Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The REAL Skinny on Getting a School Counselor Job!

It is almost the end of the school year for the people in the mid-Atlantic part of the United States. While school may be out for the summer, this is the crazy time of year for central office personnel as it relates to possible new hires. Hundreds of recent school counselor graduates are chomping at the bit trying to secure a job. However, for those of you who think it is a simple process let me clarify how it all works from the central office perspective.

In March, many divisions send out intent forms to see if employees are returning the upcoming school year.

In April, school divisions around the country give out "pink slips" to those counselors who may not be able to return for the upcoming school year due to division reasons. Slips must be sent out in April or division's face possible law suits per HR laws. These "slips" could be because of budget cuts which are forcing divisions to cut positions, a lower projected enrollment and less school counselors are needed or if you are still on a provisional license there is no guarantee that a principal has to re-hire you.

In May, school divisions start to announce INTERNAL VACANCIES. This means, people are retiring, moving out of the area, received a job somewhere else, etc. These jobs are only available to current employees. Some graduating students, people awaiting a chance at a school counselor position may hear about these positions through the grape vine, but they really don't exist yet because the personnel who were placed on the involuntary transfer list(lost a position due to shrinking enrollment at their current schools), or those wanting to apply for another position at another school within the division are placed first. Once they are placed, then the school divisions can release the positions to the EXTERNAL VACANCY LISTING.

Now funny things occur when we get to this place in the process. So let me share some inside knowledge with you.
  1. Jobs can be posted for as little as 1 day if a principal knows who they want for the position. So it is easy to miss a posting or for you to wonder what happened to the posting that was there yesterday. 
  2. Most divisions have to interview at least 3 people to meet Human Resource regulations, so be sure to look at the behavior of the interviewers while in an interview. If they are not paying you any mind or the interview seems very short...they know who they want and this is just a formality.
  3. Remember, you are not only going up against new graduates, but teachers who have a master's in school counseling who have not been able to secure a school counseling job and have been waiting for years to secure a SC position, experienced school counselors who are moving to the area or want to switch school divisions and current school counselors in the division who want to switch schools or levels. Some schools can have as many as 100 applicants for one position. I have seen it with my own eyes!
  4. Be realistic. Is your area saturated with school counseling programs? Where I live we have 6 all within one hour of each other and then add in on-line programs. This makes jobs hard to get.
  5. Are you willing to move to be a school counselor? Some areas of the country need school counselors.
  6. It really irks me when I hear I only want to work in that division, or at that school. Why? I know why...but don't verbally say it. You sound like a snob, especially if they are perceived as "better" schools/divisions. Also, if you want to be a school counselor, then you want to be a school counselor and you can work at any school with any level. I hate it when it I hear I only want elementary or high or whatever. Especially in an interview. You are wasting every one's time if you only want to be an elementary school counselor and you interview at a middle school.
  7. Know if you are suppose to apply to the HR Department or right to the school. Know if you are suppose to contact the principal or not. Most divisions have gone to electronic applications, which means DO NOT send a letter, an email, a resume to the principal if it does not instruct you to do so. Principals download the the list from the electronic system and select interviewees from the list. They can go back and click the hyperlink to retrieve your documents.
  8. Who is doing the selecting of school counselors? The principal or the district coordinator?
  9. Please, please, please make sure your application is complete! Applications only are good for one year as well. You need to update to have it in the pool for the following year.
  10. Check to see if the division you are applying to has school counselor subs. If they do, get on the list; which requires a separate application and training.
  11. I have seen wonderful portfolios in paper and digital versions. Most times administrators do not have time to view them...or resumes, for that matter. You could be one of many applicants for several positions in a building and they are trying to get their building staffed. So don't be shocked if no one wants to look at them during your interview.
  12. Most school divisions will not hire internal applicants or applicants from other divisions sometime after mid-July, so for you recent graduates, this is a great time to check vacancies. Believe it or not, some people retire or move weeks before school starts.
  13. Administrators go on vacation in July, so there may not be any interviews for most of July.
  14. Some principals are hesitant to make a former elementary counselor a high school counselor. Too much teaching.
  15. Sometimes administrators want former teachers or experienced counselors and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the are looking for a younger person to round out their department, sometimes they are looking for a seasoned, mature individual. Sometimes they want a male or a person of color. It doesn't mean they will get those people, but in their minds this is who they would need to have an "ideal" department that represents all students. I would look at the counselors page on the school website. A picture still tells a thousand words!
  16. Be sure to talk about all of your experiences you had during your internship. Know about data. Read the school's report card. Have a plan on how you could make some relevant changes to the school population using data. Know technology. If you are a dinosaur...I feel bad for you. Everything in schools is going tech.
  17. Dress professional. No breast, butt or toe cleavage. The stores still sell suits! No loud nail polish, hair color or piercings. Schools are still relatively conservative.
  18. If you know someone who can get you an interview, get you in the door...use it!
  19. If you are a school counselor who has never been a teacher, do not apply for your license until you get a job. In Virginia, once you apply the clock starts ticking on your provisional license and if you never secure a job, you have lost your license and went to graduate school for nothing.
  20. Lastly, stay focused and determined.

Good Luck!


  1. Thank you! I am a recent graduate from Norfolk State and on the search for School Counseling Positions and I glad someone posted your blog today! I needed to read these tips and now even more determined to continue to work hard at securing a position. I have such a strong passion to help and advocate for students and can not wait to be in a position. Thanks again for the post!

  2. This is great information!!! I need all of our current students to read this blog as well.