pursuing a career in social work and how such choice has been affected by my basic personality and life experiences. In performing this examination, an attempt to compare the reasons for my choice with the underlying philosophies of the profession has been made. A review of the NASW ethical code is an important resource source in the preparation of this paper.
Choosing one's career is one of life's most difficult decisions (Montmarquette). Some make the decision early in life while others find themselves wandering about well into their adulthood. Others change careers a number of times before ultimately deciding upon their life's work. How that decision is made varies in as many ways as there are career choices and the factors that individuals depend upon for making their decisions are also varied. The influence of others, a personal assessment of one's skills or interests, or even the amount training or education involved in qualifying for a specific career are all factors that contribute to career choices.
Social work is one of those career choices that little boys and girls do not grow up considering. Children talk about being doctors, lawyers or teachers but, unless a child has a parent or relative that is a social worker, social work is not one of those glamorous career choices. As rewarding as a career in social work can prove to be, it takes a special type of person and it is not a career for everyone.
For me personally, the choice of a career in social work was a direct result of my having suffered through the loss of my mother while I was in high school. The loss was very difficult for me and resulted in my experiencing a prolonged battle with clinical depression. Through this experience I came in contact with a great number of mental health professionals including nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. Without a doubt, the individuals who I found to be the most helpful, the most compassionate, and most personally involved in my situation were the social workers. Many of the other professionals that I encountered seemed detached and less caring while every one of the social workers was a caring, and sensitive individual. This impacted me greatly not only in my recovering from my depression but also confirmed for me what I wanted to do as a career.
The respect and professionalism demonstrated by the social workers that I encountered was very impressive. Not that the other mental health professionals that I encountered were either disrespectful or unprofessional. Rather, these features in the social workers seemed to be a more natural part of their inherent personality. In my opinion, the social workers appeared genuinely concerned in me as a person and not as just another person in trouble who needed help. They did not approach me with preconceived ideas and treat me accordingly but, instead, allowed our relationship develop and then help me make decisions and changes based on my innate personality. Criticism was never a part of their daily routine. They effectively assisted me and directed my recovery without my being aware of what they were doing. They made me feel as though I was totally in control. As a result, they not only assisted me in my hour of need but they also inspired me to become part of their field of work.
Because of my history and the help that I received, I have wanted to be of assistance to others. I felt grateful to have been provided with kind and competent assistance in a moment in my life when I needed it desperately and I chose social work as an effective method of giving back what had been provided me. I saw a career in social work as a way for me to help people function in society in the best way that they can. Like the social workers who I met in high school in my darkest days, I wanted to help others figure out what was going on in their lives that may be causing them problems and provide them with the mechanisms necessary to help them escape those problems.
Like many who view social work as being a career where one worked with either the poor or children, I soon learned early in my education as a social worker that it is a career with a wide variety of opportunities. Like many professions, social work is governed by individual state law so the options available to social workers are dependent upon the jurisdiction but the opportunities are still numerous.
A large number of social workers are involved in the most notorious of the field's work: child protection. This is the area that social work has been the most successful and, probably, the most needed. Children are often powerless to tend to their own concerns and social workers have worked effectively to provide a voice and support for this group of powerless individuals. The range of opportunities here are to provide assistance to families in an effort to keep the family unit intact and, in other cases, to assist children without family support whatever assistance is available.
The hospital setting is also an area that depends heavily upon the skills of social workers. Whether it is to help those who are dealing with end-of-life problems, lives altering injury or disease, or rehabilitation of some form social workers have been at the forefront of these processes. Social workers have been able to ease the burden of those facing difficult experiences in not only organizing the procedures but also providing counseling and an understanding ear.
The bulk of social workers are employed in a wide variety of agencies throughout society that provide assistance to those in need. These needs may involve a specific trauma or may be a recurring situation that social workers are best able to use their skills in addressing but society has learned that social workers are a diverse group that adapts readily to addressing problems.
Personally, I am not sure what professional road I may take. When I began my professional journey I was confident that I wanted to involve myself in assisting young teenagers but, as my eyes have opened to other options, I have considered other opportunities. The nature of social work affords me with options that I had never considered and opportunities that may fit my skills and interests more heavily than my original desire to help troubled teenagers. My altruism and social sensitivity are powerful motivators and tools that I feel will help me greatly in my chosen field but I feel that I also possess a high level of pragmatism that will balance my idealism. Regardless of which specific field of social work I ultimately decide to enter, these personality traits will serve me well.
The primary goal of social work is to help others and, in the process, address social problems. In this regard, whatever specific field I decide to dedicate myself, I look upon my desire to help others in need as my greatest asset and one that is consistent with the overall mission of the field. Nearly every aspect of my professional training, to date, has been oriented toward helping others with a particular emphasis on social justice.
As I have progressed through my professional education, I have become increasingly more aware of how and why the social work professionals that I encountered as a young teenager were so accepting and seemingly understanding. I have learned that the personality traits that I found so comforting and inspirational are actually part of the underlying philosophy of the profession (Meagher). As part of the ethical standards of the profession, every social work educational program teaches and emphasizes the importance of integrity and competence. Additionally, the programs place the dignity of…