Pros: fun and smart coworkers, interesting clients that you will learn from
Cons: poor, unstable arbitrary management, poor benefits/vacation time, vaguely unsafe atmosphere at times
A typical day at work as a human service professional (CASAC, case manager, etc) would be very diverse: running groups, individual counseling, case management, attending community meetings at day treatment program.
You will learn a lot about addiction, case management, mental health, HIV/AIDS.
Your coworkers will, on the whole, be great - a wonderful group of diverse, caring, smart, fun individuals. One of the best parts of the job!
Clients are the other best part of the job - you will learn so much from them!
The hardest part of the job is dealing with management, depending on the mid-level management of your site/program, plus the upper-level management. Very unstable, on the whole, lots of turnover (of staff too), and...can be vindictive.
The hardest part of the job may be the drug treatment policy of the agency: harm reduction.
As a result, a good percentage of the clients are actively using drugs. And by drugs I mean crack cocaine - most clients' drug of choice. Not a very stable or easy to deal with clientele, to say the least.
Another hard part of the job is that some of the staff (and by staff I also mean management) may also be using drugs. (yes really). Again, not a very stable or easy to deal with group of people we are talking about. And when it's your superior, or coworker, things can get dicey...
Job-Life balance is poor, due to not getting holidays off (program is open on holidays.)
Time off policy used to be generous - 40 days a year for sick, vacation, and holiday time (equalling about 10 sick days, 4 weeks vacation, and 10 holidays), but in recent years – more... I hear the agency changed it to only 25 days off a year, which is about 10 sick days, 10 holidays, and 1 week vacation (yes, that's ONE week). NOT a competitive package to say the least.
Also, the agency "doesn't believe in raises" (!)
The salary you start at is what you will stay at for years! (if not decades.)
The agency tends to have terrible financial management, and therefore is always in a financial crisis. Programs are constantly under pressure and seem to be in danger of closing at all times - stressful atmosphere.
As a result of the problematic financial state of the agency, paychecks would not arrive and/or bounce occasionally, and health insurance policies for workers turned off at times!
In short, unstable financially.
On balance, you'll learn a lot, but you'll feel like you've gone through almost a "hazing" process between the clients and the management (again, staff tend to be great).
Maybe do it for a year, to learn and get experience (if you have a strong stomach, that is.)
But...this is not a workplace to stay longterm – less