How can I get started with a career in Human Services?

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Kim from Wilmington University asked:

“I have a Masters degree in Human Services, but can’t seem to find a job in my field. What can I do to get started?” 

Dear Kim,

Thank you for writing to us and congratulations on your Master’s degree! The job search can be daunting and I’m happy to discuss action steps to help you find a position in your field.

Reflection

Before we discuss the search, reflection is an important first step so we know where we are going. Since Human Services offers a variety of career options, ranging from counselor, social worker, case worker, and more. Have you identified your interests? For example, are you energized by working with children or adults? Do you have an interest in working in an office or school setting? Our interests help keep us engaged and satisfied at work. I recommend spending time assessing what attracts you to the field.

Networking

Now that you have a sense of what you are looking for in a position, let’s discuss your job search. You may have already heard how important networking is; but did you know that about 80% of jobs are found through your connections? Since it’s such a high percentage, you should spend a significant amount of time building and maintaining relationships with individuals. Feel like you don’t have a network? Believe me, you do! Start with your classmates, professors, family members and friends. Did you complete a practicum as part of your graduate program? If so, your former practicum internship or practicum site coworkers and supervisors are part of your network.

Now that you thought about who is in your circle, begin contacting your network for advice, insight on their career path or potential job leads. In addition, I encourage you to tap into your alumni network (either on LinkedIn or contact your university’s alumni relations department) to find individuals who are working in Human Services and request an informational interview (a formal conversation to learn about the professional’s career path and experience working at an organization; it’s not about asking for a job). Read more about the importance of an Informational Interview here. The insight you gain will be valuable as you navigate the job search and this is a great way to build your network. I encourage you to connect with a Human Services professional to conduct an informational interview.

Develop a Target List

Next, develop a target list of organizations. The job search can be overwhelming when applying to every position you find online. Having a strategic approach is essential in order to save time and energy. Create a target list of 15-20 organizations you are interested in and review the open positions on their website. Developing a target list allows you to spend time tailoring your resume and cover letter to the position and organization, as well as find companies that match your interests.

Once you find a position that aligns with your interests, it’s important to review the job description, incorporate key words on to your resume, and understand the needs of the employer and address them on your professional documents. For example, if the position requires experience working with a diverse population, and you work with various backgrounds in a customer service role, illustrate your transferable skills in order to communicate how this will be of value to the employer.

As you conduct the job search, I encourage you to celebrate your successes- whether it’s conducting an informational interview, having a formal interview, or creating a target list of 15-20 organizations. In addition, schedule a meeting with a career advisor at your Alma mater to discuss your job search more in depth.  Alumni from Wilmington University can schedule a career advising appointment here.

– Jessica


About the Author

Jessica Johnson

Jessica Johnson is a career service professional with 6 years experience advising undergraduate and graduate students. Currently, she serves as a Career Advisor of Graduate Students and Special Populations at the Universities of Shady Grove in Maryland. Prior to her current role, she was a Career Management Advisor at the Kogod School of Business at American University where she advised undergraduate business students and taught career development classes. In addition, Jessica developed employer relationships and connected them to students as a member of the employer relations team at University of Baltimore. Jessica is certified administrator of the Strong Interest Inventory assessment, Gallup- Certified Strengths Coach, and has earned the Career Development Facilitator certificate.

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