I am often asked “Why did you become a social worker?” My elevator speech is “To provide resources and be the voice for youth and young adults who do not have one”. However, if you invited me for tea and that was all I said, I would expect you to politely ask me for your $3.48 back. I just wasted your!@#$% time. You invite someone to tea because 1) You want to learn how they got to where they’re at. 2) You want them to help you get there, or at least give you some good advice to point you in that direction!
The long version is I want to help youth and young adults. I have first-hand knowledge and have professionally found this population to often be ignored and without a voice; particularly if they are residing in foster care, live in a disadvantage neighborhood, live in a state of homelessness, or are LGBQT.
I felt that the only way I could truly help this population was by getting that piece of paper. So, I applied for graduate school! Some may say this is a bit extreme. Yet, let’s be honest, the world is more likely to listen to those with education, experience, and acronyms behind their name. Would you visit someone who just called themselves a therapist but had no credentials?
I now have decades of experience. Hell, some may even call me an expert on homelessness and foster care. I can still recall my first practicum placement. It was a residential facility practicum that housed homeless and foster youth. My 320 hours there taught me so much, though I brought my own firsthand experience (as I grew up below the poverty line and had addicts for parents). I believe everybody crosses your path for a reason. My biological parents taught me how to hustle and NEVER settle. Therefore, one of the biggest things I have done for my career is advocate for myself. I advocated for my foundational placement, and so many other things along the way. This is your career and nobody’s going to fight harder for it than you. If you know what you want, go out and find your placement. Whenever I am invited to tea, I ask my guest several compound questions:
- Why are you interested in this profession? Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you hope your role as a social worker will build upon the strengths of the individuals and communities you serve?
- What do you bring to the table in terms of skill sets?
I think that before you ask anyone for tea, you need to read Sean Blanda’s article. All the points are invaluable. I personally love point eight. You never know where your path may lead you. I also found point 10 helps build bridges and, yes, email is quick but I personally have found a hand written note and a five dollar gift card have worked wonders for starting my career.