Flexibility in Social Work Yields Opportunities
Renee Kuhn a mitigation specialist and forensic social worker shared her reason for pursuing a career in social work. Ms. Kuhn practiced law for 10 years and now uses her skills in both professions in her current work. Her statement, which follows, is like an anthem that social workers around the world share.
I’ve defended my choice to others who acted as if I put a winning power ball ticket through the office shredder. I never felt like myself as a lawyer. It was a role I played during the day and after I came home and peeled off my suit (of armor) and my pantyhose (that hid all my varicose veins and other flaws.) I could breathe again. I never felt that sense of awe, the feeling of catching lightning in a bottle, or the deep knowing that my contribution to the outside world is true, while I practiced law. For me, social work is like putting on my favorite tank top and yoga pants, the ones that evoke a feeling of soft comfort – that “everything-is-ok feeling.” I’m ok with the holes and faded fabric and the fact that they may make my a** look fat. I enjoyed earning every ounce of that fat – it’s all me. I’ve never regretted leaving the law or entering social work. Believe it or not, and not that it matters, but the irony is worth noting, I make more money now than I did as a lawyer, but the true wealth for me is knowing and accepting who I am. Social work helped me do that.
Social work is evolving. Schools of Social Work are developing joint education programs driven, most likely by the need to make social work attractive to new generations. Individuals in other professions are entering the social work field, bringing new insight, points of view and enthusiasm to the profession. Social work professionals are also evolving. They are combining their interests and social work skills and developing and delivering innovative programs, services, and products.
As social work professionals evolve, they are finding career opportunities in non-traditional sectors. The social work field is projected to grow by 19% through 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Social workers traditionally work in mental health, education, human services, child welfare, or healthcare. Progressive social workers are packing up their transferrable skills and leaving the building.
Social workers are pursuing careers in business and business management. They utilize skills such as planning, management and evaluation. Social workers also have a particular skillset in relationship building and people management that makes them most attractive in a corporate environment.
The skills social workers use in a corporate setting are also used in the political arena. Social workers currently hold elected positions with more becoming involved in the process. A social worker’s demonstrated competency in cultural diversity, ability to build strategic relationships and systems approach to problem solving are vital skills in governance at any level.
Many attorneys recognize the benefits of a social work education. Attorneys are trained to be conflictual. Social workers are trained to build consensus and cooperation. Social workers are also trained to negotiate and to build collaborative relationships.
Social workers are combining their interests and knowledge in creative ways as well.
I have had the pleasure of interacting with a colleague who was a journalism major before earning a degree in English. She earned her MSW degree and now works with frail, elderly people. She uses her journalism skills to help the elderly tell their life stories.
Another colleague combines her interest in creative writing and storytelling with her training in interpersonal social work. Another colleague transitioned from corporate America to social work and now runs a successful private practice.
A social work colleague applies her education and knowledge of Ecology to Human behavior and the Social Environment. She is also interested in family systems theory.
A colleague in the Northeast is a realtor who plans to run for political office in her home state. Another colleague began her career as a nursery nurse. She transitioned to working with children and families providing training and education. She is now providing clinical supervision to those who work with children and families.
Opportunities are numerous for social workers, or those interested in the social work profession. Colleagues are finding their niche, success and satisfaction. REAL Social Workers Online Magazine is dedicated to helping social workers find their niche, gain financial and professional success and enjoy true satisfaction.
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