Navigating the Job Search During Challenging Times

The global COVID-19 pandemic, sociopolitical climate, and accompanying distress — particularly for BIPOC communities that have been disproportionately impacted — have brought added challenges to an already stressful job-hunt process. For those graduating next spring, these challenges may feel particularly pressing.

The importance of self-care cannot be understated, especially during these times, and we encourage prioritizing it in your search and overall career management strategy. This may include monitoring your energy; setting mini-goals, and adjusting them as needed; as well as finding support and community within and outside of your personal, professional, and CSSW network, including one-on-one appointments with our office.

Students can receive additional support through our mentorship program, a new initiative started in the spring that facilitates connections to alumni for career insights and advice. BIPOC-identified students can also participate in our upcoming Communities of Color event, an annual program designed to connect and engage students and alumni of color in candid career conversations within a dedicated support space.

See below for more tips and resources on navigating the job search, as highlighted in last week’s webinar:

    • Treat job searching as a process. Allow time to reflect on how you can contribute to an organization so that you can tailor your search for opportunities that speak to your strengths, interests, and values.
    • Break down the process into smaller, achievable parts. These may include clarifying your goals and direction through a self-assessment, establishing your target list by conducting research on organizations that have missions that you care about, and learning more about career options and opportunities through informational interviews.
    • Create a timeline and action plan using organizers to track your progress. This will allow you to recognize and celebrate mini-wins that you achieve along the way, which in turn can help you stay motivated and focused.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey — there’s a community you can turn to for support. Take a moment to assess what networks and supports might be most helpful for you, not only for landing a meaningful role but also for maintaining your momentum and well-being for the long haul.

If you missed our webinar, you can find the presentation slides in Career Connect within our Document Library under the Workshops / Webinars / Presentations folder.

Making the Most of Informational Interviews

Does the idea of conducting informational interviews feel intimidating?

Consider thinking of them as “curiosity conversations”—opportunities to make meaningful connections with folx in your field and gain insights and advice that will help you move forward in your career development.

If you missed our information interviewing webinar last week, here are some key takeaways:

    • Clarify your interests, needs, and goals to assess what knowledge and insights will help you move forward in your career exploration.
    • Identify contacts from your network who possess the background or expertise in your area of interest, including through the CSSW LinkedIn Group or career mentoring program for students.
    • Prepare a brief overview of your professional experience and an agenda for the meeting to ensure you leave with your “must” takeaways.
    • Ask thoughtful questions that can provide actionable insights and build upon what you already know.
    • Make sure to follow-up with a thank you note and keep the contact up-to-date on your progress.

You can find the presentation slides in Career Connect within our Document Library under the Workshops / Webinars / Presentations folder.

Get Career Advice from an Alum through our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program!

The Office of Alumni Relations and Office of Career Services and Leadership Management are pleased to offer a special opportunity to meet virtually with alumni for career mentoring!

Mentoring Program Overview

Through this program, students can request to connect with up to 2 alums per month for 1:1 conversations to:

    • Gain insights and perspectives about a career path, field, organization, or industry;
    • Get advice about career planning, searching and applying for jobs (including resume writing), networking, interviewing, or navigating life after CSSW; OR
    • Seek support in general from someone who’s been in your shoes as a student

Interested? 

    1. Fill out this mentoring program interest form. On the form, you will find a link to a directory with a list of all available volunteer mentors. Select the one you’re interested in meeting. Note that you will have to complete this form for each request.
    2. After submitting the form, you will receive an email confirmation as well as an introductory email from Jennifer March from Alumni Relations connecting you to the alum of choice within 2 business days. If you don’t hear from Jennifer in that time frame, please email her at jennifer.march@columbia.edu.
    3. Once you receive the email, it will be your responsibility to arrange a meeting directly with the alum using the contact information provided. While Zoom meetings are recommended, you can choose a platform that works best for both you and the alum.

Remember: This is NOT a forum to ask for a job or a recommendation for a job, but rather an opportunity to gather valuable information based on their knowledge and expertise.

After the initial meeting, it will be up to you and the alum to decide whether to stay in touch.

For more information, refer to our program overview.

Questions?

For general questions about our alumni mentors, please email Jennifer March at jennifer.march@columbia.edu.
You can also refer to our Informational Interview Guide or schedule an appointment with our office to discuss your questions further.
We hope you take advantage of this opportunity!

Asking Powerful Negotiation Questions

Establishing your value and asking for more is not a selfish act, says Alexandra Carter, Director of the Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School and author of Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything. Instead, it primes others on how to value you and those who will come after you.

Negotiating is also more than asking for a higher salary and includes intangible benefits such as recognition for your achievements and mentorship and training opportunities. Asking questions is the most underutilized practice in a negotiation strategy, notes Carter. Some powerful questions she suggests asking yourself in any negotiation process are:

    • What’s the problem I want to solve and how? This can help frame what you want to ask for and how you ask for it.
    • What do I want from this negotiation? Consider both tangible and intangible needs.
    • What am I afraid of? Air out your emotions and hesitations by writing them down. Once you acknowledge your feelings, you can move forward to creating a strategy with confidence.
    • Where have I successfully advocated for myself or others in the past? In evaluating the strategies you’ve used and simply thinking about a prior success, you are more likely to do better in negotiating.

Remember, whatever you want to ask for, keep it optimistic, specific, and justifiable. Learn additional tips including how to boost your confidence going into a negotiation by listening to this episode on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Written by Rawlisha Pena, Assistant Director of Career Services and Leadership Management, August 25, 2020

Applying an Entrepreneurial Spirit to Your Career

With the world of work operating remotely, how do you stand out when the traditional means of making an impression, from networking events to coffee chats, no longer apply? Consider the framework of entrepreneurship.

An article in Forbes describes the entrepreneurial spirit as a mindset: “It’s an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service, and continuous improvement.”

Here are some ways you can incorporate this framework into your professional identity and brand:

    • Engage in critical discussions: Attend virtual conferences to meet professionals in the field who are having important discussions about the world of work in the COVID-19 era. Use these as opportunities to connect with others, learn best practices in the field, and become a resource for your field or organization. You can also start your own communities of practice.
    • Innovate or influence: Have you been following the latest trends and practices on serving communities particularly impacted by the pandemic? Share relevant thought pieces and articles on LinkedIn so others can benefit from the knowledge. You can also publish your own articles to highlight new ideas or initiatives you have worked on.
    • Embrace the value of service: Remember the personal values that brought you to social work: helping others in need. Wherever you are, look out for the call for volunteers in your community. Contributing your time and skills will help you stay connected and engaged in a meaningful way, and at the same time, showcase your value to others.
    • Seek continuous improvement: If you’re job hunting, this is a prime time to invest in your professional growth. Whether you choose to learn a new language or further develop your technical or clinical skills, taking time to up-skill will show that you are open and able to adapt to changing needs and priorities–qualities that will make you attractive to any employer.

The world needs social workers now more than ever. Leverage your natural ability to lead the way in problem solving and effecting change! Doing so will not only enhance your chances for employment, it will also make you marketable for future opportunities.

Interviewing Skills Workshop Recap

Getting called for an interview is a positive sign in the job search process. With the focus on virtual interviews, our workshop last week covered tips and strategies on how to prepare for an upcoming interview and questions to anticipate. Tips included:

    • Connect with alumni who either worked at the organization or are in similar roles to gain insights into the organization’s culture and challenges
    • Test your technology ahead of time, choose a quiet, well-lit space to conduct your interview, and limit any distractions (learn more about video interviewing here)
    • Anticipate behavioral and situational-based questions and prepare answers that show how you’ve demonstrated pertinent skills

If you missed the event, you can review the presentation slides posted in Career Connect within our Document Library under the Presentation/Workshop folder.

Alumni Panel: Journey to the C Recap

Last week, we welcomed four alumni to speak about their path to clinical social work at our virtual panel discussion, Journey to the “C”, which was co-sponsored by the Mental Health Caucus. The discussion covered an array of topics, including clinical supervision, Institute training, and interview preparation.

Regardless of where each alum started their journey, there were common themes and strategies shared by everyone:

  • Expect bumps in the road, and be open to new experiences.
  • Actively engage in continuing education, trainings, and volunteer work to develop your area of expertise.
  • Seek supervision that allows you to be vulnerable or challenged — this is the most valuable type of supervision, because it will help you to grow.
  • Enjoy the process and experience with your clients and supervisors.
  • Don’t stop learning!

Thank you to our speakers Karisma Ajodah ‘02, Gale Bayer ’87, Jillian DiPietro ’16, and Eric Levanthal ‘02 for their candid insights and advice! Also, much appreciation to Ashley Leeds ’20 for moderating the panel and helping coordinate the event.

For an overview of the panel discussion, review the notes that were taken for the event, which are stored in Career Connect within the Document Library > Workshops / Presentations Folder.

Making the Most of Employer On-Campus Recruitment Events

Want to learn about organizations seeking to hire you for full-time opportunities? We have a number of employers visiting our campus over the next several weeks starting February 11 on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 1:50 PM.

Take advantage of these events to connect with representatives, gain insight into what they’re looking for in candidates, and enhance your chances of landing a job! Below is the schedule for February. Alumni are also welcome.

See a full list of confirmed employers here.

Here are a few ways to make the most of the events and stand out from the crowd:

  • Research the organization beforehand to get a sense of their services, impact, and the communities they serve
  • Prepare an elevator pitch and ensure that you arrive on time to make a good first impression
  • Ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate your knowledge, interest, and curiosity to learn more about their organization, values, and culture
  • Inquire about opportunities for growth, training, and professional development, as well as transferable skills they value, especially if you are a career changer or don’t yet meet certain requirements
  • Collect business cards, so you can follow up to personally thank them (BONUS: Reference something you learned from the session to make yourself even more memorable!)

Your Winter Break Checklist

The holidays are a great time to refresh, reflect, and revisit your career goals. Take advantage of the winter break to prepare for the coming year. Here are five things you can do:

  1. Assess your strengths and interests. Make a list of your accomplishments, particularly those you found meaningful. Note the skills you used and the issues you helped to address.
  2. Research career options based on the skills and issues that you have identified and draft a target list of jobs and employers. Start by talking to people in your fields of interest. You can also use job search tools available within the Document Library.
  3. Organize and prepare your application materials for different opportunities. Add your latest experience to your resume and LinkedIn. If you’re in the process of applying to summer and post-graduate opportunities, make sure to tailor both the resume and cover letter for each. Refer to the career guides and checklists in the Document Library for additional tips.
  4. Work on your personal pitchHow do you want people to remember you in terms of your skills, passions, and achievements? Take the time to brainstorm your talking points and practice sharing your story with different audiences. This will help with networking and interviewing.
  5. Continue to cultivate your network. Tap into the CSSW network by joining and engaging with the CSSW LinkedIn Group and Columbia Alumni Community. If you’ve been actively reaching out to people throughout the semester (great!), make sure to send them good wishes, share an update, and/or give thanks. Simple gestures can go a long way in enhancing your relationships and opening doors to new ones.

A Journey Towards a Dynamic Social Work Career

We were thrilled to welcome back alumna Ashleigh Washington ’09, Senior Director of Learning and Staff Development at Safe Horizon, to discuss how she shaped her social work career, from providing direct services and managing programs to leading trainings for a national organization!

Attendees had the opportunity to gain a number of takeaways, including:

  • Taking the time to reflect on your experiences and assessing the activities in which you excel, the issues and causes that drive you, and the environments in which you enjoy working and thrive;
  • Embracing every opportunity as a learning opportunity; and
  • Owning your own career journey, including actively seeking ways to grow, build skills and expertise, and contribute

Thank you, Ashleigh, for sharing your inspiring story and these useful tips on building a fulfilling career!

Did you miss the talk? The captioned recordings for this and Dr. Joy Ippolito’s talk are now available in Career Connect’s Document Library within the Workshops / Webinars / Presentations Folder. (UNI login required.)