Friday, November 16, 2012

How I Ended Up as a Social Worker

I hadn’t even heard of social work before I got to college. I graduated high school intending to major in secondary education, and planned to return as an English teacher. I wanted to impact lives, and imagined that that would probably happen by hanging around after class and being available as a listening ear for my students.

I was pretty shy and insecure throughout most of my high school years, but through a scheduling error I ended up in a theatre class during my senior year. It helped my break out of my shell. I found that laughing at myself and actively engaging people was a good defense to my natural reluctance to share of myself. I enjoyed the theatre class, and I especially enjoyed my newfound outgoingness. I think I wanted to know people all along, but I finally was developing skills to help me do so. It’s amazing how well people respond to someone who actually wants to know their story.

In college, I was still fresh on the “actively meeting people to avoid insecurity” strategy. I researched several campus activities. One was a program that arranged for college students to spend social time with folks with severe developmental disabilities. Although I didn’t end up serving in that group, the interview changed the course of my life. I casually asked the student leader what she was majoring in. It was social work. I hadn’t heard of it, and she described simply, “It’s helping people.”

                I’m not generally prone to quick decisions, but I did switch my major to social work a shortly after learning about it. I had prayed right around that time that God would use me for whatever God needed. I remember feeling affirmed in my new direction when I learned that my pastor, a major role model to me, had also majored in social work.

                I made the switch in October. Over the next few years, I studied the history of the profession,  human development, therapeutic skills, policy, law, community practice. I was incredulously amused at the concept of reflective listening...  Just rephrase and repeat back what someone tells you? Thirteen years later, I find that it’s been the single most helpful tool.

                I kept engaging with classmates, professors, and other students during college. By intentionally engaging them, I grew more confident in myself, which helped me more easily reach out to others. My desire is and has been to hear stories, to be a listening ear and a compassionate friend. Social work has been a great avenue for me to do that. And I got here through an accidentally-schedule theater class and a casual question in an interview for a group I didn’t even join.

Like social work? You might like my recent post on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.


  1. So glad you found social work and that you are sharing your experiences here. My mother-in-law is a social work professor at the University of Botswana - it is a field that requires a special kind of person and that needs advocates like yourself.

  2. Thanks so much! I wonder how the experience of social work differs from country to country!


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