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Professional Development

Work It With Juan!

Episode One

Episode One - Extended Content

What is Professional Development?

To best help our clients, patients and communities, your education in social work shouldn’t end when you receive your diploma. Take advantage of professional development opportunities to stay up-to-date with your practice.

Professional development is a general term that refers to a wide variety of learning opportunities that supplement your formal education. It may include such things as trainings, workshops, seminars, conferences, panel discussions, film screenings and webinars.

It is designed to help you improve your knowledge, skills and work performance while staying current on research and developments in the field. Professional development can also provide you with opportunities to network with other practitioners, as well as help you grow in your career.

While professional development usually refers to learning you receive after your degree, students can also sometimes take advantage of these opportunities as they earn their social work degrees. In fact, many of our professional development events are also open to students!

An Overview of Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

Certain professional development opportunities will offer Continuing Education Units, or CEUs. A CEU is a unit of credit offered by a continuing education “provider” approved by a state licensing board. Providers include accredited schools (like the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work), associations (like the National Association of Social Workers), or other individuals or entities that offer continuing education activities and meet licensing board requirements. CEUs can be earned in-person or online.

CEUs are vital to Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), who are required to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education for licensure renewal to stay current with their practice. The number of hours of continuing education required to maintain a license varies by state. For example, in California, all social work licensees are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education during each two (2)-year license renewal period.

You can receive CEUs by attending events or activities offered by continuing education "providers." Promotional materials for the activity will likely indicate whether CEUs will be offered for attending, and certificates are usually issued as proof that a practitioner has completed CEUs.

The next time you receive promotional materials for a social work event, look to see if it indicates that CEUs will be offered! It will often also state how many credits you will be eligible to earn at the event.

One more thing—and this is very important to remember—if you are eligible to receive CEU credits at an event, you must indicate this when you register or check-in for the event. If you miss this step, you risk losing the opportunity to receive the CEUs with certificate at the completion of the event.

Work It With Juan!

Episode Two
Episode Two - Extended Content

WORK IT WITH JUAN Episode 2: Pitfalls of Applications and Resumes

TRANSCRIPT April Castañeda, assistant director for human resources, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

April Castañeda is currently the assistant director for human resources at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she is responsible for driving HR strategy through innovation, talent management, and directorate partnerships. Prior to JPL, April was the executive director for human resources at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Throughout her 17-year career at Caltech, she held a number of leadership positions including senior director for employee and organizational development, director of staff education and career development, and director of consulting services at the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center. April holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Southern California (USC) and a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Women’s Studies. She has taught graduate courses at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, and is currently a member of the board of Options for Learning, a nonprofit organization which provides early childhood education to low-income families.

How has your relationship/involvement with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work helped or influenced you?

APRIL: I graduated with an MSW from USC in 1999. The industrial program was awesome and it totally set me up to go into the industry. My MSW provided me with a great opportunity to really grow at Caltech. I got hired at Caltech where I had my field placement as the manager of their employee assistance program. I then taught at the school for five years – a class on policy, a mezzo-level practice class in the industrial social work program (now called Social Change and Innovation) and a class on leadership.

What are the best ways to overcome or avoid potential issues on a job application, such as gaps in employment?

APRIL: It depends on what the gap in employment is. First, you need to always be honest about the years you worked in places. If there is a long unemployment gap, it is important that you still show you have continued to be involved in activities to keep your skills current. That is the main worry for potential employers - that people are not keeping current and keeping their skills sharp. Activities can include volunteering, providing your expertise, being a speaker, doing a free workshop, of participating on a nonprofit board, etc.

If the gap in employment is due to a maternity/paternity leave or caring for a loved one, you should include this information.

What should you do if you were terminated from employment?

APRIL: The most important thing is to never talk badly about your ex-employer. If you were laid off, you can mention that, or if your entire team transitioned, or the organization was bought out, etc.

If you were terminated, you can write “job ended” or that you transitioned to another job. You can discuss the details of the termination in the interview in a positive light (e. g., it was not a good fit, etc.). Another suggestion is if you are terminated from a position, you can always ask your employer if you can report your parting as a resignation. This can be negotiated with some employers and often employers will be okay with this if you ask them. There is no harm in this for employers.

Again, it is always important to be honest.

What about if you do not have enough experience for the job you are applying for?

APRIL: This is the worst for people who just graduated from school. You should list all projects, internships, summer abroad experiences, student government, field placements, and even jobs that are not related to social work (e. g., waitressing, retail). Include all experiences. The main objective is to show that you have been active and employable.

How should you handle it if you received a DUI?

APRIL: Some employers will not ask about convictions or a DUI until the interview. For example, JPL tells applicants they will have to go through a background check and asks if this is okay with you. At this point, applicants should share information about any convictions or issues that may come up on a background check.

Employers may still hire you if you have a DUI. It depends on whether the job involves driving or not. If it does, then a DUI will not work, but some employers will look at the other circumstances involved if the job does not require driving (e. g., how long ago the DUI was or how many there are). It depends on the industry and if the DUI will affect your ability to work. Some employers might exhibit more flexibility (e. g., substance abuse agencies) but others may not and be more strict, such as if you will be working with kids.

With regard to providing salary history and the new law in California (which may soon also be implemented in other states), how should this be handled?

APRIL: When I was employed at Caltech, it was mandatory to ask for salary history on the application. But I had this removed when I started in human resources, because research showed that asking about salary history always put women at a disadvantage. Personally, I do not care what someone made in the past. What is important is what the salary range is for a particular job. Now, at Caltech, they ask for what salary range you are looking for to see if your salary expectations are aligned with the salary range for the position.

The new law in California that began on January 1, 2018 California states that it is illegal in California to ask an applicant for his/her salary history. You may not base a hiring decision or a new hire's salary on their salary history unless they volunteer their salary history, in which case you may consider it in determining salary. However, the California Fair Pay Act also forbids employers from relying on prior salary, by itself, to justify any disparity in pay. Employers are also required to provide applicants with the pay range for a position upon reasonable request. California and New York usually lead in employment law so this may extend to other states.

If an employer still asks you about salary history on an application, leave it blank. If an employer mentions this in the interview, you can say that you left the question blank because the law in California (or any other state where this is applicable) has changed and you assumed that their application had not been updated yet, so you left if blank. If an employer persists, then you can tell them that it would be more helpful for you to learn if the salary range for the position is what you are looking for. If an employer still make it mandatory to provide your salary history, then provide it, but use this as information to evaluate the employer and decide whether you want to work with them.

What constitutes a good resume?

APRIL: At JPL, we get hundreds of resumes for each of our job openings, as do most organizations, so it is very important that you make it clear and concise.

Your resume is just the start of a conversation. It is like peaking someone’s interest to have a first date. In fact, I once did a workshop on how hiring is like the dating process. Your resume is like your online profile. The employer is thinking, “do I want to email you, get to know you better, send you a smiley face? ” Resumes are like interior decorating. What makes a good resume is personal for everyone.

I prefer chronological resumes because today employers are focused on work experience and this format allows employers to clearly see that. It needs to be organized – do not make a hiring manager have to work hard to gain the information they are seeking. Use data and analytics in your resume if you are able (e. g., number of cases/patients you see annually, budget size you oversee, etc.). Mention relevant experience and add details (e. g., types of therapy you provided, etc.). Proofread, proofread, proofread – I cannot stress this enough. If a hiring manager or employer sees typos in your resume they may think this is the standard of detail they can expect from you during employment and not want to go any further. As always, be honest.

You should have different versions of your resume for the different types of jobs you may apply for. Additionally, identifying keywords in the job description – such as minimum requirements - and then weaving those into your resume is always a good practice to catch a hiring manager or employer’s attention.