My father was a social worker, so I’ve been in around the field for decades, but I’ve been working with abused teens more than six years. There are common misconceptions I see in many new professionals. This article will examine five of these fallacies. Hopefully, this will help new professionals, and those considering the field, understand the reality of the work.
- They’re NOT Puppies
Constantly, new professionals think that kids, (or adult clients,) will appreciate their dedication, love, and time. This is rarely the case. Clients are often angry about their situations and the system. Lower your expectations and be pleasantly surprised when they are surpassed. Appreciate clients who respect and appreciate you.
- The Hours are Long and Irregular
Despite what potential employers may tell you, social work is never a nine-to-five job. Clients have emergencies in the middle of the night, and you will need to help them. Be prepared to stay late or return to the office.
- It’s Exhausting
Many days you will leave mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. The burnout rate among social workers is high because of the requirements of this job. It’s important that when you’re off-duty, you rejuvenate. Whether this is through a long, hot bath, playing Monopoly with your family, or exercising in the park, make sure you take care of yourself.
Often, professionals feel that there is never a “good stopping place” because they are constantly dealing with crises. You must manage your time and resources by being able to say, “That’s enough for today” and leave the situation. Despite how you feel, few problems will not wait until tomorrow. Generally, the people I’ve seen get burned out, (including myself,) are people who work long days every day. Pace yourself; this job is a marathon.
- It’s Not for the Money and the Fame
While some professionals receive a generous salary, (usually after receiving a master’s or doctoral degree,) social work is not usually a lucrative field, especially in the beginning. I took a pay cut when I began this career from working in fast food! Don’t expect large salaries or bonuses, especially if you’re working for a nonprofit organization. However, my employer offered great benefits, and that helped balance the low wages.
- People Will Hate You
I’ve upset many parents, lawyers, and caseworkers in the last six years. However, my sole job was to give each child the best chance of success. Making others angry is sometimes a requirement to do your job well. You have to have the courage to hurt feelings. However, try to be tactful when possible.
On a Positive Note
Although there are hard days, there are good days, too. Some days you’ll leave knowing that you made a difference in lives of disadvantaged individuals. Many professionals are discouraged by friends and family members because of the many challenges of the job, (described above,) but I can attest to the incredible feeling that comes from excelling at this career. It has been an incredible journey for me, and it can be for you.