I wish I was told in Graduate school and even in undergrad to some extent the real meaning of getting a college degree. I was told it meant opportunity, a big salary, not working in food service and autonomy. While much of that is true to some extent, I have learned there is larger picture as well. I am just speaking from my experience, and I hope this falls in line with the general consensus.
Obtaining a Graduate Degree in Social Work or in Counseling is NOT for… the money, fame or status. People who get into the career are in it as a way to help others, not to become the next Dr. Phil or therapist to the stars. With that being said, a person can do those things, but this is generally not the goal for most therapy minded or macro system minded individuals. My reasons for getting a Masters of Social Work was around the concept of social justice and being in the community. As was the case with many in my graduating class, I did not expect to make very much money.
I wish I was told that money is the way companies start defining your worth. Are you a clinician who is worth $40,000 or do these companies value you above or below that industry standard? What are you willing to accept and what is the cost/benefit analysis of this process? The workplace has more to offer than just the sticker price and the same goes for college.
While in Graduate school I was able to explore, and talk to others and bounce ideas off of really fantastic community members, professors, mentors, and supervisors. Graduate school was about making contacts, building a network, and starting from zero to work my way up.
I wish I was reminded that the people in the room with me will be my co-workers, bosses, and referral sources for the future. 10 years in the future the people you graduate with will be the movers and shakers of your area.
Internships and practicum taught me how to advocate and market clients’ skills. I was taught to look deep into the experiences of others to build them up, inspire hope and promote long standing change.
I wish I was Informed that those advocacy skills are universal- I have the ability to use them to uplift and inspire myself as well as the ability and right to make people listen.
Working in mental health for the past 3 years and being close friends with the NASW Code of Ethics have put me face to face with the Client’s Bill of Rights. The Right to dignity and respect as a person, the right to be involved in their treatment, the right to privacy, and the right to change providers to name a few. Knowing and advocating for these rights have made me a better and more trustworthy clinician.
I wish someone would have pointed out that these rights are rights all people have. If a person in one’s personal life or in one’s work life do not respect the rights you have as a person, you have the right to change the provider of that friendship/job/ ect.
Being a therapist, friend, a daughter, a sister, and a person in their twenties is exhausting. A person’s twenties are all about transitions and discovering your path and most importantly creating a community of people who love and support you. The hardest part is redefining yourself after graduation. Some people may have been like me and had the definitions of student/ social worker for the past few years, realizing that there is little time for friendships and socializing while entrenched in the college system.
Balance is something new clinicians need to find. Balance is one of the hardest things particularly with the system we are a part of. Are you a social worker/person or a person/Social worker? Which cap do you put on first or are you still trying to find the social worker within or have you found that person, meaning are you still able to be a part of a two-way conversation and a two-way relationship rather than the person who solves everyone else’s problems?
Graduate school and post-grad life is difficult and challenging, but so is life in general. The final thing I wish I was told in grad school is that patience is a virtue. However, patiently waiting for something to change and for the system to improve for your job to get better robs you of the power you have as a person, but it robs you as an educated person with networks and support.
Dig deep and learn who the person and the social worker inside you are, and define yourself. Define your career and do not let another person, company, or corporation steal that from you. Vision your future, and the ideal career path and realize that it will not happen tomorrow, or even 10 months from now, but slowly start chipping away at what you want and erode the barriers in your path.