I’ve never liked the thought of networking. Something about the image of forcefully shaking a stranger’s hand and “selling” myself based on my accomplishments just makes one side of my mouth curl up a bit. I suppose part of the displeasure can be explained by my desire to have a thorough understanding of concepts in class and people in therapy sessions—to ask or expect a favor of a stranger seems too artificial for my liking. I want to feel as though I’ve earned another person’s recommendation due to contributions they could witness personally, not due to some rare and enigmatic form of charisma. But as an Admissions representative for the GCSW at the National Association of Social Workers-Louisiana conference this month, the networking potential seemed too good to pass up.
Since the start of the MSW program, I’ve known that I would be moving to Louisiana following graduation. My fiancé will be finishing graduate school in New Orleans in 2013, and knowing that I will have social support as I transition to a new city is comforting. However, as I have never lived nor worked in LA, the licensure process and job hunt seemed especially daunting. Through contacting the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LASBSWE), I learned that MSW graduates are not eligible to apply for licensure or sit for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam without their diplomas in-hand. By contrast, Texas law permits MSW graduates to both apply for licensure and take the exam prior to graduation, under the stipulation that they request a Dean’s letter verifying enrollment and anticipated graduation date. Armed with this knowledge and the tenuous hope that I will swiftly find gainful employment, I elected to receive my licensure in TX. Applying for a license by endorsement (or “transferring” when licensed in another state) appears to be a faster, although slightly more expensive, process.
Prior to the conference, I followed a parent’s recommendation to create my own business cards using a Microsoft Office template and special perforated card stock. As I carefully formatted the cards on the screen, I was distracted by the thought that I should have taken other students’ advice to order free business cards in advance from a website such as Vistaprint. Nevertheless, I was somewhat satisfied with my product and felt more prepared for that initial handshake. At a minimum, I could avoid the awkwardness of explaining that as a student intern I was not given business cards. I also made a mental commitment to update my resume immediately following the conference, as I sensed that the time for on-line resume submissions was eminent. I also recalled that Ann Liberman, Director of Alumni & Career Services, offers resume workshops.
Fighting past the knot in my stomach, I began asking conference attendees about where and what they practiced, introduced myself as a student graduating in May, and explained that I would be moving to LA and was seeking employment in outpatient adult or adolescent mental health. On one particular occasion, I served as a student volunteer for a workshop led by an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and PhD with whom I shared clinical interests. In a moment of decision or indecision, I approached with a question about his agency’s services, stated that I would be grateful for any recommendations, and handed him my business card. Perhaps not as smoothly as I would have liked, but it was progress. Overall I found that the LMSWs and LCSWs I met were receptive to my request, if not supportive. Working as an Exhibitor at the GCSW table also certainly aided this process, as I became accustomed to sharing information with colleagues who passed by the table and provided a brief introduction for the university during the packed business networking luncheon. By the conclusion of the conference, I had received a handful of business cards, a list of possible agencies to explore, and increased confidence that I could successfully navigate the job market.