7 Tips for Getting a School Counseling Job
Updated: Aug 31
People often ask me about job application tips and interview tips for how to land a career as a school counselor, school social worker, or school adjustment counselor position, so I am very excited to share this guest blog post by the experts on this topic, Alicia and Nicolette from The Prep Talk!
The Prep Talk is a personal development and branding company that helps bring the best you to life on paper and in interviews.
School Counseling: The Application Process
Applying for those hard to find school counseling positions can likely be a challenging process. As an applicant, you have obtained your Master’s degree, passed state exams, and survived the grueling state licensure process. Now, the greatest feat since licensure will be landing a job.
Maybe you are new to the field or are coming back on to the job force after a break. What is the job application process like? What criteria needs to be met to earn a school counseling position? How can an applicant stand out in a job market where there are far more applicants than positions?
When beginning the application process, there are certain strategies and techniques necessary to stand out against other applicants, especially where schools counseling jobs are few and far between. In general, an applicant will submit school counseling licensure information, cover letter, resume, and a job application which will vary from district to district.
Now is the time to set yourself apart from others. But just how will you do that?
7 Strategies to Use When Applying for a School Counseling Position:
1. Use the correct language.
Always be sure to use “school counselor” as opposed to “school guidance” or “social worker.” Although these titles and roles can be similar, in many districts, these titles serve different purposes and are not used interchangeably.
Always communicate what your title/credentials are in accordance with the position in which you are applying. Depending upon the state the job is in, a different license may be required.
The American School Counseling Association (ASCA), consistently uses the word “school counselor”. In some districts, a school counselor and a school guidance counselor may be the same thing. ASCA uses the term “school counselor” now which is what should be used consistently in a resume, cover letter, or interview unless the position is truly school guidance/social work.
2. Do not use the same resume for every job application.
Even if a job is within the same field as another, that does not necessarily mean the same resume should be submitted. Why is that? The format and descriptors from one resume to another will vary depending upon where it is being submitted.
If multiple job applications are being done for school counseling positions, of course the same resume can be submitted for those.
A school counseling resume should be amended if submitted for a job such as school social work or guidance counseling. Yes, those changes may be minute, but, it may land you the job.
When applying for a job within a different field than school counseling, a “school counseling” resume would really have to change prior to job application submission. The length and experiences necessary for an education resume will vary from many other types of resumes.
3. Find buzzwords and implement them.
A resume and cover letter should come to life when it is read. It should paint a picture of the applicant prior to being called for an interview.
Aside from having exceptional credentials and experiences, the simplest way to bring a resume to life is by interjecting buzzwords in a resume, cover letter and interview. Implementing buzzwords shows understanding and knowledge of an area.
For school counselors, words or phrases such as “collaborating”, “communication”, “ability to connect with people of all different ages”, “experience with diverse populations”, “data collection”, “targeted (small or large) group counseling” and many more, are appealing buzzwords for an employer.
Depending upon the position in which you are applying, you will want to change your buzzwords. Try to avoid taking buzzwords from the job description. Do some research on what the job may entail, then come up with buzzwords that also best describe you and your skill set.
4. Use easy to read formatting in documents.
This may seem like an obvious one, but there are resume and cover letter formats that are not aesthetically pleasing. Think about making these documents an easy read. The employer should be able to glaze over the resume or cover letter and have a general gist of a person.
Another tip to consider in your paperwork and job application is keeping education and experiences in chronological order. This is just another way to paint a clear picture of yourself to a future employer.
Show the completed resume or cover letter to friends and family. Ask them what they think at a first glance! If it is not an easy read for them, then it probably will not be for a future employer either.
If you are struggling with the layout of your resume or cover letter, templates may be your best friend! Google Docs has free, user friendly, resume and cover letter templates. When using a template, you are almost guaranteed an easy read and organization!
5. Make the content in a cover letter concise.
A cover letter is an opportunity to share intent and interest, along with a concrete example as to why you are the strongest applicant. It is encouraged to share a specific story or example that shows an admirable skill or trait. It is an opportunity to make you, the applicant, more human and likeable. Again - bringing these documents to life is essential.
Although it is crucial to be descriptive, it is even more important to be concise. A cover letter should be no longer than a page. In general, always double and triple check for grammatical errors, use size 12 Times New Roman font, and keep it concise.
6. Keep the resume concise too.
In education, a resume can go over the typical one page length if absolutely necessary. The content should be relevant and show why/how you are fit for the position.
Underneath each heading, be sure to list personal experiences in chronological order. Each description should use “buzz words” that show how that particular position has equipped you with the skill set and knowledge necessary to be successful in this new position.
A resume should consist of (including but not limited to) contact information, educational background, experience, relevant skills, volunteer opportunities and references. Each resume is specific to that person. What works for one person may not work for another based on the information that needs to be included.
Although great detail is helpful on a resume, avoid long descriptions. When it comes to describing a job title or experience, the description below should be 2-3 brief sentences or bullets describing the role. That description should be filled with the buzzwords as well!
Again, always double and triple check for grammatical errors, use size 12 Times New Roman font, and keep it concise.
7. Nail the interview!
Congratulations! The hiring panel was impressed with your resume and cover letter. Now you have been selected for an interview.
What are the two most important tips to remember? Carry your buzzwords into your interview and select a handful of experiences you have to share during the interview. These experiences should be specific and as detail oriented as possible. Details are crucial, but it is important not to monopolize the interview. Be mindful of the duration of responses. Responses should be around 1 minute 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Don’t be afraid to show personality. This is an opportunity to actually bring your resume and cover letter to life! There should be a balance of showing off knowledge in this area along with personable traits. In education, having personality is crucial. This is typically a good indicator as to how an applicant would be with their students!
At the end of the job application process, what is most important is being the best version of you. No one else can do it better than you. Own your experiences and what you have to bring to the table.
The job hunt for a position in the school system can be challenging, never be afraid to reach out for help. There may be a connection within your social network. Or it may be helpful to work with professionals on your cover letter, resume or interview confidence as well.
This process isn’t an easy one. If it were easy, everyone would get the job on the first try, right? If you’re feeling stuck, no worries, The Prep Talk is here to help!
The Prep Talk is a personal development and branding company that helps bring the best you to life on paper and in interviews. Whether it’s for a corporate position, a school internship or position in the education world, we can help you!
With our experience and success, we know what it takes to showcase your best self and stand out in today’s job market. More importantly, we teach you how you can do that! We’ve designed packages that instill self confidence and help create a personal interview “tool box” to help land your next dream job.
Alicia and Nicolette at The Prep Talk have years of experience working with the best in the business when it comes to personal marketing and branding. Alicia, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Nicolette, Special Education School Counselor, both have experience as professionals with the job application process. They pride themselves on their extensive public speaking, resume, cover letter and interview skills they acquired throughout their studies in college, working for the NFL and pageantry.