I’m a planner. A worrier. A control-freak. A flat out-perfectionist, to a fault. I like to have every I dotted and every T crossed before I begin, and once I get going on a course of action, changing the plan is the last thing I want to do. It’s not hard to understand then, how, as I applied to the Advanced Standing program, I wanted to have my career written in stone before I even got the acceptance email. However, as we all know, that’s not how life works, and that’s definitely not how my MSW journey has been.
My Field Experience
I began the advanced standing program in the Direct Practice Concentration. Though I knew that I ultimately wanted to practice social work on a larger scale, I had little direct experience outside of my BSW practicum. Aside from the gap year between undergrad and graduate school, I had spent the past 18 years as a student!! Thus, I wanted to gain more of the skills that could be gained through one-on-one client experience to set the foundation for working with communities and policies. However, not long into the program, I began feeling some ambivalence. On the one hand, I was taking more macro-focused electives – and LOVING every bit of it – from creating a nonprofit and learning how to effectively market it to listening to guest lectures by community organizers and individuals who help create sustainable communities. However, my field placement was very micro-focused. I would find myself getting excited about the theories and concepts learned in class but felt that I didn’t have a work environment to practically apply them. I felt a disconnect.
After a lot of soul-searching and many discussions with my classmates, this ambivalence led me to have a discussion with my field advisor about my field placement. After our conversation, I decided to “tough it out” for a few more weeks and see if my feelings changed. As I mentioned before, once I get going in a direction, I’m not a big fan of changing the plan, so though I decided to give a shot.
THE WEEK BEFORE THE FALL SEMESTER…
Pretty much, nothing changed. If anything, my feelings intensified. So, I had another conversation with my field advisor, and this time, we made some changes. After meeting with her, we met with my field instructor at my internship. Between the three of us, we worked out changes to my learning contract that allowed for me decrease some of my direct client work and take on more macro tasks. Though it is still somewhat difficult in a very micro-focused setting, at the end of this year, in addition to an array of direct practice skills, I will be able to add task group facilitation, program evaluation, fundraising, marketing, and hopefully grant writing to my professional toolbox. And though things are not perfect – I’d still love to solely be doing macro practice – the variety of knowledge and skills that I am gaining make my plan of study feel better tailored to my professional goals.
Change is a Wonderful Thing
The changes brought upon me with my revamped learning plan have taught me that even when I think I have it all figured out, I probably don’t. As I continue in the MSW program and learn more about myself and my passions, I am discovering that change is actually a wonderful thing. When things begin to feel like they don’t align, change allows me adjust accordingly. Instead of just accepting things as they are because they are a part of “the plan,” change allows me to create an even better plan!
S/O to the Field Office!
In closing, I couldn’t end without acknowledging the role that the Field Education office has played in my experience. I was initially worried that they would not be open to my desire to change aspects of my field placement to reflect my macro interests. However, I was surprised with how open they were to my input and how cooperative they were in helping me make the changes. Coming from a BSW program that was more rigid when it came to field placements, I was relieved that they were so understanding.
Just Pick One
So, for all you guys who are filling out the MSW application whose cursors are hovering between the Direct Practice, Community Management and Policy Practice, and Self-Directed options, just know that whatever you choose, is not set in stone. As you enter the program, your interests and goals may change – and that’s perfectly okay. Just pick one, and be open to where the journey takes you! You don’t – and won’t – have it all figured out. 🙂