Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Farewell Post From Ms. T. J.

Honorable Clarence Thomas, Ms. T. J., and Dr. Earl G. Yarbrough, Sr.
(Photography by Upscale Images)

I STARTED POSTING TO THIS BLOG on Tuesday, December 9, 2008. My editor, Linda Grobman, and I negotiated the assignment: I would post about my experiences as a non-traditional student earning a Master's degree in Social Work. The blog posts would be about my trials, joys, and lessons daily, weekly, or sometimes only monthly (if it was finals, mid-terms, or "just all too much!").

Little did I know it would become so much more for me.

There were nights when I was blocked while writing a term paper, and I turned to the blog as a distraction. At times I posted when I was in a euphoric state --when my mind was absolutely, positively, fired with passion for my new charge in life. Sometimes I was lonely. The lifestyle of a serious graduate student does not leave space for much more than reading, writing, and research. I wanted to quit a few times, too. Ranting about it brought my frustrations to the surface, where I could deal with them.

I'll admit there were times when I did not want to post to the blog, when I decided no one was reading it anyway, and I was angry at myself for taking on this extra task. Those times were few and far-between, though, because it never failed: Just when I had determined that nobody cared about my thoughts and words (and I'm sure there were people who felt that way), I would get an amazing reply or private e-mail from a reader who thanked me, gave me a great idea, or just let me know they were there.

I have been moved to tears by some of your responses. One person told me they were ready to give up and then found one of the posts I had written when I wanted to give up, and they said they hung in there, and stayed in school for the rest of the semester. Several readers have asked for my advice regarding whether or not they should go to school, and I shared my experience, strength, and hope with them. Many regular readers bolstered my spirits when I was sick (usually during a long break!), stressed, or tired. I am so grateful for you (you know who you are!).

My favorite replies were those from readers who wrote that my post(s) helped them in some small way. It was then that I knew it was all worth it. I became a social worker so I might help another human being to help themselves. The process of writing on this blog was a way to sort things out, and it helped me to see that I have chosen the right path. I recommend writing in a journal, or posting to a blog, to all social work students, and those who are in the field, too. I plan to continue writing until I leave the planet because it is such a meaningful way to "get it all out."

Now that I have earned my M. S. W., and I am employed in my field, it is time to end my postings on this blog. My husband, who was so encouraging during this journey, has suggested that I develop a Web site with a blog, and I am considering that. For now, I want to take the time I need to acclimate myself to my new career and agency so that I can be an effective, professional clinician.

I want to end this adventure by saying, "Thank you." I send a big "Thanks" to Linda Grobman and "The New Social Worker" online magazine for offering to me this amazing opportunity.

"Thank you, Readers." I could not, and would not, have done it without you. I wish for you the best in your endeavors as a student, clinician, and/or reader. You matter in the world--and you are needed and valued.

Respectfully yours,
Ms. T. J.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A 15-Minute Rant

A MENTOR OF MINE used to give me 15 minutes to rant and then I had to switch to gratitude. Ironically I rarely filled the entire 15 minutes with complaints, and she made this a great lesson to pass on.

I am so tired of people saying that social work is a low-paying career! I know many LCSWs who make six figures and I know others who don't. I watch homeless people crawl under the bridges to sleep in my hometown, and many of my social worker friends have warm beds and blankets, high-tech phones, big-screen TVs, nice cars and great clothing. While some people must eat out of the garbage cans in the squares where I walk my dog, the social workers I know sometimes dine in fine restaurants, and are able to stock their refrigerators and cupboards and lunchboxes with healthy (mostly) foods. When I hear about people who can't afford health care, I count my blessings that I will be enjoying state benefits in a few days.

When I was a "glamorous" magazine editor at a for-profit company
, I made less money after 10 years than I will start out with at my social work job. As an editor I sat in a cubicle, and I will begin my career in a brand-new office. Whenever I asked to better my skills at the corporation, my requests were denied. The state paid for my entire Master's degree, books, and travel because it wants to produce a better standard of child welfare workers. In exchange for that gift, I will give back while collecting a salary, and all the while learning how to be a competent social worker. I have to add the grant dollars I was given to my starting salary to look at the real picture, and I am grateful for this. I say this not to bash the publishing world, which I uphold as an honorable profession, but rather to make a comparison.

Some of our professors shared with us their salaries--during various times in their lives and while in different positions-- and there was a wide range from $50,000--$200,000. I can live with that, knowing I can accept more or less based on where my heart needs to be. And that's why I chose this field, anyway!

So the next time I am confronted by, or (God forbid) jump on the band wagon with, people who lament the "poor" pay that social workers receive, I will try to look at the big picture.

~Ms. T.J., MSW (aka "The 15-Minute Ranter")

Friday, May 14, 2010

Three Days Until New Job

JUST AS I AM BEGINNING TO BREATHE A BIT MORE DEEPLY, I am preparing to begin my new career on Monday--in just three days! Many of my classmates are taking the month, the summer, and in one case--the rest of the year off before they start looking for jobs. I have to say I am a bit envious of those who are taking the rest of the month to replenish their spirits, and I am also excited to begin this new social work adventure.

It's always been my plan: apply at the child welfare agency, get the degree, get the job, and then begin the career. The dream has become a reality. That is both thrilling and scary at times.

So what have I been doing during my brief time off (which included exams, LMSW training, graduation, and guests)? I have kept the house tidy (a miracle); reorganized my clothing closets to get ready for work; caught up with laundry and financial stuff; sent off my application for the LMSW exam; begun my schedule to study for the LMSW; and begun writing thank you notes for all the wonderful gifts I received for graduation. I am watching movies and T. V., and reading Anne Quindlen's newest book, "Every Last One," in which there is a character who is a great therapist (so far).

Just thought I'd check in.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Social Work E-News, Issue #114, May 11, 2010

Social Work E-News, Issue #114, May 11, 2010

Read our latest e-newsletter. This is THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER's Social Work E-News, a monthly FREE newsletter that currently goes out to 27,500+ subscribers. It is free to subscribe!

Monday, May 10, 2010


IT'S OFFICIAL. I can now add those three initials to my name. What a weekend it has been! I received my degree during a three-hour ceremony that included a commencement speech by the Honorable Clarence Thomas. After the prelude, procession, invocation, address, and presentation of awards and candidates, we were conferred our Masters' degrees.

Once we exited via Recessional, my husband whisked me home where 30 or more of my dearest friends awaited. We celebrated for a good five hours and then went on to a dear friend's home for yet another celebration.

As the weekend comes to an end, I am counting my blessings and praising my Higher Power for all the gifts that this graduate school adventure has included.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Two Sleeps Til Graduation

is almost here. It's been five days since I've had to do anything school-related, and I am finally beginning to relax. There are many preparations for this milestone celebration. Slowly but surely, I am ticking them off my list. I am a pretty good planner, so I have been taking care of business for several months (ordering invitations, gown, cap, hood, honors cords, hiring a caterer, etc.)

I picked up my mother-in-law from the airport this afternoon. I am so happy she is here to celebrate with me. My family members do not travel, and I know they will be thinking of me on my special day. My "family of creation" will be here, however, and I am filled with joy for their presence in my life.

When I came home today, there was a box of flowers in the kitchen. I opened the box and was so excited to read a note from a dear, long-time friend. She is so thoughtful and kind. She has always been there--since junior high school, all the way through college--and for many years thereafter. She read a psalm at my wedding, I rocked her twin babies to sleep, and we have spent memorable bits and pieces of time together over the years. She is in Illinois, and I in Georgia, yet no matter how much time lapses, we fall back into place and it seems like it was only yesterday that we were acting in plays and practicing speeches together in high school, or skipping sociology classes during the summer semester at UW-Oshkosh.

I am touched that she always remembers, and I will try to never forget...

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Graduation Day: One Week From Today

AS I TYPE at 9:27 a.m., it occurs to me that on this day, at this time next week, my classmates and I will be preparing to walk across the stage to get our diplomas.

After that, we will go our separate ways--some of us may celebrate together--but for the most part, we will head off with our families and friends to eat, drink and make merry.

It's heady stuff, these endings and beginnings. I ticked off my assignments, papers, presentations, and exams last week, knowing each one signified the end of this adventure. It was not lost on me that as much as I stressed over the workload, I had also taken a great deal of comfort in the academia track I was on.

It's over. No more pencils, no more books ... you know the rhyme. I am relieved; I am ecstatic; I am filled with gratitude; and I am sad.

As I walk through the next days preparing the house for guests and planning for graduation day, I will allow myself to take it all in: the joy, the light, the love, and the change.

~Ms. T. J.