Thursday, January 5, 2012
9 to 5: Kelly, Social Worker
Like I mentioned towards the end of December, I have a handful of 9 to 5 posts (and Slice of posts too!) that I will be finishing up throughout the next few weeks. I took a bit of a break from them, but I'm excited to share some of these wonderful people and places with all of you! Today's feature is the lovely Kelly. Due to the nature of her job she can't share many work-related photos, but if you hop over to her blog you can see a lot more of the beautiful life she lives with her husband. Happy reading!
*if you are a new reader, 9 to 5 is a series highlighting women and their careers!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Kelly, but a lot of people call me Scout. I'm 24 years old, and I blog over at The Soul Anchor. I technically have two jobs within the same company. My regular, full time job is as an Employment Specialist. Basically, I'm a social worker. I assist people with physical or developmental disabilities get a job in the community. My organization offers a lot of different services to MR/DD clients, including group home or supportive living assistance to people who cannot live independently. I also work for my organization in the evenings and weekends as a direct support staff and assist clients in their homes with their daily living needs.
When I'm not working, I'm a youth group leader at a local church and I hang out with high schoolers on Saturday nights and try to invest in their lives and interests (which normally means talking about how to handle crappy teachers or boyfriend issues!). I'm also a wife to my partner, Vincent, who also works in direct care for people with disabilities in a different organization nearby. I'm a Midwestern girl with all my heart. My home is in southwestern Michigan, about 90 minutes from Chicago and very close to the Michigan/Indiana border. I absolutely love the "Michiana" area, and I'm blessed by the community of people here. In the free time that I have, I love to go to farmer's markets, the local parks, community festivals and events, and spend time appreciating nature with my husband, Vincent.
Describe a typical day at work.
From 8:00 to 4:30, I work as an Employment Specialist. I have a case load of clients that I work with and they have a broad range of abilities and diagnosis. A typical day would be setting appointments and meeting with clients to discuss places they've put in applications and where they'd like to search next, putting on mock interviews to help my clients prepare for the real thing, and helping them fill out applications. I'll also spend some time talking to local business owners or managers by just introducing myself and building a relationship with them so that hopefully, when they need to hire a new employee, they'll think of me and my clients and call us to see if we have anyone who fits their needs.
In the evenings and weekends a couple days a week, I work in the homes of our clients who need some supports because they cannot live 100% independently. This is a lot of fun but also requires a lot of respect and tenderness towards my clients. I am entering into their home and sometimes assisting them with very intimate tasks, such as toileting or taking a shower. I follow all of rules of my organization, but I try to make my clients feel as if they're in charge of their life and decisions. I'll cook dinner for my clients, help clean the apartment, go on walks with them, help with their bedtime routines, and assist in giving out medications. It's sort of like being a house mom for adults with special needs.
Did you always want to do this for a living? How did you get into this field? What kind of schooling or background did it entail?
No, I didn't always want to be in social work. Most of my life, I wanted to be a teacher, and that's what I originally started out majoring in at college. However, I found that I enjoyed sociology classes, and I really loved things like awareness, activism, and community development. Before I knew it, I found myself with a Sociology degree, and I got my first job as a case manager for children at a mental health hospital. To be a direct care tech (my moonlighting job), typically only requires a high school diploma. But to be a case manager, you have to have a Sociology, Social Work, or Psychology degree. Anything higher and you need a Masters degree and state certifications.
Is this what you hope to do for the rest of your life? If so, how do you see yourself growing in this career? If not, what else do you dream of doing?
Honestly? No, it's not. It's a good field, but it's definitely what I call a "secular ministry." I'd get paid more money as a full time waitress, and the job is very high stress with a large "burn-out" rate in the field. I'd like to return to working with children, because right now I work with adults, and that's just not where my heart lies. Truthfully, I'd like to have children and be a stay-at-home mother while raising my children. That's something that is very important to me. However, if that doesn't happen and I need to work to support myself, I'd like to either return to working as a children's case manager or perhaps return to school and go back to my original idea of becoming a teacher. However, I know I'm making a difference in the lives of people in my current job, and I consider it a great blessing to be allowed to enter into their lives and hopefully make a positive impact.
If you could tell your 17-year old self anything about your life today, what would you tell her? Is there anything you wish you would have known back then?
I would've told my teenage self not to rush and to take some time to figure out what I really wanted to do. I changed my major five times in college and it was because of my indecisiveness. I would've advised her to volunteer more, explore more careers, and also to stick to her guns. Part of why I changed my major from Education my freshman year was because I didn't want to put up with a difficult professor I knew I'd have over and over again. Little did I know, there's a lot you have to just put up with in the workforce in order to enjoy the good parts of your job. I would've encouraged her to study more and not be so influenced by friends. However... despite my 17 year old self's mistakes... things still turned out pretty much alright. This career isn't what I intended, and I hope it's not where I stay forever, but I definitely have a purpose for being here now and an opportunity to bless others and learn many lessons.