My journey to my first “real” social work job

So in recent blog post, I alluded to getting a new job. I have to say, it’s been a huge relief to me to find employment as a social worker. I’ve been there for six weeks now (has it been so long?) and it was surprisingly easy to acclimatise; after a few days there I felt like a duck that had taken to water.

Since my placement ended at the end of 2013, my employment status has been an issue of great shame for me. I expected myself to get a job with the hospital straight away, but the earliest advertised position was a few weeks into January 2014. Due to a foolish, foolish oversight, I didn’t check the closing date of the position and I missed it by two days. My placement had been a little rocky anyway, and while I had learned a huge amount about being part of a workplace and getting along with colleagues, for the most part I wasn’t happy there. It was both relieving and deeply shameful for me to know I missed the job.

Still, it opened me up to a whole field of employment opportunities. I made a few applications for social work positions in employment (oh the irony), working with young people (even though I really didn’t want to after my experiences at PICYS) and even at the other hospital I worked at (which was a worse experience by far). In the end though, I was scared of putting in real effort to apply for reasons that I still don’t understand. I guess putting myself on the line and getting rejected, or not hearing anything at all, was terrifying to me. This was contrasted to the shame of not having a social work job, despite the fact I had a degree. I was pretty complacent, enjoying my day (and by jove did I enjoy each and every one of them), working casually at Petbarn and earning a few hundred dollars a week to sustain myself and save a little.

Eventually I started looking at professional development courses that were running because I wanted to get back into the social work mindset. I paid $55 to go to a half-day course on making real connection with people (in the context of building strong rapport), and I met someone who volunteered with the Hearing Voices Network (HVN) to run a support group. After the training, she introduced me to the head of the HVN where I gushed about the great work she was doing and how I wanted to help if I could. Later that week I found myself at a group as a co-facilitator, and I began helping out weekly.

It affirmed for me that mental health is something I’m passionate about, which surprised me. I remember at uni hearing a guest speaker give a detailed account of her son’s experience of schizophrenia, and it seemed nightmarish to me. I was terrified of the (false) idea of being permanently sick in a world of delusion and fear and never having an escape. From that point on, I specifically asked not to be involved in student placements at mental health sites. But when I finally looked at what was really scaring me, I was able to work very hard on my own mental health and it changed my life for the better.

Since then, I made plenty of applications to spread my passion for supporting people when they were not in the best place mentally. It took a few months, and I had two unsuccessful interviews as a “peer support worker” (meaning not a professional, but as a human being with lived experience of mental illness who can relate to people who are mentally ill) and finally one for a “recovery support worker” (a mostly-professional role) with an outreach team. This last one yielded a full-time job for me, and there are no words for the gratitude I have for receiving the opportunity.

I still have days of anxiety, sometimes many in a row, where I constantly question whether I’m suited for the role. But then again, I also constantly question whether being a parrot would be any easier (in the sense that I constantly look for alternative jobs and then stress out because I wouldn’t enjoy being a baker, or whatever). For the most part, I really love driving to people’s houses and engaging with them in a way that, I hope, improves their lives. It really is everything I was hoping for from a mental health job, and the drives between people’s houses gives me a safe time and space to ground, unwind, relax and check in with myself throughout the day. I seem to be doing pretty well at the moment (plus, I get a work car and free petrol!), and I hope my colleagues think likewise. I am learning so much about myself and growing each and every day into a more competent and capable person.

I’d better stop there, but another quick announcement on the back of this one…

Got a house with two friends. Picking up the keys today. Holy shit right?

2 thoughts on “My journey to my first “real” social work job

  1. Bethwyn says:

    So UNBELIEVABLY proud of you. Like wow. <3

  2. […] started writing a long blog post about my first year of working in mental health, my first “real job” as a social worker, and I decided to scrap it all. Why? Because it was full of old hurts and old pain, bitterness that […]

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