As mental health professionals advance in their careers to higher positions, they will be called upon – particularly in the roles of manager, director, and executive director – to provide additional contributions in the area of financial management to ensure the organization’s continued fiscal health. Having knowledge in finance and practical skills is a great asset and will give you a professional advantage.
It is prudent to combine therapy skills with tangible business skills, such as budgeting, cash management, spreadsheets, business law, strategic planning, business ethics, auditing, corporate compliance and grant writing. Become proficient in both clinical and business matters to broaden your knowledge. In addition, subscribe to Business Week, Harvard Law Review and read the business section of the New York Times.
Be open to learning new things. You cannot tell where new skills may take your career or what connections you might make that will expand your network. Create a pattern of being a lifelong learner. Add Internet training to your educational options, such as Skype sessions, educational blogs, and resources at online specialty groups. These allow easy access and are often free.
Continuing education is one key to personal and professional success. You must commit yourself to improving and expanding your knowledge throughout your career. I advise my mentees and coaching clients to pursue educational opportunities every semester for their entire career.
Educational pursuits could take the form of an hour-long webinar, a four-session weekend training seminar, a bi-weekly peer supervision group, or a certificate program. These pursuits should be in addition to any staff development training offered by your employer. Always take advantage of any opportunities that your organization offers, even if you are not able to see their usefulness at the moment.
More schools of social work, professional associations and service organizations are promoting the need for business skills and are encouraging social workers to expand their knowledge to include financial skills. A dual degree is now being offered by the Silver School of Social Work and The Wagner School of Business at NYU to bridge the existing skill gap.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What do I need to learn in order to be more proficient at my current job?
- Do I need an additional degree to be better situated for the next phase of my career?
- Do I wish to pursue a financial leadership role in my organization?
- Will I need to take business courses?
If you are in private practice, you will need to take practical small business management courses to help you learn how to determine fees for clients, consulting, and speaking engagements – as well as the day-to-day administrative functions and financial responsibilities of your office.
If you are seeking a high-profile role at a non-profit, attend seminars on corporate finance and communications. Continuing to pursue your education will greatly improve your chances of reaching your professional aspirations.
The most beneficial business programs for mental health professionals offer an introduction to fundamental financial management and provide practical insights for developing hands-on financial management skills. By taking such courses, you will obtain a working knowledge of how to use financial information to successfully manage human service agencies and programs. These courses often use lectures, problem solving, discussions, small group exercises, and journal articles to convey content and deepen the learners’ ability to directly apply the course skills in the workplace.