Navigating the Social Work Job Application Process

By: Jane Shersher, LSW and Founder of Counselors Autonomous, a program within Ava Today

Helpful Hints:

I have never gotten a job from the hundreds of job applications that I have filled out when I saw job postings. It’s always been through my networking connections or by just cold calling. That being said, let’s review some helpful strategies traversing the very challenging social work employment world.

In your resume, make sure that your clinical and administrative tasks are clearly broken down and explained. Don’t use filler words and make this process as succinct as possible. Taking two pages is OK in our field. Include clubs you are a part of, organizations in which you volunteer, join professional leadership boards that make you look fancy and have useful connections for you, and make strong relationships with employers that can write killer recommendations for you.

Organize your job application process in folders:

  • Resumes
  • Cover letters
  • Recommendations / referral contact information
  • Lists of places you applied and when, the status of your application and contact info of people at each organization

Send documents as PDF’s because people’s computers are often different and the format of documents like resumes often gets blown when you send to another user.

Apply to places that you are passionate about. If you can identify a specific population that you would like to work with, try to focus on companies that serve that population so that you don’t get overwhelmed with all of the cool-looking jobs on all of the job search forums. For example, there was a time when I wanted to only work with the geriatric population. I therefore called all of the nursing homes within the greater Boston area where I lived at the time and landed a great job within a month. My search was focused and it centered around my passion, and this paid out for me because no one wants to hire an uninspired worker.

Wherever I send an application, I try to follow up with a call to the HR department or hiring manager. A personal connection is worth so much more than a random application. It’s scary but worth it. Sometimes calling more than once shows how passionate and committed you are to a particular job. Follow up wherever there is expressed interest from employers, even after emails and phone calls, and especially after interviews.

Write on the wall of the Facebook community that I started for young mental health practitioners. We help people within the field to find jobs. It’s a private closed group called Counselors Autonomous, and if you request membership, I will let you in for you to post on the wall and ask if anyone knows companies that are hiring at the time.

Apps that help to apply for jobs:

  • PathSource
  • Indeed Jobs
  • Glassdoor
  • Jobr
  • Resume Star
  • JobSnap
  • Upwork, Fiver, & Task Rabbit (for gig work while you are looking for full time jobs

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Websites that help to apply for jobs:

  • Indeed (you can upload your resume and quick apply with one button rapidly)

It’s not an easy process but remind yourself that this time will pass, you will eventually, and hopefully sooner rather than later, get a job that will pay the bills and make you love your life. Try to secure clinical jobs so that you can get supervision credit hours toward your 3,000 quota – even if you plan to do administrative work, having an LCSW is going to help with job security and payment ranges and is therefore worth it to pursue by landing the right job and taking the clinical exam.

Good Luck!