Join the journey of a fairly recently graduated MSW social worker, navigating the expanse of hospice social work in the south, the ups and downs of graduate school, LCSW exam stress and excitement, and preparing for a future in macro social work practice

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let the Job Search Begin

Today marks exactly 90 days until I graduate with my MSW. 

Not that I am counting or anything.

I was planning on waiting until I was a month or so away from graduation to start applying for full-time jobs. I was recently reading some articles that reminded me what a bad economy we live in and that it generally takes people several months longer than they think it will to actually find a job (and that’s assuming people find jobs at all).

So I decided I’d start sending out my resume now.  This has a potential to pose logistical challenges only if I get offered a full-time job very quickly and they want me to start right away and are unable to wait for me to finish classes and field (I graduate in December). But judging from how long it typically takes employers to actually make hiring decisions, I’m not terribly concerned. Indeed, if my biggest problem is that I get offered a job before I am ready to take it, I’m in pretty good shape.

My fear is that the opposite will happen: That I will send out a bazillion resumes and not be able to find a job. 

I am a “macro” social worker. My work in hospice has been an exciting combination of clinical work and community outreach, but I have a feeling that if I pursue the hospice social work track in an area that is not small and rural, it will be mostly clinical. My emphasis in grad school has been management and community practice, and although I have some clinical interest, my passion has always been the macro stuff. This makes the job search more… interesting.

Direct practice social work jobs are generally pretty cut and dry. They typically require a degree, a license of some sort, supervision, etc. And they are usually in the areas of mental health, medicine, or case management. When it comes to job hunting, direct practice social workers can go to great websites like The Social Work Job Bank, find their dream job, submit their resume and voila! (Okay, it’s that easy to APPLY for direct practice social work jobs; actually GETTING one is another story).

There is no real job bank for macro social workers (that I know of). There are sites offering guidance. One such that I have recently found is The Macro Social Work Blog, which is a great read but unfortunately not updated all that often. A macro social worker’s job description might not say “social work” anywhere in it. Macro social workers might be community organizers, or volunteer coordinators, or program assistants, or a combination of any number of interesting job titles.

Employers of direct practice social workers typically know what a social worker’s job is (although as any social worker knows, we are frequently used inappropriately). Macro social workers often have to explain what their skills are to potential employers. In the last two weeks, I have heard the following quotes from people:

 “Social Workers do something other than hand out food stamps? Really?” (From a random person at Wal-Mart

“If you don’t want to work for the Department of Social Services, why did you get a degree in social work?” (From my roommate)

“I did not know that there was such a thing as ‘macro social work.’ What exactly is the point of that?” (This one was actually a month or two ago, at a job interview, from a potential employer) 

Feeling like I have to explain my passion for social work and why I went into this field despite not really being interested in mental health or social services is draining. I can’t honestly say that I am looking forward to explaining my skills and qualifications to future employers who don’t know what the point of macro social work is.

But the hardest part, I think, will be narrowing down my own pool of interests until I can settle on some options that would be good for me. Ideally, I would like to work for a large non-profit organization doing community outreach. One of the things that the Macro Social Work Blog mentions is that a lot of social work jobs don’t require a master’s degree, and some don’t even require a bachelor’s degree. This means two things for me:

1) I have to teach myself that it is okay to seek this kind of a job even though it may be viewed as “less important” than the licensure-track positions that my classmates are pursuing.

2) I have to learn to put into words the feelings I have about the importance of my education and how it relates to what I do. This is helpful both in order to accomplish number 1, and also to explain why my experience will be valuable to a company.

I’ll tell you what I want. I want to find a job that will give me opportunities for community outreach and advocacy. I want to live in an urban area that has a low enough cost of living that I can afford to live at least relatively close to the downtown area. I’m open to living in a foreign country if such a place needs social workers. 

I want to make enough money to be able to put gasoline in my car, feed myself on a regular basis, avoid the homeless shelter (avoid living in them; I’d be open to working in one), and eventually pay back those pesky student loans. Unless an anonymous benefactor decides that I am terrific enough that I deserve complete forgiveness on those loans. In which case I’d happily accept such an offer. And if any of you social workers out there are reading this blog-post and have a lead on a job for me, I’d happily accept such an offer from you too (did I mention that I am willing to move just about anywhere, provided that a reasonably sized city is somewhat close?)

So, with all that said: Let it be known to the world that the job search has officially begun. May the Full-Time-Job-Gods be on my side. May the We-Live-In-A-Crappy-Economy-And-Most-People-Are-Grateful-To-Be-Using-Their-Masters-Degrees-To-Sling-Burgers-Gods be curiously distracted.

2 remarks:

Tim. said...

Awesome post! I really dig that you're looking for something outside of the normatively perceived practice of social work. My faculty differentiates students by two streams, those who practice with individuals, families and groups or those who practice community, policy, planning and organization (more macro). I think the second stream is infinitely important to generate interest in and to have social workers actively practicing; I imagine these individuals having a passion for informing government legislature and instilling Social Work values. Helping inform decisions that will affect the way social workers do direct practice.

Have you seen this video, it's "Is nontraditional Social Work for me?"

Keep on rockin' in the free world,

Megan said...

I think the macro practices are what differentiate social workers from other healthcare and mental health providers. I could not imagine doing micro work without having any knowledge of macro!

Thanks for visiting my site; you're correct in your statement. In the moment I think "how did I get pulled into a project for [insert difficult client here]?" But in the end, it is because he/she really needs the assistance. They become my favorites - if I can play the "favorite" card!

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