Meet Kaitlyn Bruneau, a licensed clinical social worker and is currently a senior cognitive behavioral therapist. She is a UConn Alum from the class of ’13 graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Kaitlyn then went on to get his Master of Social Work in Clinical/Medical Social Work from New York University. The Center for Career Development sat down with Kaitlyn to hear more about her experience as a first-generation student and how that has impacted her throughout her career!
How have you gone about advancing in your career (promotions, salary-negotiations, switching careers, etc.)?
After receiving my undergraduate degree, I attended graduate school in order to take steps towards a professional degree and licensure. I utilized my internships and early jobs to gather further information on what I was most interested in and the ways that I could continue to challenge myself to grow and learn. Due to the nature of the jobs I have had in the mental health field, I found it easiest to advance by applying to outside organizations when I felt that I needed more of a challenge or to seek out a better fit.
How was the experience of networking for you, and how have you maintained these connections?
Networking has been really important in the mental health field, especially once I entered private practice. Other professionals are often the best resources and sources for referrals, assistance, and information. I aim to chat with my professional and community connections regularly and participate in listservs and online communities.
What challenges did you face as a first-generation professional when determining your career path?
I feel really grateful that I found and successfully navigated a career that I love. In hindsight, it was really challenging to know what the best steps are throughout the process when you don’t have someone who has been through it to guide you. I did not know what questions I should be asking or what factors to consider when making decisions about my career path.
What First-Gen related resources do you recommend pertaining to higher-education and career development?
Any online community related to your field or circumstances – and don’t be afraid to take time to connect with other people!
How have you learned to create a work/life balance within your field? If any?
The best thing I have done for this is joining a company that wants us to have good work life balance. Working on a team that feels supportive and empathetic is so important, even if it means seeking out a new job so that you can get this. It has also been helpful to create transition times and behaviors in and out of my work day, such as dismantling my work set up or taking a mindful moment before starting and after finishing my day. Working from home can make this challenging but I’ve found these boundaries to be so important.
Was creating personal and professional boundaries within the workplace difficult? How did you navigate doing so?
I am lucky to work in the mental health field, where I am surrounded by other professionals who know the importance of boundaries and make it easy to check in and set boundaries as needed. It can be harder to set personal boundaries that protect work life balance. For example, having my email on my phone makes it so accessible and tempting to be available all of the time. But, the world is not going to end if I take the time I need to respond.
What advice would you give to a student beginning an experiential learning program such as a full-time internship or job-shadowing?
Don’t forget that you are not expected to know anything! That is the point of the program, to learn! So, keep your expectations for yourself realistic and just make sure that you are willing to learn and ask all of the questions that you need to. With that, it is also so important to be vulnerable and honest to get what you need out of the experience.
Did you ever find yourself or anyone you know going back to school for additional training or certification to advance your career opportunities? Would you recommend it?
While this probably differs for different fields, it is essentially a requirement when working in the mental health field. You may not need to return to school but should stay up to date on research and new information. Most clients want providers who have the most up to date and relevant information that they themselves might not have access to. I try to tailor my continuing education to areas that I am most interested in and can apply to my work on a daily basis.