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, January 28, 2011

Now What?

What comes next?

I feel like that’s one of those obvious questions that no one seems to think to ask themselves until they’ve finished their MSW and gotten settled into a job… or maybe I just didn’t think to ask it.

Most everywhere, one knows the steps for going from Bachelor’s degree to MSW; choose schools to apply to, follow the application instructions, begin the coursework, complete said coursework, graduate. After that though, it gets a bit muddy.

For reasons I still don’t understand, each state has its own licensing levels, CEU requirements, titles, labels, and processes for obtaining each. For example, in Ohio, a person may take their LSW (licensed social worker) test during their last semester/quarter of the MSW program or they can go right for the LISW (licensed independent social worker) test. If one opts to jump immediately to the LISW, the test is tougher, but if passed, 2 yrs of supervision and the person automatically has their LISW –one test, one test fee, and done, but if one doesn’t pass the tougher LISW test, the student risks graduating without any license, making job hunting much tougher. In Florida, there is no such thing as either an LSW or an LISW, and in New York, tests must be taken in a certain order with a minimum of 3 yrs of supervision before attaining the final licensure level (LCSW).

Then there are the CEU requirements (which state requires what, how many of said hours may be completed online or from home or at what price point) to consider as well, not to mention finding supervision from someone you trust and whom you can afford (always tricky to find a balance when you understand how much many social workers need the money that comes with supervising but you’re a broke recent graduate). Of course, if you move to a different state, well, that’s just a horse of a different color! Add in that only a select few number of states have title protection (which means that, in those without it, anyone may call him/herself a social worker, leading one –or me at least- to huge levels of frustration as I jump through the hoops and battle student loan debt for a title that anyone can use), and it sometimes seems like a whole lot of hoops to jump through for a title that doesn’t always feel like it’s as respected as it should be.

I feel like things should just be easier, that social workers have enough red tape to cut through by the very nature of the profession. Instead of all of the variables by state, why not have one uniform process across the country that’s taught to students in their final MSW class so everyone graduates with a true understanding of the licensing process and all it entails? Why not have reciprocity between states? And while I’m at it, title protection for us all! A girl can dream, right?

In the meantime, I continue to wade through the process… I’ve been downloading licensure study materials for the New York LMSW test, reading up on NASW’s information regarding CEUs, and participating in as many socialworkchat.org discussions as possible about the difficulties of navigating this new terrain. Quite honestly, my head still spins sometimes.

I hope you readers are having/have had an easier time with the transition!

Friday, January 21, 2011

When to Speak and When to (Respectfully) Shut Up

One of the trickiest parts of office navigation thus far in my new position has been knowing whom to be open with and how open and when. In my organization, the big bosses/head honchos/big cheese people are in another office, so our main line of communication is through email, with some phone calls and visits here and there. While this is great for not feeling like the boss lady is breathing down my neck every minute, it also means that anything I say to her is in writing; not just for that conversation but to potentially be pulled up, forwarded on, printed out, or put in my employee file forever. Those I see daily are people who are a generation above me and whom I supervise. In addition, we work with several organizations as partners or colleagues or whatnot. Whew!

I regularly find myself in a place of questioning my words and often remaining silent out of uncertainty. Those I work directly with feel like they could be my mother or grandmother, people whom I might otherwise confide in… but as their supervisor, it’d be completely inappropriate to discuss the stress of my personal life with them. My direct boss is even more delicate both because she’s also the Director of HR and because, had we met in another situation, I’m certain she’s someone I’d want to hang out with. Then there are the other organizations, all with their own needs and agendas, some of which are opposite to my job’s purpose or my agency’s goals.

So how do you know? To be honest, I wish this was the place where I inserted a chart or some wise words of wisdom or something, but thus far, I don’t have the answers. What seems to be working for me though is observing more than speaking and thinking ahead about what personal information I’m okay with sharing in a broader sense. This way, I don’t feel caught off-guard when lunching with the staff or come off as rude by not allowing them to get to know me and I don’t accidentally give things up that I later wish I could take back. For example, I’ve decided that I’m open to sharing stories about my dog, but annoyances about my roommates need to stay in my head. I’m open to discussing holiday memories of the casserole my relative always made, but I won’t be sharing the stories of the annual argument between siblings.

As for professional time, I’ve been working to get to really know my boss and to watch her in different situations. I watch the way she handles those who work for her and those she works for and I listen when she speaks about life and her philosophies on how to treat others. Those tell me a great deal about her and about whether she’s someone I can ask, without judgment, for guidance, which allows me to ask her before speaking to others without fear that she'll use the opportunity to sabotage me, pretend to know when she doesn't, or to steer me wrong, which is a wonderful trust to build with your supervisor!

Thus far, I think I’ve avoided saying too much… but then, the day isn’t over yet!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snow Days...

Is it odd that, although post-MSW and in my late 20s, I still keep my fingers crossed that my office will have a snow day?

Friday, January 14, 2011


As this is my first post in the NSWO Blog, I thought it best to introduce myself since, well, you'll be hearing a lot about me (and I hope you'll comment and share about yourself).

Quite honestly, I never really know what to say when I'm in a room of people and it's time for introductions. As a woman in my late 20s, I'm still getting used to being a "woman" instead of a "girl," and being called "ma'am" instead of "miss."

When meeting for the first time, people often ask what a person does. That's also tricky for me. What do I do? I spoil my dog, I sleep in late whenever possible, I eat too much junk food (sorry for ignoring you, food pyramid, but pizza is just so so good!), I love watching People's Court and Golden Girls, I love to write, and I sing in the shower. That's honestly what I do.

If you want to know who I am, however, I suppose that's really where my role as a social worker emerges. I am an advocate for those whose voices aren't yet strong enough to speak up. I am an activist who marches on Washington and stands daily for equality. I am a person who calls her congressperson to urge him/her to vote the way I believe is right for the greater good. I am a person who gives charity donations in someone's name for holiday gifts.

As a profession, I am a recently graduated MSW, the third generation of such (a cousin in my Grandma's generation finished her MSW in the early 1950s and one in my parents' earned hers in the early 1990s, mine was conferred in 2010). I have been a staff member for socialworkchat.org since before beginning my MSW program, where I run the student board and I guest host, sometimes guest speak. I'm a book reviewer original piece writer for The New Social Worker Magazine. And, as of 3 months ago, I am the Program Director of a senior citizen's program in Astoria, NY (Queens/NYC). That means I'm also the supervisor for staff members and I attend meetings in places like the Empire State Building.

And that brings me to why I'm here, writing this blog. I've been asked to chronicle my journey through the beginnings of my post-MSW life. The first piece of this was published in the Winter, 2011 edition (http://www.socialworker.com/digitalmag/winter2011.pdf pg 32).

I am very excited to share my life with all of you and I do hope you'll comment and share your thoughts with me... I apologize a bit in advance for the times I'll likely make you wonder what I was thinking, but I promise, I'll write as honestly as possible about all of the successes and missteps along the way as I stumble through my first year as a professional social worker.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Audio Message from Linda Grobman on the Winter 2011 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER magazine

Click to listen to the editor's comments about the Winter 2011 issue, available now!