Social Justice

4 Reasons why social work is your calling

March 20, 2018 by Ellen Belluomini Ph.D., M.S.W.

An assistant director of a men’s long-term shelter drove late at night to a post office for a postmark on a grant due by midnight. Getting lost, she turned around in a shadowed dirt parking lot. The van became stuck in the mud. Her cell phone, left on a desk back at the agency, left her stranded without communication. Dressed in an off-white suit and heels only added to the problem. She walked to the apartment complex across the street asking a man who just arrived in his car to help her. He found a friend to assist, and they effectively pushed her car out of the muck, in the process becoming splattered in dirt. She had no cash on hand but wanted to compensate him. Handing over her business card to deliver money at a later date the man’s smile grew wide as he read the agency name. “Ma’am, you have already helped me, I stayed at your shelter for four months, found a job and a place to live. Now I have a car. I am independent. Thank YOU.”

Social workers are no strangers to impacting the lives they touch through their skills and compassion. As the stress on individuals and families increases, the social work profession provides support through therapy, case management, community involvement, policy development, and advocacy. Is it any wonder the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment growth for social workers is expected to increase between 16 to 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, depending on their specialization? Social work is one of the fastest growing professions for investment in your future.

Here why social work becomes a passion, not just a job, for people.

Social workers create hope in the hopeless

Social workers have the opportunity to bring empowering solutions to a client’s life. Communication expertise gives social workers tools that encourage the development of a positive parenting plan for divorcing parents or advocate effectively for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy continuation, enabling Dreamers to stay in America. Therapeutic interventions can connect service members and veterans back to their light after the ravages of war or help individuals through the grieving process after a death in the family. Case management tools enable the creation of a plan to help a woman who is homeless build job skills for employment or offer solutions to a family searching for assisted living to keep their elderly mother safe as her dementia symptoms increase. Social workers build up people’s resources to provide effective coping and living options.

Every day is an adventure

Each individual holds a unique set of circumstances challenging social workers at new levels. Cases often involve researching questions and developing treatment options. The diversity of client populations bring a richness of culture and situation layered in meaning. Watching a client work through a tough experience that leads to their “a-ha” moment is an intrinsically rewarding experience. No two clients will ever work through their difficulties in the same manner. 

While social work desk jobs exist, most of the duties expected provide a range of experiences throughout a week. One day may hold meetings to support a student in the Individual Education Plan process, and the next day, individual or group therapy sessions are helping adolescents through addiction. Field work can mean meeting a person experiencing homelessness at a McDonald's or delivering lunches under a bridge to begin trust in a relationship. Opportunities for a fascinating work day is an advantage for those needing variety in their professional lives. Social work is rarely uninteresting.

Social workers innovate to address the changing demands of crisis in America

Natural and man-made disasters, violence, and racial tensions, are crises demanding our nation’s attention.  Social workers will provide the leadership needed to heal individuals and communities in the aftermath of disasters and violence. Social workers provide the first line of defense in an emergency and support during a long recovery. Coordination and provision of mental health services aid in the shortening of healing time for those experiencing a crisis.  As climates change, wildfires destroy homes and businesses, or hurricanes demolish whole communities, social workers mobilize resources and emotionally support devastated populations.

Traumatic situations increasingly are brought to attention through social media. The #metoo campaign opened the sexual assault and harassment backgrounds of thousands who now may need therapy options for recovery. Violence through mass shootings, racial attacks, molestation, or domestic violence seems commonplace. Trauma-informed therapeutic practices offer new advances in healing when working through traumatic experiences. Social workers provide prevention programs, individual and group therapy, community interventions, and advocacy to survivors.

Bored? You can easily change your direction

Social work is a plethora of opportunity for career development or change. If you can imagine a position, chances are a social worker is qualified. The range of skills learned in graduate school program like Brandman University’s Master of Social Work prepare social workers for multiple career paths. Need a break from being a case manager? Manage a social service program. Seeing the underlying causes of homelessness in the shelter? Work at a county level to address policy and distribute grants. Is supervising students at your agency creating excitement about mentoring? Become an instructor to teach your craft. Finding work as a school social worker frustrating? Open a private practice for children and families. Do you see an increase in veterans moving to your area? Assess community veteran services and use your entrepreneurial skills to open an agency addressing veteran needs. The options for career choices are endless. The only limits are your imagination and interest.

A commitment to social work is a commitment to lifelong learning and a path to self-awareness. Social work demands a high level of mindfulness and personal accountability. This profession will alter your life profoundly, providing you with personal fulfillment and enrichment of purpose. Social work is a walk-the-walk profession. While working with individuals is an essential part of any therapeutic practice, social work is distinctive because it brings a systems perspective to the restoration of balance in client lives. Individual, family, community, and societal perspectives provide a framework to structure a treatment approach.  Grounded in client self-determination, competence, respect, service, social justice, and ethics, social work is more than a job or a career, it is a philosophy of life.

Searching for meaning?

Yearning to make an impact?

Wishing to leave your mark on the world in an affirming way?

Social work might just be your path of choice. 


Ellen_BelluominiEllen Belluomini, Ph.D. LCSW, is an assistant professor of social work in Brandman University’s School of Arts and Sciences. She is launching the new master’s of social work program this fall.

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