Being a peer specialist is more than a job or a role – it is a calling to make a difference in the lives of others. Your investment in doing a good job is significant for you and for the people you serve. Everyone who has a job must meet certain expectations to be an effective employee. This can be challenging for anyone, but there may be some special issues that you face, both as a person in recovery and as a person in the unique role of peer specialist.
As you begin a new job as a peer specialist, it is natural to feel a certain amount of fear or anxiety, especially if you have been out of the workforce for a period of time. Using the coping strategies that have helped you to manage your recovery can be helpful in coping with the stresses of employment. When you think about being a valuable employee, you have to consider what you want from your employer as well as what value you provide and contribute to the workplace.
Attributes of a Successful Employee
- Honesty – Honesty includes doing what is right and telling the truth, even if there is pressure to do otherwise. Honesty with the people you support, the team and other community partners is one of the ethical considerations of being a peer specialist. Honesty also includes following through with your commitments and accurately representing your employer. One special consideration for peer specialists is being honest about the state of their own recovery and asking for help if your recovery is at risk.
- Dependability – Dependability includes good attendance, punctuality, and completing assigned tasks on time. As a role model for your client, it is important to demonstrate these qualities. Handling absences and lateness responsibly through proper channels is critical to being perceived as dependable. Being on time for each appointment with the clients is a way to show respect and to strengthen the bond between you and the client.
- Flexibility – Within the bounds of staying true to peer support values and the limitations of your scope of practice, be willing to take on what is needed to support the client or the team and get the job done.
- Solution-Focused and Proactive – Being solution-focused means thinking more about what can make things better than on how bad things are. If things aren’t working as well as they could, suggest solutions that might make a difference.
- Self-disciplined – Having consistent, positive work habits, including completing assignments accurately and on time is important. It is easy to get distracted or get caught up in office chatter or drama. Staying focused will help you to perform your work to the best of your ability.
- Growth Oriented – A valuable employee is committed to doing high quality work and to continuous improvement of knowledge and skills. Enhance and improve your skills: Continually strive to increase your knowledge and skill set. Look for opportunities to get further training. Seek supervision and feedback and be open to constructive suggestions on how to improve your performance.
Self-Care on the Job
It is important for all responsible employees to exercise good self-care and engage in wellness-oriented behaviors and practices. It is all the more critical for peer specialists because of their responsibility to serve as examples and role models to their clients. Being able to manage a job is frequently an important goal on a client’s recovery plan and your client will look to you for evidence that this goal is achievable. Good self-care is also important because employers and co-workers may make judgments about people in recovery based on their experience with the peer specialist as a representative of the recovery community. Part of your value as a peer specialist is being able to educate the rest of the team regarding true-recovery oriented service delivery.
Because your client’s experience may be so similar to your own recovery journey, you may find yourself feeling triggered with old, familiar feelings. It is important for you to have really good self-care. Taking good care of yourself will enable you to provide the best peer support possible for your clients.