjoy teaching, it re-energizes me. I love the student’s thirst for knowledge and dedication to their field. I remember trying to juggle school, work, practicum, and family and how difficult it is but how excited I was to start my career. I wanted to construct a blog detailing what I wished someone had told me. Although the advice is specifically for people in the counseling field, it has application for anyone in higher education.
- Worry less about grades and focus more about gaining knowledge/experience. (Yes, this is coming from someone who literally freaked out when they got an A-). I have never had a client or even a job ask about my GPA. They wanted to know my skills and training.
- Interview your practicum placement. If it isn’t a good fit, find somewhere else. One of my internships was amazing the other placement was horrible. I knew from the beginning that my second placement wasn’t good but I didn’t want to look like a “quitter.” I didn’t realize that the interview process needs to be mutual and that I needed to take charge of my learning experience. There is no shame in saying it isn’t what you want.
- Attend as many professional trainings that you can. Most trainings have a big discount for students, take advantage of it! Even if that means using some of your student loans- trainings are a great investment. Especially if the trainings have a certification or count towards a special licensure. This will distinguish you between other graduates and help you find your specialties/passions. They also are a great place to network and become involved in professional organizations.
- Find a mentor. You will need an advocate to help you navigate the field, for consultation and support. A mentor can be a professor at your school, your clinical supervisor or someone in your professional organization. A good mentor should support and challenge you at the same time.
- Start a professional case portfolio. Some of the most difficult/interesting cases I worked was when I was a student. I didn’t realize at the time that I would want to refer back to details and interventions (for training or evaluation purposes). Keep notes in your personal files without identifying information. Obtain consent to video-tape sessions and interventions.
Hang in there, it will get better. Hopefully, you will look back on this experience with some fondness or at least relief that it is over.
-Holly Willard, LCSW
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