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Photo: Harleny Vazquez
Harleny Vazquez is a trailblazer among the social work community changing the stigma associated with the field. Photo: Harleny Vazquez

Harleny Vazquez paving the way for social workers

Harleny Vazquez is a trailblazer among the social work community, using her determination and thoughtful personality to change the stigma with this field.

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Harleny Vazquez, a first-generation Dominican-American Latina, born and raised in New York City, has become a trailblazer among the social work community. Her determination, innovative, and thoughtful personality along with her contagious energy make her an asset among professionals seeking career coaching—something she enthusiastically offers to others’ interested in securing their next opportunity. 

Photo: Harleny Vazquez

The innate career cheerleader always knew she wanted to help others. “I was born to make an impact” asserts Harleny, who pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hunter College (2014) and later a Masters of Social Work from Fordham Graduate School of Social Services (2018). 

Vazquez has held different roles in various settings from working in the shelter system with adults, at risk youth in the foster care system, to transitioning to healthcare working with chronically ill patients in hospitals—for ten years, working with low income families, Latinx and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities, and marginalized population that has made being a social worker more rewarding.

She currently works as a Clinical Recruiter for Headspace Health, where she is in-charge of recruiting clinicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists to deliver quality mental health care to members in the community.

“Social work has always been about serving my community and really helping others,” explained Vazquez, as she addresses the stigma associated with this field. “[Many think] all that social workers do is take kids away or they don’t make a lot of money.”

A good social worker should be “passionate about this line of work and recognize that social work is not only clinical,” Harleny emphasized. “I’m an entrepreneur. I have used all of the skills that my social work degree has taught me.”

She further explains that many social workers don’t understand how far they can go beyond the clinical setting, and hardly consider opportunities in technology or in government doing policy work.

“Unfortunately school puts you in a box— and doesn’t teach you how to market yourself,” commented Vazquez.

Some of the titles she possesses are LinkedIn content creator, Clinical Recruiter, Social Work Career Coach, First-gen Latina workshop facilitator, Speaker, and Podcast host— serve as a reminder of the countless obstacles she had to overcome to achieve success by focusing on building her community on LinkedIn with 21,000 followers.

She views LinkedIn as a platform to brand yourself, therefore, giving her a space for Your Evolved Mind to thrive and reach masses. 

Your Evolved Mind

Her business, Your Evolved Mind, focuses on offering career coaching to students and seasoned workers in the field of social work while also offering assistance with cover letter, resume, among other services. 

When she started Your Evolved Mind, she wanted others’ to understand their potential and opportunities within the field that are not often discussed. Her emphatic nature allows her to be a support system to others as they navigate different professional environments.

The more her community grew at the early stages of personal branding, she realized there was a huge gap and disconnect among job seekers. 

“For social workers, there’s a huge disconnect from the moment they graduate to the time they find a job,” Vazquez emphasized. “When I graduated from Graduate School, I couldn’t pass my licensure exam because of test anxiety—it limited the opportunities that I could get as a social worker.”

Photo: Harleny Vazquez

Once she started identifying as a career coach for social workers the demand grew exponentially, something she credits with understanding the reason why she chose social work as a profession and being aware that her voice matters. 

Through Your Evolved Mind, she wants “to show others this path on how to give them the tools and the resources they can use to navigate any area or scope of practice in the social work field.”

Vazquez has been able to help over 100 social workers land new jobs and secure over $20,000 pay increases. 

She balances her numerous obligations by setting clear boundaries. She is very strict with her time and does turn down projects that don’t serve her and could potentially deter the systems she has put in place.

Photo: Harleny Vazquez

Challenges of being Latina in professional spaces

As a Latina woman of color, Harleny has experienced micro-aggressions and feeling unsafe in a room as the only woman of color— “tough spaces to navigate,” reiterates Vazquez. “Toxic work environment—those experiences made me stronger.” 

Many view being Latina with being loud, something she keeps in mind when networking and navigating educational spaces. “I would doubt my vocabulary, my accent,” reveals Harleny. 

Being a social worker gave her the tools and awareness to recognize she needed to heal. That she was allowed to put herself first and advocate for herself. 

“I’m a speaker. Best believe and I’m in a room and I don’t feel safe, I will literally speak up,” asserts Vazquez.

She keeps in mind that no one is going to stop her grind and vision. It is important to find your people, your community, and as a first-generation there are many resources available now for the Latinx community. 

“There are people waiting to support you, lift you up, and that’s what our community needs,” she reiterates, adding that her number one cheerleader is her mother. 

She uses her experiences to shed light on what being a social worker really entails through Social Work Insider Podcast. 

Podcast: Social Work Insider

Harleny created Social Work Insider Podcast about a year ago, after realizing she didn’t need a podcast studio or a YouTube channel but a headphone and determination. The podcast has had 10,000 downloads and it got selected in the Top 20 of Social Work Podcast to follow in 2022. 

She adds that her content is not planned, because she doesn’t want to remove its authenticity and rawness. 

The podcast discusses everything related to the social work field—-bringing amazing guests from the field to share their experiences and never before shared perspectives in a safe zone.

Vazquez reveals that season three will be coming next year, date to be determined. 

Photo: Harleny Vazquez

Recognition and contribution  

As a leader in the industry, Vazquez understands the community she represents and how important it is to give back. As a result, a month ago she was recognized by the Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund as the Emerging Social Work Trailblazer in 2022. 

The Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund is an organization in the tristate area in New York that raises funds to grant scholarships to Latinx students—making the award that more meaningful for Harleny. 

She also had the opportunity to contribute to Latinx/e in Social Work Volume II: Stories that heal, inspire, and connect communities book, comprise of twenty-two authors, all social workers, all leaders in the profession sharing their story, with all proceeds going to scholarships. 

In the book, she tells her story as a first-generation Latina growing up in low-income, being raised by a single mother and discussing her path of healing and getting to a place of self-love while healing her inner child.

The book is available in English and Spanish, giving her mother the opportunity to read about her daughter’s inner struggles with self-esteem. 

Vazquez wants Latinx students to start building their personal brand on LinkedIn, regardless if they are in high school. Identifying your unique skills is key, and it will help you identify what you love. 

“Remind yourself that you’re an asset. You should not let anyone dim your light. You have a voice, and you are allowed to speak,” emphasized Harleny. “Once you start feeling confident in the current skills that you have to offer and feeling confident to speak up, everything else will align.”


 

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