WAYS TO FLEXIBLY CAREER PLAN WHILE DISPELLING COMMON MYTHS ABOUT NEW ROLES
Myth #1: Your first post-MSW role or second-year placement has to be your “dream” role
In regards to planning for your career path, try not to be closed off to roles that don’t check off every box or align with your “dream” role. Being flexible can help to open doors of opportunity, discover interests you never knew you had, or lead to new paths you may have never taken. Alternatively, it’s also perfectly okay to take a job to fulfill your practical needs. In those cases, remind yourself that social work is a practice, not a job. Your job is just one outlet to practice social work and you can always find ways to exercise your values and interests in various ways and spaces, whether it be through leadership activities, community care, or other means. Whether it be to learn certain skills, gain new experience or knowledge, build particular relationships for your network, or give you space to focus on fulfilling other areas of your life that you value, remember that every job or placement has a purpose in your journey.
Myth #2: Your first post-MSW role or second-year placement will be your forever role
Many people at CPD ask us, “How long should I stay at a job?” We say you can pivot at any time and as long as the job is serving you and you are continuing to learn and grow. Sometimes, we are so devoted to clients or become so loyal to our agencies that we stay in roles longer than they serve our best interests. At times, you may have gained everything you can from an experience and it might be time to move on to the next chapter. If it is time to move on, create an exit strategy so you can depart safely and strategically.
Myth #3: Your first post-MSW role or second-year placement will set the stage for your entire career
“What do you want to do with your career?” This question puts a lot of pressure on your first post-MSW role or second-year placement to be the setting and foundation to which your whole career will be set on. If this question feels too big to answer, change the question! Instead, ask something like, “What matters to me most right now?” This way, you can plan your career around a role that centers your current interests and needs at the moment. Constantly revisit this question throughout your journey to re-evaluate as your priorities may shift or as you traverse the broad and expansive field of social work. Fortunately, social work skills are incredibly transferable across settings. You can pivot as long as you are able to articulate your value for the setting you want to go into. Therefore, as you plan for your career goals, make sure you are constantly assessing your skills and tracking how you are adding value in your role.
Myth #4: Your first post-MSW role or second-year placement will give you everything you need to be successful
This myth may be difficult to take in, but the reality is that workplaces are not always set up like the educational environments that we may be used to where we are taught how to do things. Therefore, we must be more proactive in our learning by asking lots of questions, observing and absorbing, and learning by doing. Set short and long term goals that work towards your career aims and re-evaluate them every few months. From those goals, think about who you need to meet with, what skills you need to gain, what meetings you need to be in, etc. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn something new. Adopt an experimental and growth mindset when it comes to your development.