September 12, 2008

That "Aha!" Moment

In my second last year and on the way to applying for my MSW, I am thinking a lot about what I want to do, what I want to study, what I want to research. I have SOME areas of interest, but nothing that really gives me great excitement. Nothing that I can't pull myself away from, if you will.

In one of my classes last week, the instructor was talking about his schooling and career path. He explained how he got his degrees, what he studied and what he researched. In his explanation, he talked about how no matter how esoteric or odd your interest, you can still connect it to your life and learning in some way. He talked about how, in a particular class, he had his "Aha!" moment where he discovered what he wanted to do.

I have yet to have that moment. There are some interests that I have, including mental health, harm reduction and politics, but nothing that I know I want to pursue for sure. There's nothing that makes me want to say "This is my specialty!"

Since there is this great community of bloggers out there, I want to throw this out to you. What are your interests and areas? What areas do you wish to pursue in the future? What was your "Aha!" moment?


sunshine-burn said...

I am almost done with my MSW and still don't know what my interest is (I'm in a generalist program). I took a job in mental health three years ago, simply because they were hiring. I like it but I don't know that I'll spend the rest of my life in MH.

I'm still waiting for my "Aha!" moment. Part of me wonders if I'll ever have an "Aha!" moment... I definitely have my doubts.

cb said...

I'm not sure about 'Aha' moments. I can remember when I decided for sure that I didn't want to work directly with children. I was in the University library writing a paper of risk management in child protection work. I was killing time just browsing through relevant books on the shelf.
I found a book with the exact name that the essay was supposed to have and thought 'great'. I opened the book and it was, to cut a long story short, a book filled with photos of children who had been abused. I felt dizzy and sick and had to make a sharp exit from the library. I also began crying. I realised that if a book could do that to me, I could not work with children.
As for working with older people, I don't know how your course is structured but for us, we have to do practice placements alongside experienced social workers during the course to prove ability and competence to practice.
They are always a bit of a mixed bag. My first placement was in an over 65s team. I had a wonderful placement supervisor who was very meticulous and devoted to her job - and passionate about the need to work in the area. I enjoyed the placement and since then I decided it was a general area I wanted to work in.
Incidently, my second placement was in a mental health team - a good experience but by that time I was absolutely determined to work with older people but was always interested in mental health because it covers everything really.
I'm fortunate to have eventually found a position that marries the two.

socialworkemergency said...

Aha happened for me only after I got into the position I have now. I did some policy and advocacy work for a while after grad school and then took a year to research and interview for a clinical position. Accepted 2 positions during that time, but backed out of each at the last minute, feeling like I was forcing myself to do something that I would eventually loathe. My interests are crisis/trauma and anti-poverty and health care policy, so the ER is a good place for me. Aha...this fits. That's how it felt when I got there. My advice is to be just as aware of what it is that you don't want to do as you are of those areas that peak your interests. Don't settle. Don't be afraid to contact people whose jobs you think are interesting - people were very helpful and responsive to my calls/emails. With your interests, there are probably some good opps in research/policy as well as clinical/program dev. Good luck!

antiSWer said...

Thanks for the comments so far. Good to hear your stories.

I've been more successful with the "what I don't want to do" more than the want to do.

I am interested in the research/policy areas. The only thing I wonder is what would that look like on a day to day basis...

bluejeansocialwork said...

Well, let's see. My MSW concentration was the Obama track: community organizing. But there are actually few jobs for straight up community organizers. They exist--they often are not advertised as such--you have to read between the lines, which I didn't know what to do.

The last thing I wanted to do was work with children, especially youth. I am better with adults. I was thinking maybe the elderly population.

But then what happened was that I found this program, in child welfare of all things, that was an extremely strong service model. For me, it is very important to have a sense of coherence with my personal values, quality standards, and the work that I do. So I was open to this work and have not been disappointed because I really believe that our program is effective and well put together.

I guess what I'm saying is stay open, and consider not just the population or the type of work, but whether the agency or program is run in a way that you can support whole heartedly. For me, it's that latter consideration that gives me passion about what I do.

illusivejoy said...

I'm not sure if I had an AHA moment, but I definately had a few "Oh Sh*t". When I was about to finish my BSW, I started working at an adolescent group home for boys. I was convinced that I wanted to work with teenagers. All it took was a few months for me to figure out that this was not my population.... Going into my MSW, I knew I wanted to do high intensity work. So I figured ER social work or a prison. I had a professor who had worked in corrections for years and she helped me get a difficult internship at the prison I work at now. A few months in, I just knew. I was good at working with this population, I liked it, and it challenged me in all of the ways I wanted to be challenged. I say, try working with a few different populations. When you find it - you'll know.

Anonymous said...

I never had the 'aha' moment but knew that I didn't want to work in mental health. I decided to work in child protection and after a shaky start am now 'enjoying' my job. However, I don't see myself doing it forever. Choose something you think you wouldn't mind too much and give it a try. You can always move on if it doesn't suit you.

Reas Kroicowl said...

Mine's been a process of elimination as well, so don't fret. I just discovered in the past few years that what I really enjoy most is crisis intervention. So the job I have is an excellent fit for me. That and art. Go figure.

I thought you said library social work?

antiSWer said...

lol...yes, library social work would be my dream.

However, I've only ever seen that one reference to it and I think if I'm ever going to find a job like that, I'll have to create the job for myself somehow. In the meantime, I need to find something else. ;)

Thank you everyone for your thoughts, ideas, stories and comments. Certainly a wide range of ways that you've all gone about it. Good advice. :)

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