I knew I would be looking for full-time work upon my graduation from college, but I left my private liberal arts program having had zero conversations with any school faculty or staff about post-graduation plans. The only people I knew who had full-time jobs lined up before graduation were those who were in the business school. I had heard a few people in the anthropology department talk about applying to PhD programs, but that wasn’t something I was interested in, and I don’t recall anyone discussing employment. Although I was vaguely aware that the college had a career center, I knew nothing about it– not the location of it, the services offered, etc. It did not occur to me to ever inquire about it, look it up, or visit.
Although I had worked on and off since I got a work permit at age 14, the work had always been part-time with a few bouts of full-time hours during college winter and summer breaks, so after I graduated, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do or how to obtain long-term, full-time employment. For four months, I applied to every entry level job on Idealist. I kept a running list of all of the job descriptions I applied to so I could go back and review one if I got a call for an interview. The document grew to over 400 pages. From these hundreds of submitted applications, I got a handful of in-person interviews and then I accepted the first job offer I got: an administrative coordinator for a psychotherapy clinic in Manhattan. The job posting did state that it required a bachelor’s degree, but I’m sure that they received many applications bearing that credential. I think that my resume stuck out among all the others because of my prior work experience as a research assistant in the psychiatry department of a hospital.
I was able to find the actual job posting (embedded in that 400 page document):
We are currently looking for a dynamic, well-organized team member to serve as Administrative Coordinator. This role is critical to our continued overall success in providing much needed quality treatment to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. This is an incredible and coveted opportunity to learn about the field of mental health and social work.
The right candidate will need to be an excellent time-manager who can work autonomously and as a team member. Be highly organized, efficient, eloquent, detail oriented and passionate about helping others – a creative thinker who can make a commitment and be the consummate diplomat.
Specifically the position requires that you be able to:
- Facilitate initial intake with patients.
- Process new patient files, new patient information.
- Process reports for over 150 therapists: Weekly logs of patient sessions, 12th Session and 6 Month Summaries, Leave and Termination Summaries, Medication Consultation and Monthly Progress Forms, reporting Suicidality and Homicidality.
- Maintain over 650 patient files: ensure files are kept updated, kept confidential and HIPAA compliant.
- Supervise receptionist sorting and filing of patient reports.
- Supervise Social Work Interns with auditing of patient records.
- Manage the patient General Record database containing all patient statistics: new and terminated patients, demographics, fee and frequency changes, therapist assignment and insurance information.
- Prepare bi-weekly statistical reports analyzing current patient population, including number of patient hours, patient revenue predictions, mean median and mode of patient fees. Compare weekly numbers to the week prior and one-year prior for each division and the Institute at large.
- Create Weekly therapist “Logs”, listing active patients and fees.
- Prepare weekly therapy room schedule.
- Assist therapists with any queries regarding administrative work.
- Distribute and Process Yearly Financial review of all patient fees.
- Member of the Management Team: attend bi-monthly meetings, supporting the goals of each division, developing operating procedures, monitoring therapist compliance.
In addition, the successful candidate will be a proven self-starter with a great deal of initiative who will work in close consultation and constant communication with senior leadership. Have previous related work experience, preferably in the field of mental health, excellent academic credentials and top-notch references from prior employers are required.
This position also offers 4 weeks accrued paid vacation, health benefits and free tuition to our clinical workshops and seminars. Wonderful opportunity to learn more about the field. Position is available because current constituent has been accepted to prestigious clinical PHD program.
I was prepared for the job in that I could communicate effectively with a broad range of people (other support staff, therapists, patients, the board of directors) and through various modes of communication (in person, over the phone, via email). I am an organized person with decent computer skills so I could create and maintain administrative, scheduling, and filing systems. These skills were, in some ways, honed through my college experiences and balancing the coursework and deadlines for multiple classes at once. The content of my courses (general education requirements, anthropology major requirements, and electives), however, were not directly relevant to this job. The clinic was also a training center and there were only a handful of full-time staff. During my time there, I was not offered any training, formal professional development, or even to audit the classes offered through the institute (even though the job description offered that as a perk). However, as I think is somewhat typical of small, understaffed non-profits, there was a lot to be learned from being able to observe various levels of operations and from being asked to participate in a variety of tasks. For example, I was asked to sit in on board meetings to serve as a note taker. Although this was not intended as professional development, it is one of the few ways a 22 year old might learn about the machinations of nonprofit boards, and I likely wouldn’t have had access to that level of exposure at a larger or better-run organization. The Executive Director who hired me left a few months later, and for most of my year at the clinic, there was really no one in charge.
I left for a combination of reasons: I was not making a living wage; I was not learning any new skills or being intellectually/professionally challenged; there was no opportunity for advancement; and I found many of the staff and therapists to be extremely unprofessional in a number of ways. I felt it was important to stay in my first post-college job for a full year so I did that. Right around the time I was about to begin my job search again, I was offered a job interview through a personal, and partly college, connection. (I went to the same college my brother had graduated from five years prior. A friend he knew from college knew I was miserable at the job I had, and she reached out to see if I was interested in applying for an open position in the department she managed.) After an interview and a teaching sample, I was offered that position and remain with that organization today.
I was surprised when I first heard that American education was free in the history for a long time, because we all know that the education is not free today; we can even say it is expansive, especially likes the tuition in some colleges. Because of Ronald Reagan’s decision in the 1960s, education became something that not for everyone. From Bady and Konczal’s article, we know that higher education much more necessary than what we expected, but the true is, not every one can afford it, and the worst thing we see today is some students paid expensive tuition but the educations they got not worth it. I think Queens College is doing well in education, according to Queens College Mission, they “provides affordable access to higher education and embraces its special obligation to serve the larger community”. This movement is so meaningful for those students who were from the some families that not that rich.