Becoming a Social Worker – Seven Things that you should Expect!

First, is to expect to work long hours, I think, regardless of whatever social work career that you go into as a social worker, because we’re meeting the needs of people, we have to meet people where they are, and that’s not in this clearly defined box of a nine to five job. Sometimes we have to work very early in the morning, or sometimes we have to work around the clock shifts, or sometimes we have to work well into the evening.

Second, it’s to expect a lot of paperwork. Now, we all know this. When we go to school, we take our class about how to do sat notes and that notes and how to do documentation, , and the importance of documentation. But when you get into the field, every agency has their own requirement about what documentation is required. And every agency is not operating in this century. Some agencies are very antiquated in how they docent very antiquated in their policies and procedures in the way in which they keep documentation, and all agencies are not online. So you’ll find that in some agencies, you’re still having to write out notes by hand, still having to copy off a lot of paper, still having to fill out a lot of forms that aren’t online or are not electronic. So even though in your everyday life, you’re finding ways that you’re using the internet more and that you’re using downloadable forms, but it can be discouraging and disappointing when you go into agencies, and they’ve not caught up with the times. So you have to be aware of that. And you have to be aware that every agency may use their own software in their own systems. And sometimes those software and systems do not speak to one another. So, you’re finding that you’re going into this software program to complete this form. Then you’re having to go into another program to complete another form.

Third, expect to be a problem solver. If you’re someone who gets easily overwhelmed by difficulty and challenges and problems know that this may not be a good fit for you. You always have to be thinking one step ahead. You always have to be in solution mode. Not saying that you don’t deal with the problems when they come. You absolutely do that in the moment. But when dealing with the problem, you have to be aware of it’s going to be your responsibility to help clients come up with a solution to those problems. So that means you yourself have to know about community resources. You need to know where people can go to get access to the services that they need. You should probably be the one making collateral calls to organizations and agencies within your community to make sure the services are still available for people. I think one of the most frustrating things for clients is for us to refer them to an agency or, or an organization. And the service is no longer available or a service that used to be free. Ha now has a cost associated with it. So, if we’re making these calls ahead of time and letting our clients know what services are available in the community, we are putting ourselves out there as that nber one resource that clients can rely on for information that’s accurate and up to date. So, another way in which you’re, you are going to be a problem solver is helping clients learn how to solve their, their problems themselves. So, this doesn’t mean that you lay out all the solutions

and all the ideas for your clients, and then, expect them to follow through with exactly what you want them to do. In some instances, and in some agencies, if you work for children services, for example, if a client is working a case plan, that’s sometimes exactly what you have to do, but I find the best way to engage and work with, with clients is to engage them in the process to ask them what is important to them, what outcomes would they like to see for their lives? What goals do they have and what are some things that they’re thinking that they would like to see happen because of your interaction together? So, the more that you can create case plans and, strategies with clients, sometimes the, the least amount of resistance that you get, because they see themselves as being part of the process. And it’s not just this plan or, , this program that’s imposed upon them, but it’s something that they had an equal say in creating. So, you have to think of ways that you can do that for your client. Think about ways that you can engage them in the process and think about the questions that you would need to ask them in order to engage them in the process. So, some questions that I’d like to ask clients are, what do you think about, , adding this part into your case plan? Or what are your thoughts and ideas if we chose to go this route, or how do you think this would be beneficial for you? If we decided to do this as opposed to this, or what did you have in mind? If the judge says that you need anger management, what types of things do you notice that you struggle with, or that are triggers for you that you think would be most helpful and most beneficial? So, you take yourself out of the role of always having to be the problem solver, and you put some of that responsibility on the client, and then you guys just work that process together.

Fourth, one of the other things that you have to expect in this profession is stress. This profession comes with a high level of stress, and it’s documented that social workers sometimes carry the stress of their clients. So, if you’re working with women in, in domestic violence situations, if you’re working with children who are being removed from their families, if you’re working with highly traumatized populations, then your work is going to come with a high level of stress. And it’s good to know that going into it so that you can have ways to manage your stress. You can have ways to de-stress and then you can also know what your triggers are that will create more stress for you. So, if you are a domestic violence survivor yourself, and you’re working very closely with domestic violence survivors, you know, that that interaction could potentially be a trigger for you because you’re so close to that work. So it may be hard for you to disconnect from it. You may find yourself totally engaged in the work where it’s hard for you to pull yourself away from it. And sometimes it’s hard to see where you stop, and the work begins. So, if that is the environment in which you’re working, you have to know that being that close to the work will create a lot of stress in your life.

Fifth, one thing that you have to expect when you go into this field is dealing with red tape and politics. What that means is there is always a policy that impacts the work that we do. There are government policies and there are state statutes and regulations that’ll impact the work that you’re doing with domestic violence survivors. So, you have to understand that when you’re dealing with social issues, social issues come with political influences and those political influences can sometimes feel as if they weigh more heavier than the work that we’re doing. So, if there’s a politician who has a certain agenda, or if there’s something in your city that’s going on, that’s highly driven by politics. You have to know that the wellbeing of clients and the wellbeing of vulnerable communities may not be at the top of the priority list. And you’ll find that in your work. And it can be very frustrated, but just because you expect doesn’t mean that you have to accept it. And that’s one of the tenants within our social work practice is advocacy.

Sixth, one thing to expect, unfortunately, is that feeling that you feel like you’re not making the difference? I think all of us within the social work field have experienced that feeling where we went into the field and went into the profession for one thing, but the client demographic that we wanted to serve, the change that we wanted to see happen within clients or within our community, we just didn’t see that impact, or the impact took a really long time to come into play. And, and even before, when I was talking about policy and politics and

red tape can be those things that, make it hard for you to see change in your clients or make it hard for you to see that things are progressing on your caseload.

Seventh, having a realistic expectation about what change means to you is important because in your mind, you may think you may be thinking that you want clients to have leaps and bounds of change, but for some clients, change can be very small and incremental. , so making sure that you’re not putting your expectation of change onto the client is important. We have to meet people where they are. We have to know that people are coming from sometimes very, traumatic situations. And they’ve learned these adaptive behaviors within their lives that can take a very long time to disconnect and detach from, and it’s not our job to judge their journey. It’s not our job to judge, , how far along they’re coming on that journey, but it’s making sure that we’re giving them the skills, the knowledge, , and the empowerment to know that they can move their lives along in the direction that they want it to go expect to have that one client that surprises you, that one who you, you never thought in a million years, that they would turn it around and that they would get themselves together or the client that just seemed like they really weren’t listening to what you had to say.

Thanks for reading and best wishes.


In the Spirit of Reconciliation Q1 Care acknowledges:

The traditional custodians of the lands on which we operate and respect elders, past, present, and emerging as we work towards reconciliation.


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