Leadership Paths: How to Make a Successful CHW Career 

Community health work is a critical, rewarding field. It is also incredibly diverse, attracting workers from all walks of life. These dedicated workers bring unique passions, diverse perspectives, and countless valuable skills. But one question frequently arises for new community health workers (CHWs): How do they get leadership roles in community health? 

There are countless leadership paths for CHWs. You can grow as a leader and gain a management or director position in any business or organization. You could spearhead a CHW leadership program at your employer to help yourself and other CHWs build careers. But regardless of where you make a career for yourself, these steps can help you gain a leadership role.   

6 Proven Steps to Get a CHW Leadership Role 

1. Start with certification. 

CHW certification is the first step to take. Many leadership positions require certification through a state or national agency. Every state has different certification requirements, but even if your state doesn’t require a CHW certificate, having one will help you gain leadership positions. 

2. Prioritize continuing education. 

Although there is no national governing body that requires continuing education for CHWs, this practice sets you apart. Continuing education keeps you in the foreground of research and innovation, which ensures you know the best information available. That knowledge makes you a more useful, skillful, and educated CHW. 

3. Make a niche for yourself. 

CHWs work in hundreds of roles, settings, and organizations. Distinguishing yourself by making a niche is a great way to ensure you get a leadership role in the future. A niche is a unique area of concentration. For example, some CHWs work with people who have substance use disorders. Others work with single mothers or pregnant women. A niche helps you stand out when being considered for leadership positions. 

4. Find a mentor – and use that mentorship. 

A mentor has experience and knowledge about the field, organization, and community. A mentor can provide excellent references, help you identify potential leadership roles, and connect you to resources. Once you find someone, formally ask them to be your mentor! Then, create a schedule for you and your mentor to ensure you have consistent and structured mentorship. That might mean: 

  • Meeting once a month for coffee 
  • Attending one training event together per quarter 
  • Connecting weekly about relevant opportunities and training 

5. Speak up. 

This step can be intimidating, but it’s one of the most critical. Speak up! Tell your supervisors, department leaders, and other managers that you’re interested in a leadership role. Let them know what your goals are so that they can help you achieve them. You’re more likely to be considered for leadership roles when current leaders know you’re interested.  

Additionally, speaking up means sharing ideas and important viewpoints in meetings, roll calls, and debriefs. Tell your colleagues about your experiences in the field and what ideas you have to address health needs. Then, when your boss asks for volunteers to take on a project or join a committee, do it! By speaking up this way, you show your bosses that you have good ideas and critical viewpoints that set you apart and prove your leadership potential.  

6. Apply! 

After doing these steps, the final stage is to apply. Apply for the positions you want, even if you might not have every experience listed on the job posting. Use your resume and cover letter to share the experiences, skills, and knowledge you have – and highlight your leadership qualities. Qualities of good leaders include: 

  • Strong and clear communication 
  • Excellent time management  
  • Empathy and understanding for others 
  • Authenticity 
  • Dedication to the organization’s mission 

You won’t get every job you apply for. You won’t be qualified for every job you apply for, either. And that’s ok. Rejections take you one application closer to the leadership role you do get. 

Your Success as a CHW is Possible 

You joined the CHW field to make a difference in the health of your community. And it’s still possible for you to achieve a leadership role and have a successful career. For more information and guidance on finding success as a CHW, contact an expert CHW advisor at Everyday Life Consulting

Picture of khigley