When I Grow Up I Want To Be a Social Worker by Rebecca Joy Novell
Sam Wilson, February 10, 2014
Having recently moved to London, I find that within five minutes of meeting someone new, the conversation almost always turns to work. “So what do you do?” is the young Londoner’s favourite question. The little voice in my head responds, “What do I do when? Depending on what time of the day it is, I’ll be doing different things. Work doesn’t define me”. Luckily, my sense of social appropriateness normally dominates and so, with a sweet smile, I politely respond, “I’m a Social Worker.”
Then the internal monologue begins again. ‘I’m a Social Worker. I AM a Social Worker. I’ve qualified, registered and am currently practising. But what does being a Social Worker mean? And how did I get to this point? Is this what five year old me would have wanted? I’m sure I wanted to be an astronaut. Oh no. HAVE I DONE THE RIGHT THING?’
I feel now is the right time to let you, and the rest of the world, in to my darkest secret. I have never specifically wanted to be a ‘Social Worker’. Don’t get me wrong, qualifying is one of my proudest achievements, however it was never something I dreamt of. What I dreamt about, from as far back as I can remember, is a job where I could help those in need and hopefully change the world to make it a happier and more peaceful place.
Becoming a Social Worker has been an organic process. Throughout my career journey, the desire to help others has remained at my core. I began by volunteering with various charities, trying to establish what cause I cared about most. That process made me realize that I wanted to help people in my community, particularly young people at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. From the age of 18 onwards I grabbed every opportunity I could to develop my knowledge and skills within this area. It was at age 20 that I was introduced to the idea of studying Social Work.
So, after undertaking the Masters in Social Work and successfully qualifying, is this what five year old me would have wanted? Okay, so the words ‘when I grow up, I want to be a Social Worker’ are said by no five year olds anywhere, ever. But that’s because the concept of social responsibility rarely kicks in until after you’ve passed the phase in which your every waking thought is dominated by your teenage crush. Social Work requires maturity, resilience and an ability to constantly self-reflect. It is not an easy-option. However, Social Work is a very unique profession. Not only is Social Work based on social justice, human rights and equality, which all appeal to my values, but Social Work is, on a practical level, about forming relationships with vulnerable, marginalized or excluded people so that you can offer them advice, support and critical friendship when they most need it. For me, there is no better job in the world. I can honestly say that I do a job I love, and that is a rare thing.