Rachel and a client.
by Rachel Cohen, LMSW
Growing up, I always thought I would write something great that would change the world. I eventually became a magazine and digital media writer/editor in the corporate world, covering the occasional good cause, but my career wasn’t nourishing my soul or having the impact I sought, so I switched to social work in my mid-40s. Turns out, my writing and editing was essential in my first school internship, creating résumés for individuals affected by HIV at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Now, I help men and women struggling with homelessness, addiction, and poverty to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their lives as part of a small New York City nonprofit called ACE (Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless).
Every day, I have the privilege of hearing about lives of individuals while we compose résumés together in a truly collaborative effort. I love to see résumés come alive as each person is reminded of their accomplishments, skills, and possibilities for the future. Writing résumés might not seem like clinical work, but it’s really just another version of narrative therapy. When clients collaborate with me on their résumés, they share stories. They share their job successes, life accomplishments and joys, as well as their insecurities, vulnerabilities, challenges, and frustrations. As individuals recall their career paths, we can work together to see the stories in different ways that show off their strengths.
A résumé is a piece of paper that says, “That’s me. Look at what I’ve done. Look at what I can do. I count in this world.” Whether the person has mental illness, a criminal history, a battle with addiction, a lack of education…it doesn’t matter. Each person brings stuff to the table…plenty that can fill a résumé. I know from the work I do with clients every day.
So today, while I’m not writing lofty novels or literary essays, and my corporate writer-editor career is long gone, I honestly couldn’t be any happier. No lamenting here. As a social worker, I celebrate that I’m living out my dream of changing the world with my writing and editing and, in the process, getting to assist others in living out their dreams, too.
Rachel Cohen, LMSW, works for the nonprofit ACE (Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless) as an Admissions and Vocational Coordinator. She graduated from Fordham University with her MSW in 2015.