License application delays: 13 lucky things to do while you wait

Mar 11, 2015 by

waiting room

I wish the waiting room had looked this good.

A couple of weeks ago, I was stuck in waiting room hell.

See, I had to go down to police headquarters to get fingerprinted.

(Sounds much more exciting than it actually is, I promise.)

The police headquarters in Austin is depressing. It’s drab and brown, and the glass front of the building is punctured with bullet holes.

Yes, bullet holes.

The energy of the waiting room was really weird.

Of course, if I had to sit behind a desk and collect payments from disgruntled people while gazing at an assortment of bullet holes in the front of my workplace, I probably wouldn’t be at top form, either. Nobody who was there seemed to want to be there.

In the lobby, there was one of those old school candy dispensing machines where you put in a quarter, turn the knob, and get 25 cents worth of stale candy. There was a wire brochure display that did not have any brochures in it.

Everywhere you stood, it seemed you were in front of a door that needed to open at unpredictable intervals.

There wasn’t sufficient seating, so I had hoisted my pregnant self into a corner to sit and wait. I found myself gazing outside through one of the bullet holes, which was poorly patched with some kind of silver tape.

Two hours I waited. Which is a long time to wait when you’re pregnant and there’s no public restroom. I hadn’t brought anything with me to read (foolish) or snack on (very foolish).

So, I did a bit of meditation. I browsed on my phone. And I thought about this blog post.

Because I know you’re a captive audience, too.

I know that even if you aren’t sitting in a drab, depressing government building,

if you are an LPC intern in Austin (& probably most other places, too),

you know what it’s like to wait for a long time on important things like license applications.

Especially license applications. When it feels like the whole of your career hangs in the balance, you’re itching to get on with things, and yet you’re stuck in a funny kind of limbo.

Today’s post is to help you with the wait.

13 Lucky Things to Do While Waiting on your License Application

It feels like an unlucky spot to be in, having your application strangled by red tape as you wait and wait and wait. But it doesn’t have to be a dead end.

Use these 13 tips to make your own luck in internship—you’ll be surprised at just how much you can get done while you wait!

Tip 1 is where you should start—it’s for everyone.

Tips 2-3 apply if you don’t have a job lined up. Tip 4 will help you pass the time if you already have an internship-eligible job in the works. And all the tips that follow are good for just about all of us, whether we’ve got a job or not.

1.) Adjust your expectations.

First things first. Ask around to people who’ve gone before you how long it took them. Did they get their license back in a timely fashion? Take whatever timeframe they’ve offered you and add a week or two to it. Best case scenario, you’re pleasantly surprised when it comes back “early.” Worst case scenario, you’re prepared for a long wait and have used the time well in the interim.

Yes, it’s hard to do. Yes, you just want to get started already. Yes, the board rules may state that the board has only 20 business days (a calendar month, basically) to get back to you about your license and it’s been three times that long. (This is happening right now in Austin.) I know it’s frustrating. (I had to wait, too.) But knowing ahead of time will at least help you plan and use your time to best advantage. I promise there are other awesome, productive things you can do while you’re waiting. See below.

2.) Revise your resume & check in with your references.

Plug into your school’s career planning services, if available, and get your resume updated. You’re paying for these services as a part of your tuition whether or not you use them, so take advantage! While you’re at it, drop in on any other alumni/career services offerings available through your program—networking events, job fairs, LinkedIn trainings.

Also. Who will serve as a reference for you on your job applications? Maybe it’s a supervisor at your practicum site or that faculty member you hit it off with who taught four of your classes. Maybe you don’t know who you want to serve as a reference. Take time to brainstorm now. Reach out with a handwritten note or email asking if they would feel comfortable serving as a reference, when the time comes. (Give them a chance to decline—better to have fewer references than bad ones.) You need at least two solid references, but three is even better.

3.) Send out job applications.

Just because you don’t have a license yet doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a job that would satisfy requirements for your internship. Let me explain. Here in Texas, there are many jobs for which you are well qualified that would satisfy internship hour requirements. For example, some case management jobs, which typically require only a bachelor’s degree, may offer a large amount of clinical experience.

In Austin, some jobs like this say bachelor’s required, master’s preferred. These savvy job sites know there are many excellent counselors-in-training like yourself who are in this weird in-between place in your training. They can’t hire you on and pay you as full-fledged counselors yet, and their funding will only support case management jobs for someone with a provisional license. But they can hire you into positions where they know you’ll do well because you are trained as a counselor. And in some cases those jobs can offer you valuable clinical training.

The key is to do your research before applying—what does the job listing say about the nature of the job, do you know anyone who’s worked there, is it mostly clinical or mostly administrative in nature? You don’t want to end up in a paid position that doesn’t offer you much or any clinical experience—the board and/or your supervisor may not approve it, and even if they did, what would that mean for the quality of your clinical training & internship?

4.) Get to know your job.

If you’ve already wrangled a job (see tip #3) and you’re waiting on your license, get familiar with your colleagues, agency policies and procedures, and all that fabulous new employee orientation stuff that they usually have you go through in the first couple of weeks. Yes, it would be ideal if you could count each and every hour you’re earning right now toward your license, but that isn’t possible. And at the beginning of most jobs, you aren’t doing a ton of clinical work right off the bat anyway.

If you’ve managed to get a full-time paid position, think of it this way: you’re still pulling a paycheck, you’re earning sick and vacation days, and you’re getting a little bit of time to settle into things. It’s good to have space to ramp up and practice during a time of transition. The board is just… giving that to you on their schedule. Reframe it all and make it work for you.

5.) Network.

Even if you have a job lined up, it’s good to network. Maybe you end up hating the first job you get 6 months into it. Or you get laid off unexpectedly—I hate to say it, but it does happen sometimes. Or you have plans to leap into private practice right after internship is over—you’ll need contacts and referral sources for sure in that case! Networking helps you stay plugged in to the therapeutic community. And of course, if you don’t have a job, this tip is even more important for you. Even attending something once a month can make a difference.

6.) Brainstorm on your practice like mad.

If you’re eligible to launch your own private practice during internship, or if you plan to work under someone else’s practice, there’s plenty you can do while waiting on your license application. Engage your supervisor in conversations about things you can do for marketing and outreach. Think about who your ideal client is.  Get really familiar with the rules in your state about private practice and what is and isn’t permitted for interns.

Start working on developing intake paperwork for new clients. Get some headshots and prepare a bio– just don’t post them yet. Order business cards with your new credentials (but don’t display or distribute them until your license comes through, of course). You can get cheap business cards for $10-$15 online and god forbid if something holds up your application or you have to postpone internship, you’ve only spent $10. Once your license comes in, you have all these pieces lined up and ready to launch, so you can start building your caseload aggressively.

7.) Practice good self-care.

Sometimes delays are there for very good reason. You’ve just spent a couple of years or more in a graduate program, working your butt off in your classes and generally keeping a very full schedule. Maybe now’s a good time to celebrate, practice some good self-care, and slow down for a bit. Internship will be here soon enough. Take some time to bask in the accomplishment of completing an advanced degree. It’s a big deal.

8.) Get together a system for tracking hours.

You’re going to have to keep track of a lot of hours during internship. Whether you’re going to use a homemade spreadsheet to track all your hours, or you’re going to hand it over to the professionals, it doesn’t hurt to get a system figured out ahead of time.

While you’re at it, if your state licensing board permits a surplus of practicum hours to count towards your internship totals, go ahead and tally those up. Get signed records from your graduate program to substantiate this surplus experience, if you haven’t already.

9.) Find a mentor, a therapist, and/or a post-graduate support system.

This task could keep you busy for the whole wait. Once you graduate from your program, you transition from being a customer to being a prospective employee. Yeah, I know you probably don’t think of yourself as a customer when you’re a student. No one’s bringing you water with lemon and asking what you want for dinner. But you are paying for a service. Professors and programs are there to provide you with an education. There is structure, a rhythm to schedule on a semester, and there’s accountability—even if it mostly comes in the form of Hey, have you sent in that tuition payment yet?

When you leave your graduate program, you shift back into a world that is not governed by the lifecycle of academia. No one’s checking up on you. There are no syllabi or deadlines, other than those imposed by the licensing board, and no one cares if you meet those or not. While the absence of midterms, finals, and lengthy papers can spell sweet, sweet relief, it also means a huge absence of structure that may have helped you stay motivated and on task.

All that to say, it helps to find a mentor, a peer group, or some kind of post-graduate support system to aid you with the transition and to keep you motivated over the long haul of internship. If you haven’t done your own therapy yet, now might be a good time to start.

10.) Review the board rules one more time.

Have you ever sat down and read the board rules, cover to cover? Or did you get the most exposure to them while taking your Jurisprudence Exam, or maybe during your ethics class back in school? Board rules do change over time—so what you learned about in ethics class a year or so ago may have changed.

Also, reading up on all the fine print will likely save you some time, trouble, and money down the road. Did you already order your business cards, only to find out that your supervisor’s name had to be listed right under yours, in the same size and style of front? Whoops. And that’s a small, easily corrected error—just think of the bigger stuff that may have changed. The board isn’t under any obligation to notify you of these changes, though some licensing boards kindly to have an email listserv where they’ll notify folks of big changes. That’s assuming you’ve signed up for that service, of course. You have signed up, haven’t you?

11.) Handle your administrative details.

You can use this time to kick start some other pieces of your internship journey forward while you wait. See, the licensing process varies widely by state and by license. So, some of you will be able to apply for an internship license without having a supervisor yet, even though you’re required to have one for internship. (Weird, but true.) So, you might spend your waiting time looking for a supervisor. Some of you don’t take your licensing exam until after you complete your hours—so maybe you consolidate some of your class notes and put together some flashcards for future you, when you’ll need to hit the books hard and blast the licensing exam.

Maybe your license requires CEUs, even if you’re provisionally licensed—this is true for LMFT associates in Texas. While you should wait to complete the CEUs within the window of becoming licensed, you might still take some time to scope out places where you can get CEUs for cheap. Or you might read the book for CEU credit ahead of time, and take the CEU test once your internship begins, so those hours count for that licensing period.

12.) Volunteer.

Perhaps you are fretting about the relative lack of clinical experience you have. You worry this might impact your ability to get a paid job. You might consider getting a volunteer position with a crisis hotline to brush up on your crisis intervention and assessment skills. There are lots of volunteer positions that do not require a license but will afford you some valuable clinical experience. You won’t have time to accrue a ton of experience before your license comes through, sure, but it shows initiative, and it gives you something to discuss in interviews. It may also be an opportunity that can add to your direct hours total if you continue volunteering once your internship begins.

13.) Tend to your life.

There’s more to life than internship. You’ve been working hard in school for years—there may be other things that need tending to during this lull. I’ve already talked a bit about self-care—and that certainly fits here—but other people, tasks and activities may well need your attention, too.

With the hectic schedule of attending school—and possibly also holding job some kind of work, plus whatever relationships or family life you have, hobbies, and all that other good stuff—maybe you’ve let some things slide. Maybe your car really needs an oil change. Perhaps it’s been ages since you took a vacation. Or maybe it’s been two years since you read a book for pleasure.

Yes, there is more to life than internship. So use the lull to tend to your life.

PS: Don’t hate your licensing board

I know it’s easy to get frustrated with the licensing board. Yes, they often take longer to process applications than the bylaws say. Yes, materials can get lost in the mail (so make copies!).

But, hating on your licensing board doesn’t help you out at all—and you’ll have a career-long relationship with those folks. So, be polite when you call. You’d better believe the person on the other end of the line has had to field calls from some angry, irritable people that day.

Take that frustrated energy and vent it to your folks from tip #9. Just don’t stew in it too long—after all, there’s plenty you can tackle in the meantime, right?

Meanwhile, I’m sending you and your applications wishes for speedy processing. You may just be surprised at how quickly it goes.

How did you spend your time while waiting on your licensing application?

And how long did it take when all was said and done? 

Any sanity saving tips you’d like to share about your experience?

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1 Comment

  1. Lareasha Love

    Currently working on self care and substitute in schools. Since I’m strongly considering school counseling. Keeping me busy so, I don’t go stir crazy been waiting a month. I’ve been told it could be additional 6 weeks. Patience is truly a virtue!