Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about how you became interested in the mental health field.
A: My name is Jake Wiskerchen and I’m from Reno, Nevada. I found my way to mental health kind of by accident. After graduating during the Great Recession I ended up working for a friend who was then a clinical director at an outpatient mental health agency. That really sparked my interest in the field and eventually, I started a company called Zephyr Wellness, along with two partners. Aside from Zephyr Wellness, I’m a mental health advocate. As part of that, I do two podcasts, one about mental health and another that has to do with guns and mental health. There’s a lot of stigma around mental health and I find myself talking a lot about how to bring care to people who are suspicious of it while also demystifying the counseling process.
I’m also still involved with the legal side of things off re-authoring laws and shaping up statutes, and getting improved funding and insurance credentialing, and all sorts of systemic change stuff.
Q: So as you’ve grown Zephyr Wellness, how have you grown your team? And what candidate characteristics do you look for, beyond what’s on a resume?
A: We want to be different. Ultimately we want to make agency work desirable. We pay well, we treat everybody like family.
So when we are hiring, we assess for a diversity of experience and thought, and openness to feedback, because in this profession – or any profession – we’re supposed to be lifelong learners.
Counseling is about rehabilitation, non-judgment, always evolving and growing, and a belief that a human’s psyche is never-ending and limitless. Not everybody believes that thought, so we assess to make sure people don’t have that attitude.
We also believe in work/life balance and so employees do have to like the boundaries that we put in place. Some people can’t handle it and feel the call to answer emails after hours, take emergency crisis calls at 9:30 at night, interrupting dinner. That’s just not what we’re about. Leave work at work.
Q: What tips would you share with an agency that wants to grow but might be running into roadblocks?
A: Get your ego out of the way and be humble. It’s very important to stay really focused on your foundational principles and maintain that drive and desire you have and make sure those align.
It’s also important to act with intentionality. My tip would be to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then stick to that because there will be a lot of dazzling things that will compete for your attention and your resources. And your most important resource is time. You can’t do everything and you can’t do everything well. To borrow a phrase from ancient wisdom, “light up your little corner of the world and let everybody know where you are. Don’t try to light everything else up.” Ego will drive you to light up everything, which may wind up happening, but not because you seek to do so.
Q: Tell us a little about Zephyr Wellness’s philosophy and how that translates into your company culture.
A: We’re here to heal people. Period. We don’t want to just stuff our calendar with ailing people and keep them returning in perpetuity. We want to empower them with the ability to continue healing themselves throughout the course of their lives.
We just drop it on employees right at the beginning and say, “Here’s what we’re about, this isn’t just another job. This is a profession.” We expect professionalism from you and we expect more than the bare minimum.
Q: When you’re looking for employees, what are turn offs during the application process?
A: They have to be ready to learn. They have to be ready to grow. Emails that are clearly mass emails won’t stand out, or if they lack a cover letter attached or a resume, or a statement of purpose. I want to see statements about what they are and what they’re willing to become. I want to see that vision.
Q: Any final pieces of advice for job-seekers?
A: Look beyond the billing rate. Check the benefits, the company culture, and what your expected duties will be. Compare that with your own career goals and your work preferences. That will help ensure that you’re finding a long-term fit, not just another job.
Thank you to Jake for sitting down with us and sharing his advice!