My job entails managing two departments targeting those with mental health challenges: outreach, where staffers go into the community and work one-on-one with clients, and housing, which provides supportive living accommodations.
George Brown College, where I took a social service work diploma, gave me the basic understanding for a first job in social services and practical skills like those needed in the community mental health field.
I got a job as a front-line worker, and when an opportunity came my way to grow and develop within the agency, I moved up to become a supervisor. Now that I'm a manager, I've outgrown my diploma.
Realizing I need more education to make a lateral move, I've enrolled in a bachelor of social work program, with advanced standing, at Ryerson and take one or two evening courses a semester, depending on my work-life balance. Within my agency, a lot of people believed in my abilities and gave me the opportunities I needed to progress, but I still need the credentials.
George Brown offered a broad study of the area; Ryerson gives me a more technical understanding of oppression and systemic issues and how I can better help people make moves.
University is the thinking place. You go there to be critical and pick things apart. You're not learning how to de-escalate a crisis. Many supportive counselling job postings require a bachelor of social work, and you also need that degree to work with different populations.
Continuing education is really about longevity; front-line community mental health work is challenging, and I don't know if in 20 years that's where I want to be.
Funding is always an issue in our sector, and jobs are like diamonds - especially full-time ones. They're not unheard of, but you've got to work for them. On the other hand, you can always find part-time entry-level jobs.
The best social workers aren't any one type of person. It's necessary to draw on different strengths and life experiences and combine these with education and exposure to the field.
A person who is open to continual learning and having amazing experiences with marginalized folks will do well.