Attorney Articles | Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Job Hunting and CV Writing Tips

Articles by Legal Department Staff

The Legal Department articles are not intended to serve as legal advice and are offered for educational purposes only. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice and it is not intended to address every situation that could potentially arise. Please be aware that laws, regulations and technical standards change over time. As a result, it is important to verify and update any reference or information that is provided in the article.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Job Hunting and CV Writing Tips

Job hunting and curriculum vitae writing can be a daunting and time consuming task whether one is searching for a trainee position, an internship or changing jobs as a licensed MFT. Only the lucky few obtain positions without having to und

Job hunting and curriculum vitae (“CV”) writing can be a daunting and time consuming task whether one is searching for a trainee position, an internship or changing jobs as a licensed MFT. Only the lucky few obtain positions without having to undergo this process…for the rest of you, we have put together a “how to” article on CV and cover letter writing, as well as job hunting tips.1

CV Writing
A CV is not an autobiography but a marketing tool to get your foot in the door, the interview. There is no specific right or wrong way to create a CV; however, there are simple guidelines all professionals should follow:

General Guidelines

  1. Be honest. You can be fired for lying on a CV and rest assured, employers can tell when you have stretched the truth
  2. Use 8 1/2 x 11 paper; white and ivory are the most common colors of CV paper.
  3. No errors: triple check spelling, grammar and punctuation; proof read.
  4. Do not include personal information (sex, age, marital status, ethnicity, etc.).
  5. Be careful when including political or religious memberships.
  6. Unlike a resume, a CV can be more then one page. Don’t be bashful; let employers know your skills.
  7. Font: 10 point minimum; 11 or 12 point preferred.
  8. Use past tense for jobs and accomplishments in which you are no longer involved.

Content of CV
As noted above, CVs are a work of art and can come in various forms. Although you don’t want to include your entire life history, you do want to let the prospective employer know what your qualifications are and why you are suited to the position. Listed below are things that can be included in your CV:

Your name should stand out and be a bigger font then the rest of your CV. Don’t use silly or inappropriate email addresses. Include your temporary and permanent address if you are hoping to move back to your hometown or moving out of town.

Objective Section:
Some people like to use this section, while others don’t. This is a personal choice. If you do choose to include an “objective” section, make sure to tailor it towards the specific employer’s needs.

If you are still obtaining your MFT or recently graduated, the education section will be located at the top of your CV. If you have worked as an MFT for 20 years and are switching careers, the education section does not need to go first. Under education you will list your school, what degree you have obtained or are obtaining, date of graduation, and any honors you graduated with.

Some employers like to know your GPA, some don’t care. If you have a good GPA, it does not hurt to include this information. If your GPA isn’t the best, leaving it off might be wise.

Practicums and other course work, which speaks directly to the kind of agency you are applying, should be included to let the employer know you have education in the field in which they are hiring.

Volunteer work is similar to employment and should be treated as such. Just because you did not make money at a particular internship does not mean you did not work hard or learned numerous skills. The employment section may be divided by category, i.e.: research, teaching, clinical, etc. This will depend on how much experience you have. Obviously, the more experience you acquire will make your CV become longer , and thus need better organization. There is no right or wrong way to do this section; some people prefer bullets, some like abbreviated sentences, it will depend on your personal style. Just remember, you want to get across what you did in that position, and what skills you obtained that could be transferred to the position to which you are applying. List the name of the employer, job title, as well as the dates of employment.

For trainees and interns, include under each entry, your supervisor’s name and the hours you worked. This will let the employer know who to contact for references, as well as the amount of experience you obtained while in that position. As an MFT goes further and further into practice this section is no longer essential.

Professional Affiliations:
This section may be added to show the organizations to which you belong. As discussed previously, be cautious when discussing political or religious groups unless it is pertinent to your application.

Honors and Awards:
Depending on when you received these awards that relate to your qualifications, you can combine this section with your education. However, if you graduated 20 years ago, you may wish to separate out the honors section from the education section.

Workshops Attended:
Workshops, professional development or continuing education that speaks directly to the skills required for that employer. If you received additional training in holistic therapy but are applying for elder abuse, the two may not necessarily coincide. However, if you received training in domestic violence, that could be utilized at a child abuse clinic.

List any publications that you authored, coauthored, or provided research for. However, make sure to give credit where due!

Any presentations you gave or co-presented. Make sure to include the title of the presentation, the year, and any other pertinent or unique information.

Foreign Languages:
You will likely be working with very diverse groups of clients. If you speak a foreign language, make sure to specify this information as it could very well be an important qualification.

Some people list their references while others simply state “references available upon request.” This is a stylistic thing and it is up to you. Either way, make sure you have your references’ permission, as well as know that you will be receiving a good endorsement. Further, make sure your references are familiar with the types of positions in which you are applying.

Cover Letter Writing
Not all employers expect or require cover letters to be submitted with CVs. However, cover letters are a great way to show potential employers that you are a qualified applicant specifically interested in that position. Cover letters can also show potential employers details about you that are not covered in your CV: writing style, personality, specific interest or knowledge of the employer, or even name-dropping. Your cover letter allows you to convey your philosophies of professional practice.

Cover letters should be drafted to the specific employer you are attempting to “woo,” not a generic version of your CV. The letter should be addressed to a named individual, for example, “Mr. John Smith, Executive Director” not “To Whom It May Concern.” The letter should be drafted with the employer’s needs in mind, not yours. What is so special about you versus the other applicants? Why could you help their organization or agency? Unlike the CV, you should keep your cover letter to one page or under. For Example:

Paragraph 1:
If applicable, a name of a contact- (e.g. “John Smith of ___ suggested I contact you…..”); Who are you- (e.g. “I am a registered intern…”); What’s your goal- (e.g. “I am interested in obtaining an internship…”); Brief explanation of your abilities, no more then one sentence- (e.g. “I recently graduated from ____ and gained my practicum in _____.”) This is the first paragraph the employer will read, and is essentially the window into your soul. Make the employer want to read on and want to get to know you.

Paragraph 2:
This section can be one or two paragraphs. This is the section where you combine your relevant experience and credentials with the stated qualifications of the desired position. Types of credentials to include: academic accomplishments, honors and awards, research and publication endeavors. Obviously, depending upon what the specific employer is looking for, that will dictate what credentials you include. (e.g. “While at XYZ, I co-published an article describing the ______ which...”)
This is also the section where you convey to the employer why you wish to work for them in particular. Does your past work/volunteer experience indicate a continued desire to work in the field that this employer has a position? Does your history and goals coincide with the philosophies and objectives of the employer?

Paragraph 3:
Don’t waste this section on a generic closing. Let the employer know whether you are waiting to hear from them, or if you will be contacting them. Remind them how interested you are in the position.

The main thing to focus on when it comes to writing a cover letter is that this is the first time the employer is introduced to you. Meaning: make sure you come across exactly as you wish to and most importantly, make sure there are no typos. As mentioned, not everyone uses cover letters but it is a great way to stand out and convey information not covered in the CV.

Job Hunting Tips
Good news! According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the “overall employment of counselors is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014.” The Dept. of Labor has stated that the increased demand for mental health counselors is due to: the growing needs of statewide networks that are being established to improve services for children and teens with serious emotional disturbances; the ever-growing managed care systems, insurance companies are increasingly providing reimbursement of counselors as a less costly alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists; the number of people needing rehabilitation counseling is expected to grow; and, the fact that employers are increasingly offering employees mental health assistance.2

Geography of Job:
Even with the job market on the rise in this industry, finding a job for you can still be challenging. First and foremost, what geographic location are you going to find your job? As they say in the housing market: location, location, location. Just like anything else, the more desirable a location, the harder it will be to find an internship or permanent position in that area. If you are finding your job hunt to be difficult, you may wish to send your CV to some towns with less competition: for example, the central valley. Once you obtain some experience at this location, you can transfer to the town more desired.

Like geography, if you are open to volunteer internships and lower paying positions, more options for a wide variety of jobs will be at your disposal. Obviously, we all want to get paid for hard work, but if you take less now you might be able to obtain hours and experience that can land you a great paying job down the road. Don’t turn your nose up at a great internship just because you aren’t getting rich from the experience.

It is always easier to find a job if you have one foot in the door already. Does your professor work at a clinic you wish to apply to? Does your uncle work at the hospital you are interested in? What about local CAMFT chapter meetings? Getting your name out there can only help you find your desired position quicker and more successfully.

What do employers look for?
Well, obviously, that will change depending on the specific practice, hospital, or setting. However, the more hours you have received both in your masters program, your practicum, under direct supervision, or on your own directly relates to how marketable you are.

Your practicum, trainee position and internship should be in a work setting you wish to pursue full time.

Obviously, if you wish to work within recovery and rehabilitation, it would make sense to have hours in that field.

The more reputable your school or agency is, the more marketable you will be. This is something to consider when choosing a program to achieve your masters, as well as which trainee agencies and internships to accept.

Have you done any vignettes within your school? Many academic programs offer these types of classes, which helps students prepare not only for the upcoming licensing exam, but also real life situations that occur in practice.

These are some of the things that employers look for in a potential candidate. Each employer is different and researching the agency or hospital will help you understand their needs better, thus making your CV, cover letter and interview more effective. As discussed previously, a good CV will help you get the interview, but once you are before the employer, the rest is up to you. And, on a final note, we recommend that before pursuing any job hunt, you ask your current university or college career counselor, or the school from which you graduated, to review your CV before submitting it.

We at CAMFT wish you the best of luck!

SAMPLE Curriculum Vitae

Catherine L. Godfrey, J.D., is a Staff Attorney at CAMFT. Cathy is available to answer members’ questions regarding business, legal, and ethical issues.

1 These are general suggestions and as stated, there is no 100% right or wrong way to do a cover letter. Before sending out a cover letter or CV we suggest having a career counselor review it.

2 U.S. Department of Labor- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Counselors.

This article appeared in the September/October 2006 issue of The Therapist, the publication of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, headquartered in San Diego, California. The information contained in this article is intended to provide guidelines for addressing legal dilemmas. It is not intended to address every situation that could potentially arise, nor is it intended to be a substitute for independent legal advice or consultation. When using such information as a guide, be aware that laws, regulations and technical standards change over time, and thus one should verify and update any references or information contained herein.