February 3, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Montclair State University
Department of CounselingWebsite
Dr. Nancy Chae Ph.D.: More than ever, there is a critical need for school counselors to support students, families, and school personnel in response to the known and unknown effects of the pandemic--academically, socially, and emotionally. Graduates of school counseling programs will be expected to serve as trained mental health professionals who will lead and advocate as systemic change agents, transforming the future of education and mental health for our children and families. Future school counselors will benefit from learning about the potential effects of trauma as a result of the pandemic, and will need to be prepared to engage in crisis counseling, grief and loss counseling, and trauma-informed care.
Graduates may also be expected to educate parents/guardians and teachers about mental health crises, grief, and trauma to promote a wrap-around approach of proactive and responsive services for students. Graduates also need to be aware of the growing cultural diversity of students and families in schools today. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted historical disparities and inequities in education, including access to rigorous academic and extracurricular experiences and college and career readiness opportunities. Future school counselors must be prepared to work with, learn from, and advocate for diverse students and value the strengths of their cultural backgrounds and experiences, while also identifying and dismantling the barriers that affect students' and families' access to educational programs and mental health services.
Dr. Nancy Chae Ph.D.: School counselors will need to collaborate with teachers, families, school staff, and community providers to respond to students' growing social, emotional, and academic needs. Be proactive about connecting with and learning from teachers to deliver your school counseling program and seek their input on how to support students in classrooms. Consider partnering with other service providers, like school psychologists, social workers, and speech pathologists, to collaboratively respond to students' needs. Further, be intentional about involving students and families when developing your school counseling program goals. This might include conducting a needs assessment for students and families as well as inviting them to share their experiences both in public formats and in individual meetings. Ultimately, when students' and families' voices are heard and valued in your program, they are more likely to engage in your services.
School counselors also need to think critically and creatively at the systems level. School counselors will need to not only become comfortable with using data to respond to students' needs, but also move away from solely individualized services (still an essential skill and role of school counselors to address students' unique needs) and expand their reach creatively and strategically. This can include:
-identifying strengths and areas for support;
-understanding how the system (i.e., school, district, state, nation) may sustain inequitable access to educational opportunities and mental health services for students;
-implementing evidence-based and data-driven interventions to impact students and change systems via group counseling, classroom lessons, and school-wide initiatives; and
-transforming the system by advocating for equitable policies and interventions that serve the ever-changing needs of our students and families.
Another critical skill of counseling practice is ongoing self-reflection. Self-reflection occurs at a professional level in which counselors have an awareness of their assets as school counselors as well as an understanding of their limits and areas for continued growth and training. School counselors are lifelong learners, consistently seeking learning opportunities to strengthen their capacities and skills. Self-reflection also occurs at a personal level, reflecting upon their own identities and privileges and how to use their positions to address inequities and advocate for their students.
Lastly, school counselors must prioritize their own health and wellness by engaging in self-care. Because of the often emotionally demanding nature of school counseling, we must care for ourselves in order to effectively care for others. Self-care is both a deliberate practice and unique to the needs of each person. I encourage school counselors to find self-care activities that work for them, connect with supportive personal and professional communities, and set boundaries (as best as possible) to "leave work at work."
Dr. Nancy Chae Ph.D.: In resumes and during interviews, be sure to highlight the different ways you responded to and impacted student and school needs during your practicum and internship experiences. You could share examples of small group or classroom lessons that you developed to address identified needs for students or develop specific skill sets. Demonstrate how you have used data to inform your research-based interventions and programs, how you collected and analyzed data after conducting your interventions, and how the outcome data inform your next steps in the school counseling program. Provide examples of meaningful connections you made with students, families, school staff, and community partners when facilitating school counseling programs. Highlight initiatives you led or collaborated with others to address social justice issues in the school and community. Altogether, most importantly, describe what you learned from these experiences and how you plan to apply these learning experiences in your future work as a school counselor and advocate.
Montclair State University
Department of CounselingWebsite
Dr. Michael Hannon Ph.D.: I definitely think there will be an enduring impact of the pandemic on graduates. Among the most immediate effects include how graduates - like all of us - have had to reconcile our experiences with it. We've all been touched by COVID-19 by having suffered from it directly or because people in our families and communities have been affected. It has been nothing short of traumatic. What the pandemic has required our newest graduates to do is harness a level of creativity, patience, empathy, and responsiveness that may not have occurred otherwise. New graduates have had practice - through their fieldwork experiences - helping their students and other members of the school community providing school counseling services virtually. They have done this by delivering classroom lessons, providing short-term individual and group counseling, responding to student and family crises while being sensible and flexible enough to know they have less environmental control than they've ever had in the past.
Another enduring impact of the virus for school counseling graduates is how crystal clear the pandemic has wreaked havoc on communities differently. All counselors - school counselors included - are consistently challenged to identify, articulate, and take action to disrupt inequities for students and their families. New graduates have an opportunity to advocate for justice as we all bear witness to how families and students are underserved, which many times is predictable by socioeconomic status, native language, race, and ethnicity. For new graduates serving students in disinvested communities, they will have a unique set of challenges to confront and will have to decide how much they will help create policies and organizational routines that help reduce disparities in levels of care and educational opportunities.
Dr. Michael Hannon Ph.D.: New graduates do need a requisite set of skills to be effective school counselors. However, those skills mean nothing without a requisite set of dispositions while demonstrating those skills. Students and their families deserve school counselors to be effective communicators and listeners, possess empathy, know how to use school and other sources of data to support student success, have knowledge about federal and state laws governing school counseling practice, and be calculated risk takers. The dispositions, though, are equally important. New graduates have to balance being teachable and confident. They have to be willing to learn, be challenged constructively, and be willing to learn more.
New school counselors have to be unapologetically curious and willing to ask difficult questions. School counselors work to facilitate experiences that yield the desired outcomes for serving students and their families (e.g., access to rigorous courses, reducing disparate disciplinary practices) in ways that are responsive, informed, and valued by those stakeholders. New school counselors have to possess a leadership disposition; one that allows them to assume responsibility when things go right and when they go wrong. Finally, they have to be optimists and believe in the possibilities that exist when students get the range of services they deserve. Their perspectives must be strength-based and acknowledge all of the different forms of knowledge their students and school community members bring to the building and classroom every day.
Dr. Michael Hannon Ph.D.: The kinds of experiences that really stand out on resumes are those that demonstrate their added value. School counselors, like all school personnel, are tasked with providing evidence that students are better as a result of their work with them. School counselors must show how the range of school counseling services provided (e.g., individual counseling, small group counseling, career development interventions, individual advising, etc.) help students experience success. I encourage those looking for jobs to meticulously document the processes and outcomes that inform why they implement their programs and services. That way, potential employers clearly understand the value new school counselors will add to the school community and support student wellness.