Career Shift from K-12 Education to Serving Clients with Severe Mental Illness



Kristie is a Walden MS Psychology and PhD in Psychology – Clinical Psychology alumna who started her professional career as a science teacher in the public schools.   How did her journey lead to a post-doctoral psychologist position at a county mental health clinic?  As a K-12 educator, Kristie taught many students, including developmentally and emotionally challenged children in special education.  She cultivated a passion for helping children with Asperger’s, Turner Syndrome, and other developmental disorders learn and thrive in the classroom.  This experience prompted her to enroll in the MS Psychology program at Walden and take steps to transition into a clinical psychology career.

Kristie’s MS Psychology degree provided her the fundamental knowledge of psychological theory which led to the PhD in Psychology- Clinical Psychology program.  To meet her field experience requirements, Kristie sought a practicum at a medical treatment center where she worked under supervision with clients in treatment for opiate dependence.  Kristie shared that she was nervous about working with this challenging population at first; however, after gaining confidence in her abilities and skills in assessment, motivational interviewing, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, she found the experience to be tremendously rewarding. Seeing clients with addiction heal and overcome personal challenges inspired Kristie to remain at the treatment center after her practicum ended.  She later advanced into a Supervising Counselor role and completed her doctoral internship at the same facility.

In 2016, Kristie earned her PhD in Psychology and advanced into a post-doctoral position at a county hospital where she is serving outpatient clients with severe mental illness including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and clinical depression.  Through her academic journey and career progression, she built knowledge and skills in risk assessment, crisis management, and therapeutic interventions to effectively treat a wide range of clients in multiple settings.  Her next step is to complete licensing requirements in the State of California and advance her career as a clinical psychologist.

What advice did Kristie offer Walden students who are considering social services careers?  She commented, “Do your research on what you’re going for.  Your career and education are not something you want to take lightly.”  Kristie suggested targeting entry-level positions such as “case manager” to gain experience working with children and adults in a variety of settings including housing programs, life skills training programs, and treatment centers.  She also recommended getting involved in a state psychological association and the American Psychological Association to meet psychologists, therapists, counselors, and other social services professionals; and attend professional development events.  Finally, she emphasized taking advantage of what Walden has to offer, including working with the Career Services department to learn how to market your professional skills and set attainable career goals.

We wish Kristie success as she continues to impact clients and improve county systems through her clinical expertise and commitment to mentally ill clients.

Interested in making a career transition into Psychology or a related field?

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services


Creative Networking Strategies for Landing a Field Experience Site

Jennifer Wisneski, a Walden PhD in Psychology ̶ Clinical Psychology student, landed a Field Experience site by connecting with a potential site supervisor through LinkedIn.  She is our guest blogger for this post.


Jennifer Wisneski


The Challenge of Finding a Practicum

As I completed my coursework for the Clinical Psychology PhD program and started working on my dissertation, I knew it was time to explore field experience requirements.  I started researching potential sites one year prior to securing a practicum and faced several challenges along the way.  In my small town, I found very few sites with a full-time psychologist to provide supervision.  Most psychologists I contacted worked in private practice or were close to retirement, neither willing to take on a student.  Other sites made it difficult to get past the clerical staff to speak directly to the psychology department.

With the increased need for mental health services, it was incredibly surprising to exhaust my list of prospective sites in a few short months.  I reached out to the Field Experience department at Walden, and they directed me to a website which manages a database of internships and allows students to apply for multiple opportunities.  To utilize the database search, I needed to create a profile and upload my resume.  After working for the same employer for the past nine years, I realized my resume was outdated.  I decided to contact Career Services for help.

3 Helpful Tips from Career Services

During my initial phone call with Career Services, I received a brief overview of available services and learned what to expect from career advising appointments.   The knowledge my career advisor managed to pack into the 45-minute session was well worth every minute!  Specifically, I gained the following three tips from my career advisor to help me in my Field Experience search:

  • First, I received many suggestions on how to improve my CV by using strong action words, being specific about my experience, and strengthening my accomplishments to showcase my level of professionalism in the human services field.
  • Second, my career advisor suggested I build a profile on LinkedIn. I was unsure about using LinkedIn, but I was willing to try anything to network while searching for a practicum site.  My career advisor taught me how to search for people in my field of interest using LinkedIn, which helped me make connections with potential site supervisors.
  • Third, I learned how to set up a career portfolio that I could bring with me to interviews. I developed a portfolio to showcase my accomplishments, professional interests, and samples of my work.

A Surprise Call from a New LinkedIn Connection

It was incredible how quickly opportunities opened up after a few sessions working with Career Services.  After I updated my CV and set up my LinkedIn profile, I started to connect with local professionals in the mental health field.  To my amazement, within days of establishing my profile, I received a phone call from one of my new contacts on LinkedIn.  She had just started in her role as Chief Psychologist at a local psychiatric hospital that week.  I had been trying to set up a practicum at this site for over a year with no success.  She told me the summary of my qualifications on my CV caught her attention.  Within two weeks, I met with her for an interview.  Referencing my portfolio during the interview made the process stress-free, and I secured the practicum position during the interview.

Ready for the Next Career Step

Having an updated CV, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile has allowed me to expand my professional network in many ways.  I interviewed with three other sites for practicum and now I have several sites to consider for internship.  This process has also improved my confidence and interviewing skills, and expanded my professional network.  In addition to establishing a plan to finish my field experience and graduate in 2018, I have a great outlook to the start of my professional career!

Written by Jennifer Wisneski, PhD in Psychology-Clinical Psychology student, Walden University. 


A Face-off with Finance


Thanks to Angie Lira, Senior Career Advisor, for this creative graphic

I haven’t taken a math class in more than 30 years. Balancing my checkbook has been all the math I needed – until now. These days I’m facing off with present values, future values, net present values, and the Dividend Discount Model. I’m in a doctoral level Finance class, which is like climbing Mount Everest without a sherpa or climbing experience!

I know – there are infinitely more important things going on in the world right now – Executive Orders, Cabinet nominations, and world-wide marches. Absolutely! I watch Robert Reich’s “Resistance Reports” nightly and I’m tracking Twitter for the latest breaking news.

However, just in case this article helps others struggling with their own Mount Everests, here it is.

There’s a saying, “Leap and the net will appear.”

When I posted a plea for Finance help on Facebook, a friend suggested I consult local non-profits. I reached out to my local SCORE chapter. A retired finance executive called me to discuss the time value of money for more than an hour! I contacted an alumnus from our university via LinkedIn to ask whether he would consider tutoring me. He is very skilled at explaining financial concepts in layperson’s terms, and we had a very helpful Google Hangout discussion. When I offered to pay for his time, he refused, saying this was his way of “paying it forward.”

I reached out to my instructor – we met via Skype on a weekend. His helpful Excel spreadsheets and explanations made things so clear that I aced my next quiz. I must be catching on now. I just ran a complex course work assignment by a tutor in our university’s Academic Skills Center. He’s a finance expert and he said it looked like I was on the right track. Amazing!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director, Career Services Center and DBA Student                         Originally published on LinkedIn, February 6, 2017



Finding Hope and Support Through Career Transition


Have you experienced an unprecedented event that permanently changed your life and career?  If so, you are not alone. Rhonda is an EdD alumna who had a successful career in education administration until a family member became ill.  To care for her loved one, Rhonda left her position as a Program Administrator and assumed the role of a full-time caregiver for several years.  During this time, Rhonda completed her EdD program and wrote a doctoral study on first-generation college students that identified hope as a critical factor in student success.  As she attempted to re-enter the workforce and find meaningful work, she maintained her sense of hope through advocates, friends, and the Walden community.  Her relentless commitment to following her dreams and sharing her vision with others resulted in a “perfect fit” position working for a faith-based nonprofit committed to stopping human trafficking.

How did Rhonda gather positive energy from others to find the right opportunity?

Finding Supporters and Job Search Advocates
When Rhonda made a long-term commitment to complete her EdD and make a difference in the world, not everyone in her life was supportive of her efforts.  To succeed in her doctoral program and job search, Rhonda decided to surround herself with people who embraced her vision, including dedicated friends and her doctoral study chair at Walden, Dr. Tom Cavanagh.  She also connected with Walden’s Career Services Center where she received networking tips, interview strategies, and job search tools that elevated her confidence.  She reached out to multiple nonprofit organizations and universities for informational interviews and became skilled in sharing her career goals with others.  Rhonda periodically updated her advocates on her progress and personal growth.  Her open heart and sincere gratitude motivated others to provide valuable leads, tips, and job search strategies.

Rekindling Friendship and Faith
One day, Rhonda was driving to another city for an informational interview.  While on the road, she remembered that a former pastor and dear friend lived a few miles away from her route.  She picked up the phone and invited him and his wife to dinner.  During the dinner, the pastor mentioned a nonprofit organization working to stop human trafficking.  Rhonda decided to reach out to this organization for an informational interview based on her interest in their faith-based mission.  Shortly afterward, she met with the organization’s founder and made such a positive impression that she was invited back for a series of four interviews and, ultimately, hired to develop curriculum and courses for professionals and agencies working to stop human trafficking in Thailand.  Rhonda’s new role allows her to live her mission and apply her writing and analytical skills to make a difference in the lives of women and children.  Currently, the nonprofit is exploring new ways to utilize Rhonda’s skills, including developing programs in the U.S.

What are Rhonda’s next steps?  She is looking for new ways to strengthen her connections with people and organizations she encountered through her career transition.  Ultimately, her mission is to generate hope for others who are facing challenges and searching for a more meaningful life.  She encourages Walden students who are in career transition to never let go of their dreams, find advocates who can generate ideas, and reach out to Career Services for help.  She said, “[Career Services] gave me the hope and encouragement I needed that led to the path I was destined to take.  I could not have reached my goals without this support.”

Are you in career transition?  The Career Services Center is here to help!

Need additional support through life transitions?  Reach out to Walden’s Student Assistance Program.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services


“A New Year, A New You!”


What are your career goals for your degree?  Are you targeting a new job, a career change, a raise, or a promotion?  Are you earning your degree to stay competitive in your field?

The start of a new year is the perfect time for career-related self-assessment and goal setting to recharge your batteries.

Ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Will you have work or volunteer experience to qualify you for your future career goal at graduation?
  • Are you proactively building your network and your knowledge of the latest trends in your field through professional associations, LinkedIn groups, and social media sites like Twitter?
  • Is your resume updated with your latest experience, your current degree program, and the expected date of completion for your degree?

Would you have a few minutes to learn how our Career Services Center team can help with these strategies?  We invite you to watch our short “Meet Career Services” video to learn how we can support you in kick starting your career this new year!

For information on upcoming webinars and other programs, please visit our Career Center website.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive 2017 from the Career Services Center Team!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services


Nine Tips from a Higher Education Faculty Recruiter

Helpful Tips. Magnifying Glass on Old Paper.

If your career goal is to teach in higher education, we have advice for you directly from Andrea, a Senior Faculty Recruiter for Walden University. She has spent countless hours reviewing applications and searching for talented instructors to fill faculty positions.

Here is her advice:

  1. Apply for positions that match your academic credentials, experience, and career goals.
  2. Watch college or university websites for open positions. They often post on their own website before posting on the large job boards.
  3. Seek out programs that are growing or institutions adding new programs, for example, the recent growth in Nurse Practitioner programs.
  4. Keep in mind that an institution can often receive up to 150 applications for one open position depending on the requirements and candidate pool. To get an interview, you need to show that not only are you qualified but that you are one of the best-qualified applicants.
  5. Update your LinkedIn profile. Use keywords relevant to your field and experience. LinkedIn is the go-to tool for recruiters to search for talent.
  6. Have a clear, concise, and well-organized curriculum vita (CV). Use a traditional format with:
    • A short tailored summary showcasing your professional and research focus.
    • Your education section at or near the top of the document.
    • Your experience in chronological order with your most recent experience first.
    • Keywords relevant to your field; recruiters use applicant tracking systems to search large numbers of CVs for keywords related to the education, knowledge, experience, and skills required for a position.
    • Publications and professional presentations if you have them; these sections are important and will help you stand out from other applicants.
  7. Use the college or university’s applicant tracking system to apply and to check the status of your application. It is ok to reach out through email with questions or to let an internal contact know that you submitted an application, but keep emails to a minimum.
  8. Prepare for the interview well in advance.
    • The initial phone interview is intended to screen applicants for a fit with the organization’s culture and to check that the compensation is in line with the applicant’s expectations.
    • Prepare to give a short sample classroom presentation via video, Skype, or live as part of the interview process.
    • Prepare to discuss your academic and professional experience; include examples.
    • Share your enthusiasm for teaching.
  9. Be patient, the process can take months.

We thank Andrea for sharing her advice!

You can find more information about finding a position in higher education at Career Services Doctoral Resources  and view higher education job postings at Higher Education/Online Learning Job Opportunities page

Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor


Top 10 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

linkedin networking

LinkedIn is the number one professional networking site.  Here are 10 ways you can improve your profile for career management and job search success:

  1. Update Your Profile Photo

Make sure you have a professional headshot photo that lets your personality shine through.

  1. Communicate Your Unique Value Proposition in Your Headline

Write a headline that reflects the different “hats” you wear as a professional, your professional passion, or what sets you apart from other professionals in your field.

  1. Use the Summary Section to Tell Your Story

The summary should be more personal than the resume and written in the first person. Highlight your background, major accomplishments, professional passions, and describe your goals.

  1. Customize Your Public Profile URL

Make your LinkedIn URL easier to share by making it shorter.

  1. Click on Profile.
  2. Click Edit Profile.
  3. Click on the “settings” icon to the right of your URL.
  4. Under Your public profile URL section on the right of the page, click the “edit” icon.
  5. Type the last part of your new custom URL in the text box.
  6. Click Save.


  1. Be Strategic with Groups

Choose 2-3 groups of interest to join.  These can be alumni, skills, or professional groups.  Recruiters are known to seek out talent in groups.

  1. Ask for a Recommendation

Recommendations are essential to a solid profile.  Reach out to former colleagues or supervisors, clients, professors, or vendors.  Make sure that you ask someone who knows you well to write a solid recommendation.

  1. Connect with Coworkers and Walden Classmates

LinkedIn is all about building and cultivating your professional network, so reach out to those around you and invite them to connect.  This is an easy way to build your network.

  1. Share Your Professional and Academic Accomplishments

Attract attention by adding visual representations of your work to your profile.  Upload videos, images, documents and presentations.

  1. Showcase Professional Expertise and Writing Skills through the Self-Publishing Feature

LinkedIn makes it easy to share your knowledge through its self-publishing feature.  You can write a book review, share how you have applied your learning to the workplace, or write about your subject matter expertise.

  1. Utilize the New ‘Open Candidates’ Job Search Feature

LinkedIn lets users privately alert recruiters that they are open to new job opportunities. On the Jobs tab, go to Update your preferences to indicate:

  • The types of jobs sought
  • Preferred experience level
  • Locations desired
  • Preferred industries
  • Preferred company size

Updating your profile using these 10 improvements could make the difference between being overlooked for a position or called for an interview.

To learn more ways to improve your LinkedIn profile and experience, view the Career Services Center’s LinkedIn Webinar Series.

 By Nicolle Skalski, Senior Career Services Advisor