Hire Me Card
by Phyllis Babrove, MSW, LCSW
In previous articles that I have written for The New Social Worker, I talked about having gone to school later in life. Some of the issues that I addressed included being in classes with younger students, the importance of having a support system, and the good fortune of having chosen a career in which life experience is looked at in a positive way. In this final article, I am going to talk about job-seeking for nontraditional social work students after obtaining a degree.
So here you are, an older/nontraditional student who has majored in social work and who isn’t quite sure which path to follow with your degree. Unlike a lot of other careers, social work offers many choices, such as: medical, geriatrics, child welfare, therapist, school, victim advocate, public health, and corporate. Internships have helped you decide which area you want to work in. I did my undergraduate internship at the department of children and families in protective services and my graduate level internship at a community mental health center with adults. In both instances, I was fortunate enough to be hired after earning my degree. One of the wonderful parts about doing an internship, aside from possibly being hired by the agency, is determining what area of the field you are interested in pursuing.
Life experience (much of which comes with being older) can be an asset in the field of social work. When I was a school social worker, parents often expressed that they were comfortable discussing their children’s behavior issues with me, saying that I could relate to what they were going through because I had raised children. This often occurred with parents of high school students who did not know how to handle certain situations, such as their children choosing negative friends or perhaps getting involved with drugs. Younger social workers bring their own experiences and fresh ideas to the table for their clients. So, along with what we learn in the classroom, we bring the experiences that we have had in life to our clients, regardless of how old we are.
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging offers suggestions for older people who are seeking employment. They provide tips about filling out an application, preparing for an interview, and how to stress the value of life experiences. While my children were young, I worked from home conducting market research surveys. I also set appointments and did typing for an insurance agent. In cover letters and on my résumé, I stressed the strength of my communication skills (appointment-setting and market research, both of which were done on the telephone) and my typing skills. These were important skills for a social worker to possess. (See http://www.n4a.org/files/Older_Jobseekers_Brochure.pdf for tips.)
The social work departments in the universities that I attended had job listings for graduates. They also had advisors who were helpful in the area of seeking employment. I learned that a professional résumé was a representation of who I was and what I could offer to an agency. Check with your university to find out what the career center has to offer, as well as what specific resources they have available for nontraditional students and graduates.
I would like to mention additional resources that provide job postings. This publication, The New Social Worker maintains an online social work job board at SocialWorkJobBank.com. The National Association of Social Workers has job listings for all areas of the country. For the NASW, consult the chapter in your state (see www.socialworkers.org).
Another suggestion that may be helpful in finding job listings for social workers is to search the city, county, and state websites in the area where you live. These areas of government often have a variety of social work positions. If your goal is to become a school social worker, check the job listings on your local public school district websites.
I have enjoyed writing these articles geared to the nontraditional social work student. As I have stated, going to college at the age of 40 was the greatest challenge of my life and one of the most rewarding. I couldn’t have chosen a more rewarding profession, and I find - even in retirement - that I have and will always have the heart of a social worker. I hope all of you have the same rewarding experiences that I did.
Phyllis M. Babrove, MSW, LCSW, recently completed her first novel and is hoping to have it published. She enjoys spending time with her family and likes to travel to New England with her husband of 45 years.