When it comes to hiring qualified workers, it’s tough all over. Just like many other industries, the mental health and substance use disorder system is experiencing unprecedented numbers of open positions, and the reasons why this is happening aren’t fully understood yet.
The causes appear to be complex, from fewer people graduating with counseling or social work degrees to a sudden and swift shift towards telehealth services. Many mental health and substance use professionals find the telehealth platform appealing because it allows them to work independently, separate from an agency or organization.
This shortage is a reality that all agencies and organizations must face. With a limited pool of qualified candidates, it’s important to help individuals who are on the job hunt understand the benefits and opportunities working for your organization present.
Speak to Experienced Professionals: When individuals decide to go on a job search, there’s often something else they are moving away from. Establish empathy with your prospective employees by identifying what makes your organization a place they’d enjoy working. Perhaps you have a great benefits package, or a lower case load that allows for more time to process paperwork, or a supportive team of counselors who create the kind of atmosphere that makes work fun. Whatever it is, make sure you state it in your job listing and on your website.
Don’t Neglect Recent Graduates: Those who are just beginning their careers in social work and counseling are looking for places to prove themselves, stretch their legs, and be supported. They are excited to finally begin the work that matters to them, work that is going to make a difference in so many people’s lives. Craft your job listing to capture that energy and enthusiasm for this line of work, and be prepared to offer the kind of team support that mattered to you right out of college.
Establish the Benefits of In-Person Agency Work: Someone who wants to help people is likely to grow weary of working with a computer monitor between them and their patients. If your agency offers telehealth services alongside in-person, this could be a compelling way to scratch the itch of telehealth flexibility with the very real need for in-person interaction. Add on top of that the value of working with a team of professionals and being in the community that you serve, and the right kind of candidates are likely to be drawn to your organization.
Explain Your Mission, Vision, and Values Clearly: At the end of the day, people who go into counseling and social work do so with the aspirational goal of helping other people. It’s their “why” for getting out of bed every day. Craft a clear message for interviews on your website, and in your promotional materials about how your organization specifically is helping people. Provide simple charts and graphs or data points that explain your impact. Articulate why it is that you do what you do, why it’s important to you, personally, and be ready to share that with prospective employees. If you can clearly articulate why your organization matters, a prospective employee is more likely to catch that vision as well.
The Bright Side: It’s possible that there’s a surge in need for mental health professionals and a parallel shortage of professionals to serve those needs. Maybe the stigma against counseling and therapy is finally beginning to erode away in communities across the country. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to all of us to encourage the next generation of individuals who have an interest in helping others to pursue degrees and certifications to enter this field. We can also play the long(er) game and encourage individuals in parallel fields, like ministry, or folks who have undergraduate degrees, like psychology and sociology, to pursue certification and higher education to enter a new career track.
Together we can move the needle of mental health forward for our organizations.