Why social work?

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When I tell people that I am studying social work, inevitably the next question comes: Why did you choose to study that?

In this article, I want to explore the why. Why I chose social work. But I also think it is equally important that you think about your ‘why’, too. Let’s face it. Social work is not an easy job. It doesn’t pay that well. In return for trying to help people, you are often ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.’ Social workers face enormous pressures to make right decisions. Just look at the cases of Victoria Climbié and Baby P. That’s why I think today, it is even more paramount that you think about your personal ‘why’. As a profession, I think we can ill afford to continue losing our best social workers to such pressures.

So why social work? As a naïve 21-year-old who didn’t know what social work was, social work was simply another option amongst a dazzling array of choices available to me. At that time in my life, engineering, law, accounting, business were options open to me. But the reason I settled on social work was because it offered me to leave a legacy I wanted.A legacy that allowed me to touch lives in a personal manner. Weekly, as I volunteered with those with special needs, I realised that we were often their only friend. Their only friend. Society had forgotten, or had wished to forget these people. To have the chance to interact with them, to share games with them, to care for them was a reminder to their parents about the humanity of our people. That we weren’t just mere Darwinists focused on perfect evolution of the humankind, or survival of the fittest. But that we had hearts.

But as I have met more people, and worked with more service users, I have realised that this opportunity to share this journey with service users who might be going through one of the most tumultuous times in their lives, is an incredibly privileged one. To share those difficult moments with them, to allow them to realise that you are there, to be with them is a blessing, not a curse!

What is your why? Some questions that might help include:

  1. Growing up, were there any specific experiences that led you to choose social work?
  2. To you, what is the impact that social work offers?
  3. What makes you get up each morning to do social work?
  4. What makes you want to quit social work?

Keep close to your ‘why’, and continue reminding yourself why you are doing this. Your work is incredibly important to those you work with. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.