At my first job we had something like wellness training where I learned that it was considered somewhat normal for young adults to 'job hop' to sort of get a feel for what they're looking for from a job. This was the case for me. During the time between my first and second jobs, I was beginning to think I had made a mistake. I didn't want to do mental health/substance abuse anymore. I was burned out and unhappy. I researched going back to school for pharmacy, counseling education, and physician assistant studies. I seriously put time and effort into researching each of those areas but none of them would have been feasible for me in the position I was in so I decided to stick this work thing out.
After I left my first job, I was only expecting to be unemployed for about two months! Little did I know how bad the economy really was. When I got a job, it was only part time and...although it wasn't in my hometown...it was in the next city over. This wasn't too much better, but I took the job because I needed the money. I only planned to be there until I could find full time work.
I worked Tuesday through Thursday and was off every Monday and Friday. I absolutely loved my schedule but that part-time money was no joke because I had full time bills! At this agency, I was the Mental Health Clinician for an ACT Team (ACT Team = Assertive Community Treatment Team). People could not begin to know what working this job was like!!
The ACT Team works with people who have the most severe and persistent mental illnesses. These are illnesses like Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, etc. This service is the highest service you can receive out in the community before inpatient hospitalization. Most of the people we worked with had been hospitalized multiple times and could not follow through with traditional types of services (which are the services offered in office settings). We were a medium team, so our team had a mental health clinician, a substance abuse counselor, two peer support specialists, a vocational specialist, two psychiatrists, an administrative assistant, and a team leader. What an ACT Team does is take the services to the consumers, so when I say we worked in the community, I mean we actually worked out in the community! We saw people in their homes, in adult care facilities, and if they didn't have a 'home' or enjoyed being on the streets we would find them wherever they were. I'm sure you could guess from this description that we weren't in the upscale parts of town...and things were some times really bad...but it wasn't always as bad as it could have been.
This position required a lot of individual counseling. I had to work with consumers and their families (since I was going into people's homes). I had to transport people in my personal car (at times) to their doctor's appointments, the grocery store, to pay bills...you name it! I spent about 80% of my work days driving. Eastern NC is not a metro area, so when I was out visiting consumers they could be minutes apart or they could be cities apart. In this area that could mean anything from 10 minutes to 30 or more on a good day...lol. This was a very laid back job. We didn't have to dress up for work since we worked in the community. We wanted consumers to be comfortable with us and we didn't want to draw unwanted attention (from neighbors or other people in the community) so we wanted to blend in as much as possible. We also had a very relaxed schedule as far as office hours. We met in the office every morning, dispersed to see consumers for the day, and come back long enough to turn in notes for the consumers we'd seen for the day. This job was not the most glamorous of jobs but I learned a lot of things here too.
The mental health system was steadily changing during this time and things were very unstable in the provider world. I felt like the only way to find some stability in a job where I could financially take care of myself, by myself, was to find a position with the government. I wanted to make my way up the ladder. Don't get me wrong...I liked working with consumers but I wanted to be behind the scenes. I wanted to make some progression I could be proud of so I figured why not now?
Since I knew job searching was a lengthy process, I looked for another job the whole time I had this job. This "temporary" job lasted a couple of months over a year y'all. I mean, my hourly wage was okay...but I only worked 24 hours a week!! Can you imagine living off of a part-time job for over a year?! I can't believe it myself and I actually did it!! I also really needed some medical insurance. I've always stayed current on my yearly eye, dentist, and physical appointments. Not being able to go to any of those was not okay with me.
Wouldn't you know it?! I ended up getting a callback at the beginning of February offering me the job I was initially turned down for at the county government agency! That was nothing but God!
I was able to resign from my part-time position to begin work at this county government agency. Getting this job allowed me to cut some old ties and start anew in so many areas of my life. I was happy to have gotten the job, but I knew this was not my end. I knew this would be temporary because it wasn't quite what I wanted at this point in my life.
Who knew my career story would be so long?! There will be a final and third part tomorrow...so come back tomorrow for the conclusion to my working girl series....there's a purpose behind my story!