People almost always express one of two ideas when they find out that I have a Master’s degree in social work; (1) They think I’m a counselor or therapist; or (2) They think I snatch children from their families and put them in foster care. This isn’t an exaggeration. What comes to mind when you think of a Social Worker?
I presented a workshop earlier this month and was asked by a volunteer if I feel my social work education prepared me for my career in social work. My answer was that my life and professional experiences prepared me for my education. I’m going to take you back to my high school days to begin my explanation.
I was always a “mature” child – a very practical and responsible little girl who never got into real trouble. I loved to learn and I loved sharing what I learn with others even more. I also loved helping people. As a teenager, I became the go to person for advice and a listening ear. I knew that I would go to college but was unsure if I wanted to be a teacher or a social worker. Then I got a job as a tutor during my senior year of high school. While working at that job I learned about a home for teenage mothers in foster care. The decision was made. I knew that social work was the right career choice for me. My personality, natural abilities, personality, and life experiences led me to my educational path.
As I pursued my undergraduate degree, I learned that there were things I had been doing right all those years and learned new tools to better support my family and friends. I was born a giver which led me to begin to volunteer in various agencies throughout my area. The more experiences I accumulated doing what came natural to me the more my valuable my education became. The things I learned in the classroom weren’t just theories – they made sense in my everyday life. I selected an undergraduate internship that fit into the career path I wanted to pursue.
After graduation, I took a seven year break before enrolling in a graduate program. I had seven years’ worth of real world work experience in my chosen career field that equipped me to select the school that best fit my professional goals and interests. I am very organized, creative, and community focused. Although I have always been told that I have good clinical instincts, I never wanted to be a clinician. I selected courses that I believed would not only provide valuable new knowledge but would also enhance my natural abilities and complement my career experiences. I earned a Master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Organization and a specialization in Social Action and Community Development and I couldn’t be happier.
Here is the moral of this story. Spend less time focusing on your weaknesses. (I’m sure you’ve done that long enough.) Focus on your strengths and natural abilities. The time is now to start thinking about how you can utilize your strengths to excel in all the things you choose to do.
Do you feel like there is something that you were absolutely born to do?
Nicki Sanders, Chief Visionary Officer of Packaged For Success, helps both youth and adults discover their personal power, dream big, and achieve success on their own terms. Ms. Sanders is an experienced trainer, group facilitator, and program manager who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work. Ms. Sanders has over fifteen years of direct experience with diverse populations in residential, school-based, and community based agencies.
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