Archive for the ‘My Experiences’ Category

Managing Callbacks
Last Monday, I received my first callback from resume posting and from job applications. The potential employer that had called me had said that they found my resume posted on [A short word on Indeed--Indeed is a job search website that compiles results from other sites and has a terrific resume tool. I would highly recommend Indeed. Find a link to it on my links page.]
Then Thursday, I received another callback and set up an interview. I went on the interview yesterday. I had good “vibes”, but I won’t know for about six weeks.
I think the best thing I can say for callbacks is to expect the unexpected. Never be surprised by what you hear or what is asked of you. Don’t be caught off guard by a call. It’s better, if you can’t dedicate your time and attention, to let the call go to voice mail and to get back to them when you can give them your best attention.
I would also say that writing down the information of the person that called you is essential. Get their name, their position title, and their direct dial number. Be sure you’re equipped to write it down. You never know when you might need it.
Either way, I would say that the best bet is to continue applying for positions, managing your time among school, work, interning, and applying for these positions. Keep yourself healthy and don’t be intimidated by this stage of your life. This is the time where the world is your oyster. Keep going strong. You are enough.

This past week I have found out that what you do not know or realize can hurt you. I’m going to be making some changes in my life and educational track, but in order to explain the context, I need to give you, my dear reader, some history.

As a BSW student. I was in a placement that did not get me the kind of experience that I needed as a BSW student. During my entire placement, which spanned from late August 2010 to late April 2011, I had one client contact. My field instructor had been concerned about liability and skill levels, so another intern and I were told to observe and shadow for most of our time at the placement. I also contributed to some statistics and research projects, but most of my time was spent observing at this agency. When I did raise my concerns to faculty, my placement was not changed, despite the fact that I wasn’t doing anything that would contribute positively to my experience levels.

Despite these placement conditions, I did well in my field courses and practice courses and graduated from my program with a 3.6 GPA in my major. I did not think that my placement conditions would affect my future schooling.  I thought that wherever I went for future placements, I could share my story and my field instructors would bring me up to speed. While that’s an optimistic and sunny way of thinking, it wasn’t realistic at all.  Field instructors are entrusted with the task of equipping students with skills based on program requirements and grading them that way.  I was not equipped with what I needed for my first MSW placement.  Recognizing this, my summer field instructor contacted my field coordinator and informed her of some things that she was concerned about.  I had thought I would be fine, but a phone call on August 17 changed all of that. I was shocked by this call, and on August 18, I had a field review to discuss the issues.  My school wants to work with me for my success.  To this end, they have scheduled a special meeting called an Academic Standing and Student Review for this upcoming Monday at the school’s main campus.  This process is not one in which I am shunned or punished, but the decision that will be made will be best for my future and continuing my education. Despite good academic performance, I need to consider that the experience I have missed must be made up.  Regardless of whether I continue in the program part-time, or take a full year away from school entirely to work on my experience level and return full-time next year, I must recuperate the experience I have lost.  Some have said that this call and this problem has cost me a year of work, but if I continue in field placements, I am doomed to fail because of what I do not know.  While it hurts to think that my program will take a year longer than I anticipated and hoped for, it is the best thing for me and for the social work profession.

Following the field review, I spent some time regrouping with family and loved ones. I then went back to my alma mater and asked for help getting the experience I missed.  My former field coordinator contacted a field instructor in one of their trusted BSW placements, and through a series of calls and emails and a great interview on Thursday, I have a great informal internship. In addition, I hope to take part-time courses and work full-time or nearly full-time hours. There are also several personal goals that I’ll address during this time.

I didn’t know how important the experience that I missed really was. The experience piece is one of the most important components of the BSW, because whether the graduate continues into Masters or Doctorate programs or joins the workforce, the field work gives the BSW practical, professional experience. Without the experience piece, the BSW would present as an eclectic blend of political science, sociology, psychology, and research arts.  The BSW, however, is a professional degree, and that experience is paramount to networking, development, and identification as a social worker.  Never underestimate how much you learn from what you do.  Experience is one of the most effective teachers available.

We are on the steep descent into the final sessions of our classes. This semester, only 7 weeks long, has been one of the most demanding and most exciting times of my years in school. At times, I did struggle to keep up. I think an additional element that made this time difficult was that it has been the first semester of graduate work I have had. I didn’t know what to expect. What I found were these:

Generally much higher standards for writing.
A very high amount of reading to be done each week, at  multiple chapters and books each week. I ended up with about 11 different books this semester. The new jeans can wait.
Not harder work really, just learning a more focused version of social work as opposed to the generalist setting.

Some advice that I’m still working on:
Prioritize and time-manage meticulously. These are the new magic words.
Have I mentioned balance and self-care? Keep it up, keep sanity intact.
Become great friends with your APA guide. Your grades will thank you.
Cherish this time and the support of family and friends.
Don’t be a loner in class. Network with peers and stay open minded. You’ll grow out and up.
Communicate! Don’t stop.

I will be happy for a break between semesters, but I’m looking forward to the next one. Back to work!

When I was structuring my schedule this summer and dividing time between my Master of Social Work program, work commitments, and family commitments, I knew one thing: I needed “me time” each week in which I didn’t have to focus on the demands of work or school. I wanted some time to have fun and enjoy the people in my life. In my BSW program, I sometimes had a hard time physically and mentally separating myself from work and school. At times, I experienced high anxiety around commitments to my education, paying my bills and working through school, and caring for the people in my life.

Once I graduated, I realized how imbalanced my amount of worry had been. I had room to breathe and reflect on how much I had enjoyed my experience but also how much I had missed out on because I was stressing about doing well. It was at that point that I determined that I needed to slow down, chill out, and carefully structure my schedule, a lifelong skill, so that I could make the most of my time and my experiences.

Self-care is an important component of social work because it allows social workers to meet their own needs as a person. In order to care for others, social workers must tend to themselves. Because social workers help others navigate life problems, crises, and trauma, they can be adversely affected by the gravity of what they are dealing with if they enter the situation emotionally raw. These situations, combined with a profession that, overall, is demanding, lead to burnout. While many social workers who experience burnout leave one social work role for another, some leave the profession entirely. Both of these responses to burnout lead to high job turnover and thus high administrative costs for social service agencies.

In thinking about my approach to my program and how I will care for myself, I think about a bonfire. A fire needs fuel to burn in order to remain lit. In other words, people need something to do or they fall stagnant. In order for our society to be productive, we need to keep the work coming. We thrive on challenges and deadlines. We grow when we have a role we need to fulfill. However, much like a bonfire being overloaded with wood and stifled, if we become overwhelmed with tasks, worries, or both, we can become less productive and effective and even cease to perform altogether. We need room to move, explore, and breathe in order to thrive and remain healthy. I must remember to challenge myself and allow myself to grow by exploring new things, but also to nurture myself with the free space to recharge. I will be my most brilliant self and care best for others this way.

I decided that a great post for today would be a more detailed description of the MSW program I’ve just started.

Advanced Standing

Because my undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Social Work, I qualify for Advanced Standing. The basic idea behind this is that Bachelor’s level students are prepared for generalist social work (case management and the like) during their senior year. The first year of a two-year MSW program contains the same material. Therefore, I am ready to take the specialization year, which could include organizational social work or clinical social work. I’m doing the clinical track.

Clinical Track

The clinical track prepares social work students for licensure and practice as clinical or interpersonal social workers. These social workers you would find as therapists, counselors, school social workers, medical social workers, court liaisons, welfare workers, and in similar positions. These social workers perform assessments and complete evaluations on individuals, families, and groups. They conduct practice-informed research and use research of theory and case studies and indications to shape their practices.


Because I am on a satellite campus, I have some options for electives. First, several electives will be offered on or near Oakland University’s campus. Second, I am welcome to take an elective in East Lansing, provided I can manage the schedule and the commute. Finally, there are online options for electives. I have opted to take 2 electives in Lansing during the summer semester. Each of these electives are intensive, two-day courses that are worth one credit each. In the Fall semester and Spring semester, I am taking online electives—two at 3 credits each. Each student must have a minimum of 6 elective credits, but I’ve signed up for 8 credits of electives that work well with my situation as a satellite student. One of the summer electives was in the middle of June, and I did very well in it. Doing well in that elective boosted my confidence in my ability to complete this program.

Program Length and Structure

Because I’m in the full-time program, I will complete it in 3 semesters, or just 10 months. The summer semester contains what program directors call “bridge courses”. These are designed to prepare BSW students, prepared by their perspective programs as generalist social workers, for the more track-intensive courses to follow in the next two semesters, Fall (late August to mid-December) and Spring (January to late April). Commencement will follow in the beginning of May.

With full-time coursework, students also complete a field placement for 16 hours per week each week that classes are held. The summer bridge semester is 7 weeks long, so field coordinators require 126 hours of field during this semester. The Fall and Spring semesters each require 238 hours to total just over 600 hours of field.

During the summer semester, including elective credits, I am carrying 10 credits. In the Fall semester and Spring, I carry 15 credits each semester for a total of 40 credits. Keep in mind that the field placement counts as college credit as part of that number.

It all sounds somewhat daunting, especially the condensed summer bridge semester, but it will go much more quickly than I realize. I’m enjoying it so far and I know that I will feel awe and gratitude when I finish just 10 short months from now.

This is the day I’ve been waiting for. This is the day I start an Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program through Michigan State University. The classes, with the exception of some of the electives I’ve signed up for, are on the campus of Oakland University. For me, classes at OU were a natural and really convenient fit. I graduated in April with a Bachelor of Social Work and needed a program that would allow me to be near my family and keep up with my current part-time job. Oakland University and Michigan State created a social work relationship: Michigan State helped Oakland navigate the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) process for their BSW program and Michigan State began hosting an MSW program at OU. I’m still trying to decide if I’m a hybrid between an Oakland Golden Grizzly and a Michigan State Spartan or if I’m fully Spartan. Either way, I find myself drawn to my alma mater. For another year, its beautiful campus is still my home away from home.

So here I am, deciding which books and supplies to pack for the day, what time I should arrive on campus, what I should wear, and some more important questions. How different will my classes be from my senior year of undergrad? Will these bridge classes help to acclimate me to more detailed and intensive social work classes? How much networking and teamwork will I be able to do? My questions are stacking up, but I’m sure it’s going to be alright. I’ve pretty much always loved school, and I love social work. As challenging as this will be, it’ll be fun too.

Today is also the beginning of something else new. Today I begin this blog. I hope to maintain it during my schooling and as I develop as a professional. I hope that by sharing my experience, I can network with other social work students and other social workers. I hope that I can help others and receive some advice myself. Furthermore, I hope to create a place, through this website, that social workers and social work students can connect and grow together. This project is very special for me because it combines the things I love—writing, community, and social work—into a fun, practical website.

So here I go—a brand new MSW student and a brand new blogger. It’s a good day!