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Many of my blog posts come from questions people email to me, and this one was a question about what to do post-certification. Specifically, you have obtained your BCBA, but maybe aren't quite at the interview phase, and you aren't sure what to do next.
This is a tricky question to answer because this info varies greatly depending on where you live, the opportunities in your area, if you are able to relocate, the population you wish to serve, your hands-on work experience, etc. Also, since I am not a career counselor please don't expect this information to apply 100% to your situation. So instead of a step by step guide (which I'm really not qualified to give) here are some suggestions based on my experiences post-certification. Hope this helps all you freshly certified ABA Superheroes out there!
- My first suggestion is that you do some Q & A with yourself, to answer the following questions: What is my dream position in the field of ABA? On a day to day basis, what do I want my role to look like? Where do I want to work (location)? Do I want to work independently or as an employee for a company? Is licensure required in my state for me to practice as a Behavior Analyst? What is my area of expertise/what are my clinical strengths? What kind of work/life balance do I want? What are my salary expectations? Do I want to work for a large, established company with a reputation in this field? Or would I prefer a small start -up where I get to help create the vision and company mission? I don't recommend applying for any positions until you can answer these questions.
- Next, its a simple matter of matching your needs as a professional to the right employer or opportunity. "Employer" would refer to if you want to work for someone else, either as an employee or independent contractor (IC). "Opportunity" would refer to if you plan to strike out on your own and consult privately or actually open a business and hire staff. Begin searching for opportunities in your local area, or widen your search if you are fine with relocation. Fire up your resume, cover letter, and some quality work samples, and begin sending them out. There is no specific place I can recommend to look for ABA work, you will likely have to look in multiple places........I suggest word of mouth, credentialing with local insurance providers, contacting local school systems, joining AIBA (they have a job portal), attending conferences/local events (get your face out there), etc. As I have said on my blog before, if you are finding it highly difficult to locate opportunities in your area then that can indicate a lack of funding, or a lack of quality providers.
- My next tip is about preparing yourself, both mentally and physically, for your new role. Whether you plan to consult privately or to join "XYZ" agency, you want to be ready for the demands of the job. Your supervision experience or practicum should have given you the opportunity to learn the hands-on skills, and I suggest continuing to lean on your supervisor as a mentor, even after you pass the exam. This is someone who is already in the field and working, and can be a source of information and even client referrals. So for the mental preparation: don't be panicked if you get that lovely BCBA certificate in the mail and are suddenly terrified to do anything with it. Thats a normal reaction. I actually would be a bit concerned if you were newly certified and felt NO anxiety at all about serving clients. Your confidence will grow from seeing how much you help your clients, and getting great feedback from the consumers of your services. Give it time, this awesome confidence will not just pop up overnight. So for physical preparation: I don't mean go do 50 push ups and drink a glass of egg yolks. I mean are you set up with what you need to get to work? Looking around my office, let me give you a few examples of what I mean: business cards, printer/scanner, laminator, flashcards, ABLLS & VB-MAPP protocols, 3 hole punch, random assortment of toys, huge carryall/tote bag, laptop case, etc. For more help with getting ready to step into the role of a supervisor, I suggest my Trainers Handbook resource.
- My last tip is to remember to take your Personality and Passion (P & P) with you as you enter the field. Your passion is what will get you through the tough moments when you have a ridiculously short deadline to complete a 15 page report, the IEP meeting you changed your whole schedule for gets moved at the last minute, or your direct staff/supervisees leave much to be desired. Your personality is what will set you apart. Lots of BCBA's are professional, punctual, polite, and have great experience and references. So why should a company hire YOU? Well, show them what sets you apart by letting who you are shine through. If you're goofy, be goofy. If you're super type- A and rigid, don't try to hide it. There is room in this field for a wide variety of personalities, and often as a hiring supervisor I need to see the real you to get an idea of what clients to match you with. Every supervisor isn't a good match for every client or family, so its actually a good thing to be upfront and honest about your strengths, as well as your shortcomings. Its impressive when a professional can evaluate their own performance and objectively assess their own skillset.