Exploring Counselling as a Profession

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Considering Counselling as a profession - want to know more read these 15 Questions and Answers for industry insight, hints and tips from a professional counsellor and career development specailist

Considering Counselling as a profession – want to know more read these 15 Questions and Answers for industry insight, hints and tips from a professional counsellor and career development specialist.

As outlined in ones post “Counselling Careers – Employment Opportunities and Trends of even date, one was approached by the ACA (Australian Counselling Association) earlier this year to draw on ones specialist Career Development skills, qualifications and experience (15 years) and 9 years generalist Counselling experience for a video interview and supporting magazine article.

Supporting this interview and intended magazine article were the responses to 15 questions posed by the ACA, to which one responded by utilising conversational English to ensure ones message met the needs of a diverse target base.

The ACA has recently decided it does not want to use this valuable information; However one perceives this is highly valuable information for those considering a career in Counselling, recent graduates and seasoned professional whom may be seeking career guidance and development strategies.

Thus please find below 15 Questions and Answers to help you explore Counselling as a profession.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

  1. Are there jobs out there for Registered Counsellors? Is there competition?

YES, there are jobs out there for Registered Counsellors; however, what you need to determine is how flexible you are in relation to the positions that you will undertake in terms of title, location, responsibilities and remuneration structure.

To help you scope out positions available to you at various educational levels, one has compiled a PowerPoint Presentation to highlight same.  Keeping in mind that Diploma and Degree level qualifications are seen as the foundation of your knowledge and will provide you with an entry level position to build your skills, knowledge and experience whereas that Post Graduate, Masters’ and PHD level qualifications are viewed as your area of specialisation, building upon your existing acumen and skills set after a period of experience in the real world.

The second part of this question pertains to competition and Yes just like any other area of your life there is always competition.  Competition is something that you will never escape so you need to be comfortable with the term, identify your unique selling points, understand at a core level who you are, what you want and do not want, establish a career development plan with realistic goals and small steps to achieve your goals and consistently work on your craft through continued education for the rest of your career.

2.  Does ACA Membership assist with securing employment, and how so?

Yes, your ACA Membership can assist you with securing employment in a number of ways.
3 Key ways include: –

Accessing the ACA’s Career Centre (link on the website’s home page) which provides a national job search engine for all registered members.  Simply add in your preferred job location, specialisations and work type preferences hit search jobs and all relevant positions matching your criterion will pop up.

ACA Memberships plays a key role in securing employment; that is many advertised position will list as part of their essential or desirable criterion an affiliation requirement.  Thus, when a prospective employer is culling applications they are searching for a candidate that meets a minimum 75% of their criterion and will conduct a skills matrix to compare and contrast candidates.

ACA Networking – Your ACA membership provides you with the opportunity to network with industry contemporaries  though chapter meetings, events or professional networking sites such as LinkedIn which facilitates in securing employment opportunities in the hidden job market which equates to 80-85% of all positions.

3.  What is the employment outlook for Counselling in Australia?

The  Australian Government identifies that the Counselling industry over the last 5 years has experienced very strong growth which is predicted to continue over the next 5 years (until May 2020).

It is important to realise that all employment sectors have periods of growth, decline and regeneration however what you need to look at in detail is the employment cycle over a period of time to determine if the industry is viable, where the jobs are, average remuneration structures etc.

Looking back on historical data it is noted that in 2007 there were 18,000 workers in the industry, in 2010 it peaked at 26,000 with a significant decline in 2011 to 13,200.  Since 2011, the industry has consistently grown each year and in 2017 the figures reached 23,500 workers.

Thus, taking into account the natural peaks and troughs over the past 10 year one notes that the employment outlook is growing; which means that opportunities are been created through individuals leaving the industry as well as new positions been generated within the existing organisations.

4.  How often are Counsellors earning per week, on average?

There are a number of factors that determine a remuneration structure including but not limited to: –

  • Location (national vs global, intrastate vs interstate, region vs region)
  • Qualification level
  • Employment status preference i.e. F/T, P/T, Casual
  • Skills and experience
  • Labour market demands
  • Role
  • Employment Sector

As a general rule of thumb, the average national gross income for a

  • Diploma qualified Counsellor the average is $928.84 (48K pa)
  • Degree qualified Counsellor is $1,330.00 per week (69K pa)
  • Post Graduate or higher qualifications remuneration structures generally commerce at around $90-$95K+ excluding salary packaging components dependent on your specialisation, experiences, skills set, sector you are entering, your influencing and negotiation skills set at point of remuneration negotiation within the recruitment and selection process.

5. What do these figures in earnings and employment outlook tell us about the industry of counselling?

Analysing the above data and labour market information in general the key notations are:-

  • Counselling is a growth industry and will continue grow over the next 5 years
  • There is a direct correlation between your AFQ level and your remuneration structure – for each AFQ level you obtain your salary will on average increase by $21K pa
  • Employment opportunities are strongest on the Eastern seaboard with NSW been the strongest employer
  • P/T work is common although more than half of the workforce is engaged on a f/t basis – thus there is a need to develop a Portfolio Career
  • Average hours worked per week is 37.1 and average age of a Counsellor is 46 years
  • 8:10 Counsellors are females

6. What advice can you give to new graduates in relation to starting their career as a Registered Counsellor?

  • Find and regularly engage with an experienced and supportive supervisor, external to your workplace
  • Commit yourself to life-long learning – stay current and relevant
  • Volunteer for work, industry events and to be apart of industry committees – networking, develop you’re a strong brand
  • Network, Network, Network via chapter meetings, industry events, register and use LinkedIn; connect with like minded individuals and groups – learn and share a information and resources via networks
  • Know who you are – your strengths, skills, personality type, career interest; conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself on a regular basis; identify, establish and monitor your career objectives set realistic action steps and keep going
  • Be the driver of your career, take responsibility and navigate your path. Listen to the opinion and feedback of others but at the end of the day listen to your own internal guidance with respect to your specialisation and education, what works and does not work for you. Remember this is YOUR CAREER not someone else’s you need to be happy in what you do regardless of what other people think, say or do.
  • When you become stuck in your career and can not see a way forward or become confused as to your next step look at the facts and patterns of your previous role(s) – what did you learn, what did you enjoy, what do you not want to do again. Then act based on this data; review and revamp your career plan and action steps
  • Realise that it is not uncommon for therapists to experience triggers; develop and regularly use a self-care plan and speak with your supervisor when you are triggered
  • Make use of all ACA resources, products and services such as Career Centre, Chapter Meetings and Journals
  • Put your hand up for new opportunities, even if you are anxious – nervous, you will not grow as a Counsellor if you do not take calculated risks and remember it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all – at the very least you will learn more about yourself and will be able to identify if this is an achievement that you can add to your CV or if it is something you would rather avoid in the future
  • Be realistic in your career expectations and think outside the square that is: –
  • Don’t just look for “Counselling jobs” (titles), use the Employment Opportunities AQF Level PowerPoint presentation to start to identify complementary job titles such as Case Manager, Art Therapist, HR Consultant, Juvenille Justice Officer
  • The first 5 to 10 years of Counselling is a steep learning curve as you develop and refine your skills, knowledge and experience; keep in mind this period of time is about establishing foundations and stepping stones, it is not your entire career, accept this learning stage and the opportunities that come your way – focus on what you have learnt (achievements), areas you need to develop or refine to move forward rather than pay, tiles etc that will come in time.
  • Remember Rome was not built in a day have realistic career objectives and time-frames; and if you are experiencing difficulties talk to a qualified Career Counsellor or Development Practitioner – ACA may have members such as myself that are qualified Career Counsellors whom they can refer you to or go to the CDAA website and find a practitioner in your local area

7. How can Registered Counsellors maximise their employment opportunities?

To maximise your employment opportunities, you first must understand and accept that Australia is part of the global labour market and as such employment opportunities and competition will derive from global sources.

Thus, in order to maximise your employment opportunities it would be highly advisable to: –

  • Commit to life-long learning – KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
  • Adopt a flexible working structure expectation – long gone are regular 9-5 hours
  • Develop and utilise change management strategies to help you navigate a ever changing global economy and workforce
  • Focus on developing innovative, systems, programs and services that will make you standout from the global crowd
  • Develop and maintain strong professional networks nationally and globally
  • Remember to be careful how you climb the corporate ladder – you never know when you will need to call on your contacts
  • Develop a professional LinkedIn site and activate the Job Link function; remember 90%+ of recruiters use LinkedIn to source candidates with the vast majority utilising LinkedIn as their sole or primary source.
  • As author Susan Jeffers once said – Feel the fear and do it anyway – step outside your comfort zone challenge and push yourself forward – no one else is as invested in your career as you are.
  • If you meet 75% of the employment criterion apply for the job; your job should provide you with room to grow and develop as a professional.
  • Remember when applying for jobs that the top 3 or 4 criterion are the most important criterion’s – this is they are likely to be the non-negotiable area for the majority of employers; even if the job ad says essential and desirable criteria.

8. What can Registered Counsellors do to be best informed about any updates in Counselling employment?

To stay abreast of employment opportunities in the counselling industry one recommends that you: –

  • Find an industry mentor and regularly meet i.e. once a fortnight or month; a mentor is different to a supervisor
  • Access and digest a variety of media from news programs to industry journals and articles; even pursuing complementary industry journals and articles both nationally and globally
  • Regularly utilise ACA services
  • Follow industry leaders and seasoned professionals on social media, better yet join online forums and discussions to share and access resources and information
  • Access salary survey information through a variety of public and private sector sources such as but not limited to recruitment companies, educational providers, job search engines, specialist public and private sector providers such as Department of Jobs and Small Business.
  • Source and maintain a professional relationship with a recruitment consultant specialising in the Counselling field or complementary fields i.e. Health, Community and Social Welfare Recruitment agencies or think of the big names such as Hudson or Ethical Jobs.

9.  Is it normal to be rejected on job applications?

Yes, it is normal to be rejected on job applications; keep in mind that for every job advertisement that is placed it is probable that there is over 200 applicants; so first and foremost you need to be realistic and apply the law of averages i.e. is it statistically probable that you will receive a telephone call or a request to attend an interview for every application you submit and of course the answer is no.

Some common reasons why your application may be rejected include:-

  • The content, layout and presentation of your documentation
  • Failure to address the employer criterion adequately or not at all
  • Employer preferences and biases
  • Over or under qualified
  • Your Resume – CV contains superfluous, discriminatory or antiquated information
  • Large unexplained gaps in your Resume – CV
  • Large volume of casual or part-time work vs full time work; which in the eyes of a Recruiter or HR professional displays an unstable work history = increased risk; there are tips and tricks to address this so if you find yourself in this position speak with a qualified Career Counsellor or Development practitioner

If after a period of 2-3 months of serious committed job searching you are still not obtaining the results you seek it would be beneficial to consider engaging the services of a Career Counsellor or Consultant to help you address your concerns, revamp your employment documentation or provide innovative career strategies to help you achieve your goals.

10. What are average rates of pay for counsellors?

Answered in question 4

11. Where are most Registered Counsellors getting work?

Whilst this will vary from state to state, on educational level and experience, based on research one has identified that Registered Counsellors secure employment opportunities within a variety of public and private sector organisations including but not limited to: –

  • Aboriginal Community Organisations
  • Alcohol and Drug Centres
  • Charities i.e. Mission Australia, Salvation Army and Red Cross
  • Community Health Centres
  • Community Services
  • Death Care Industry
  • Department of Corrective Services
  • Family and Community Services
  • Financial Counselling Network
  • Forensics (Coroners Courts, Forensic Mental Health)
  • Government – State
  • Health Care i.e. Pallative Care and Rehabilitation
  • HR and Recruitment Consultancy (large providers i.e. Hudson, Hays etc)
  • Insurers
  • Judicial Industry
  • Local Health Districts
  • Medical Condition Support Services i.e. Epilepsy Foundation, MS Australia
  • Mental Health and Prevention Services i.e. Life Line and Suicide Call Back Service
  • Mental Health Services
  • NDIS providers
  • Neighbourhood Centres
  • Not for Profit Organisations such as Epilepsy Foundation and MS Australia
  • Outreach Service
  • Public and Private Sector Practices
  • Religious – Faith Based institutions
  • Research Foundations
  • Residential Care Facilities
  • Retirement Villages
  • Secondary and Tertiary Education Providers
  • Women’s Resource Centres

12. Who are some of the key employers in Australia?

Key Employers include: –

  • Anglicare
  • Beyond Blue
  • Carers Australia
  • Catholic Care and Anglicare
  • Courts i.e. Family and Coroners Court
  • Disabilities Services Australia
  • Disability Employment Services
  • Government Health Departments
  • Headspace
  • Hospitals
  • Insurance Companies – Return to Work
  • Life Without Barriers
  • Judicial Industry (Courts and Judicial Health)
  • Mission Australia
  • Red Cross
  • Relationships Australia
  • Salvation Army
  • Secondary and Tertiary Education Providers
  • Victim Support Services
  • Wesley Mission
  • WorkCover – now SIRA (NSW); Worksafe QLD, VIC & ACT; Return to Work SA, WorkCover WA, NT Worksafe
  • Benevolant Society

14. Which industries are more likely to hire counsellors?

According to an Australian government website dedicated to career planning and development the industries a Counsellor is likely to gain employment in are: –

  • Health Care and Social Assistance – 44.2%
  • Education and Training – 33.4%
  • Public Administration and Safety – 11.1%
  • Administration and Services – 4%
  • Other Industries – 7.3%

15. How can I “future-proof” my employment?

I do not perceive that anyone can truly “future proof” their employment/career; that is, in a global economy that is forever changing, developing and implementing new technologies that we currently have no comprehension or understanding of it is impossible to “future proof your employment/career for the next 10, 20, 30+ years.

Rather one perceives the focus should be on How Can You Optimise Your Career or Employment to at the very least stay relevant if not at the cutting edge of progress in the industry.

As the famous American guitarist and songwriter B.B. King once stated “Education is the one thing that no one can take from you”; and as I say Education is the key to securing the future that you want – think of it as an evolutionary process on your journey.

Thus, in order to optimise your career/employment the number 1 rule is to commit yourself to life- long learning whether that be moving through the ranks with respect to tertiary qualifications, undertaking a myriad of relevant and meaningful continual professional development courses, accreditations, certifications combined with your supervision and possible mentoring you will have set a solid path for optimising your future as you continue to stay relevant year in year out.

Other Key Rules include: –

  • Developing and maintaining professional and social networks, as previously discussed you never know when a contact will help you on your journey so ensure you treat everyone with respect and equality regardless of their position or status in the now.
  • Fundamentally knowing and understanding who you are, your career interest, personality type, strengths, areas of development and preferences; this will provide you with a solid platform to launch, manage or transform your career regardless of the global economy. Invest in a solid Career Development Report that will provide self-awareness, insights, growth, goal development and monitoring aspects. A great Career Development Report should not only provide you with guidance and ah ha moments in the now but also be a source of self-reference in the future.
  • Maintain your sanity through ongoing self-care and supervision on a regular basis; no excuses
  • Develop and regularly update your Resume-CV and/or LinkedIn Profile; ideally every 6 months or at the bare minimum every 12 months – for you do not know when and where inspiration or opportunity will present itself you need to be ready to take the bull by the horns and run with the opportunities presented to you.
  • Do your research in terms of your marketable value based on your skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience; check out remuneration surveys available through a variety of source – some organisations provide these for free others you may have to pay for i.e. government departments, recruitment agencies and specialist consultancy are a good place to start.
  • Finally, remember to be flexible in terms of position titles, expectations, work style preference gone are the days of regular 9 to 5 work; we are now in a global economy where contract work is prominent thus the move to a Portfolio Career is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Thus, it is imperative that you have a strong educational foundation, skills set and knowledge; a base that will allow you to take advantage of global as well as national opportunities as and when they present themselves to you.

About the Author: – Katherine is the Founder of Blu Ripples a specialist Career Counselling and Consulting practice located in Port Stephens NSW.  Katherine is a nationally registered Career Development Specialist and Counsellor; is a Professional Member of the Career Development Association of Australia, Member of the Australian Counselling Association of Australia and Australian Association for Psychological Type. Katherine has worked in private practice since 2003 and prior to that worked in the corporate sector for a period of 12 years predominantly in Human Resources and Administration.

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