Career Exploration

Now featuring…Michelle Zadrozny, LMSW

Michelle Zadrozny“I develop and implement Employee Assistance and Workforce supports for H.A.N.D.’s 300+ personal care attendants, most of whom are working part time for minimum wage. We have created a comprehensive program on very little budget, leveraging community partnerships and utilizing existing resources.

I got heavily involved with Employee Assistance and Training while working at Alliance Work Partners, a boutique Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider. My background in social work and non-profits allowed me to see the gaps in HR programming, and how much richer EAP and employer-based wellness programming could be through collaboration with existing community resources. I started consulting with non-profits and small businesses, and created Transformational Workplace, a collective of providers and community resources focusing on EAP and Integrated Wellness. Amy Temperley, the Executive Director at H.A.N.D., was following my work and recruited me to develop an EAP specific for the challenging needs of our personal care attendants.

I LOVE that there is no typical day at my job! However I am a highly structured person and schedule my time so that it is a good balance of community networking and collaboration-building, staff development (I supervise interns and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at H.A.N.D.), EAP office hours, internal meetings, and individual creative/productive time. Every day/week is different, but that mix and balance stays consistent as much as possible.

One of the skills required in my line of work is excellent boundary setting – I have to model wise compassion, self-care, and good time management, which is not always easy when every day brings a crisis and it would be easy to get into reactive mode. I would not have been able to do this job effectively earlier in my career; I feel that my life experience as well as career development have prepared me for the unique demands of this job. Starting and maintaining my own business helped me learn all the skills to keep multiple balls in the air and remain productive and thriving. It is also a great mix of Clinical and CAL skills and expertise.

Every day I thank the universe that I found this amazing profession! My clinically-focused MSSW prepared me with a systems-approach, client-centered framework for all of my work in my varied career thus far. I often joke that social workers are uniquely equipped to solve our most complex and challenging global problems – but it is true! Just look at some of our core competencies: Ethics, critical thinking, cultural diversity, advocacy, social justice, research-informed practice, person in environment and client-centered care, policy, being a change agent…. I am paraphrasing of course but being a social worker effectively prepares us to meet life’s challenges head on, and simply makes us better humans, in whatever context we work in. EVERY workplace needs a social worker, we all just have to find our fit.

I think there are ways to replicate how I am working for H.A.N.D. in any workplace, particularly workplaces that employ low wage and/or part time workers. Some companies have workplace social services (whether or not it is called EAP) as part of an HR employee engagement or integrated wellness initiative. MSWs interested in organizational development, group dynamics, or HR might look into creating occupational social work roles for themselves. Not all companies have behavioral-based wellness programs (in fact most don’t!) but it is up to us to educate and advocate for this role – now more than ever companies need a social conscience. Companies are waking up to the fact that the millennial generation is demanding socially responsible businesses – to work for and as consumers. What better way to demonstrate this than by hiring a social worker to round out your HR team?

As we say in social work, it’s all about the process – planting seeds, one day at a time. There was no job description or posting for this job – or most jobs I have had over the last 10 years. Most of the best and most rewarding opportunities come from paving the path yourself.”

Want to learn more about Michelle’s experience and how to choose between a CAL or Clinical concentration? Register to attend her workshop “Switching Hats: CAL or Clinical?” later in August.