People always ask me how I am so happy all the time with such a depressing job like Social Work. I let them know a few in-and-outs but not all the deets! I could talk for days about my job (that I absolutely love) but I figured a blog post is just as good. Here are seven facts you should know before you become a social worker, or if you are just curious about what I do :)
1.) You will worker overtime frequently.
There is no such thing as a convenient emergency that just so happens to occurs between 8:00am-5:00pm. Emergencies occur at the most inconvenient times such as Christmas morning, your significant others birthday, 5:00am on a Monday, your anniversary, and basically every Friday at 4:45pm riiiiggght as you are packing your belongings to leave the office. It doesn't matter how well you've planned or how accurately you keep your records in a day planner- those plans get thrashed OFTEN. Warn your family now that you WILL miss important events (which brings me to my next point...)
2. ) You need to take paid time off and take care of yourself.
As a Social Worker in the field (occasionally and frequently) you may have no clue what family-centered insanity is happening around you, but half of the job is showing up and being present for others. If you are considering social work as a new profession, then I assume that you are a kind, open-hearted person who genuinely cares about people- BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR NEEDS?!!?. Social work is hard and thankless work. Treat Yo' Self! Don't get stuck in a physical and mental rut trying to save the world. Stay active, eat healthy, and go on vacations where you turn your phone ALL THE WAY OFF. You'll feel like you've abandoned your clients, but remember that social work is your career and not your entire life (even when it feels like consumes your whole life.) If you don't make time to give yourself some TLC then your body and mind will force you to take breaks in the most dramatic ways! You will physically become sick from stress. You won't be able to produce quality reports and interviews because you'll be foggy from sheer exhaustion. Your diet may suffer because your too tired to meal prep and you'll gain weight. You'll create long term health probs! You'll miss The Real Housewives of Atlanta because you keep falling asleep and forget to pay the cable bill for three months! It's a domino effect!
3.) You may become emotionally fatigued.
Do you have that one "friend" who calls to catch up on your life....and then unloads all of their personal stress on you? Do you have that one "family member" who makes countless mistakes that somehow become YOUR problem? Well.... in the social worker profession we have ALL of your friends and family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, over the phone, over email, in a courtroom, at the jail, and even in the grocery store parking lot when I am wearing my sweatpants and cheetah head wrap and ain't tryin' to be seen! They love us because we listen AND we are obligated to help them solve life's most difficult problems. By the end of the work week the average person is emotionally exhausted with the roller coaster of dealing with grieving mothers missing their kids, homeless youth, spicy judges or attorneys, folks in jail, inconsolable/hospitalized children, and catty co-workers who missed Real Housewives. DONE. BURNT. Chewed UP! No more feels. So when we roll our eyes into another galaxy because "your boyfriend didn't text you back in time" understand we've been dealing with REALLY HEAVY issues and others people's issues simply don't compare.
4.) You may drown in paperwork.
Everything you do must be documented. Every interview, phone call, unannounced visit, etc etc. Reports to the court are also the equivalent of writing a research paper...and they need to be well-written because they live forever in the court system and outside criminal cases. Finding a balance between doing fabulous work in the community and writing down all of what you've done is tough. You don't have the choice of NOT doing it or postponing until the next day (like at a normal job) so you may be up at 5:00am to have it for court at 9:00am. Documenting in the social work field is comparable to finishing a final exam research paper the DAY that it's due.....only that feeling is all the time for every document. You can't start writing early because it hasn't happen yet! Sometimes you are still dealing with the crisis, or more than one crisis when the deadline comes! You are literally writing in REAL time. It's an ungodly amount of stress that cannot be avoided. Lots and lots of overtime! Which bring me to my next point again....
5. ) You may feel extremely overwhelmed.
Unless you are a social worker or some sort of emergency responder you cannot understand how overwhelming public service can be! In addition to the sea of paperwork, I have been in some very scary situations. It's awesome to help your community but if you become a social worker (ESPECIALLY if you work for child protective services or the prison system) understand that there are dangerous situations that happen and police are often present. You are making a professional decision about someone else's personal life. It's all fun and games until you walk into a meth lab, or someone throws a car seat at you, or you get followed home. Wear closed-toe shoes, park where you can easily run to your car, and never stand directly in front of the door. You'll be fine even if it's dangerous sometimes.
6.) You cannot save everyone.
I learned this one the hard way. You can make your best effort to help someone, but people must change on their own. You cannot do that for them. Some people prefer to be homeless without responsibilities. Some people would rather not take care of their children. Some people would rather have their children (and themselves) harmed and live in misery than be safe and independent by themselves. Not everybody wants help from you. You will grieve when the legal system fails a family. You will have emotional roller coasters of your own. I've have many days where I literally sat in my car crying and screaming at the top of my lungs because abuse was happening and I couldn't do anything about it. Yes, it is that deep sometimes. It hurts but you have to let it go. Letting it go is not as easy as it sounds.
7.) On the other hand- the folks you do help appreciate every effort you make.
If you are interested in becoming a social worker you can message me, honestly. I can tell you all the highs and lows as well as the pride all Social Workers take in their work. When there is a successful outcome in the social work field you are literally changing someone's life. That's what keeps most of us around. You, as an individual, are making a difference and it's the most rewarding sensation you will ever feel. It makes all the other challenges of the job worth every second of insanity. I wouldn't change a thing!
Interested in learning more about social work? Have questions? Comment below! Subscribe below~I will see you guys next week.