Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard. In Leaving Cert year, I identified Social Work as a very possible option that I wanted to pursue.
There were a number of factors which ultimately led to my final decision. Firstly: while in school, unfortunately an immediate family member became unwell and their illness necessitated intervention from a Social Worker with our family at that time. The Social Worker allocated to my family played a significant role in my consideration of Social Work as a career choice. I was so impressed by her professional and personal skills in terms of her interpersonal skills e.g. ability to relate to people respectfully, genuinely and honestly (even when it’s something one doesn’t want to hear!) and her ability to skilfully and appropriately counsel family members and the patient both individually and as a family group – all of which were carried out and conveyed in a professional manner.
I was very inspired by this lady. I also observed her interact with other patients and families and these observations further affirmed my opinion in this regard. It seemed to me that her job was for a very worthy cause as I had firsthand experience of her intervention and in general, I learned that Social Work is about working with people who are at their most vulnerable be it for whatever reasons.
Secondly, I decided to do a 3 year degree in Social Science UCC, Cork which was a clear cut route into the area of Social Work. I then completed a two year Masters in Social Work in UCC in order to obtain a Professional Qualification as a Social Work Practitioner.
My voluntary experience (working in the community in community based projects and working with a telephone counselling service where I was in receipt of calls from the public) definitely helped me realise the areas of ‘people related’ professions that I had a desire to learn more about with a view to specialising and the areas of practice I did not want to pursue.
Finally and notwithstanding the above, after my first year in practice as a Child Protection and Welfare Social Worker, I took a year out to travel – not because of the job by the way but because it was a longstanding dream!! During that year I did ever type of job going and after it all, I realised that the amount of effort and time I had invested in developing my skills and knowledge in the area of Social Work Practice – this was something I was not willing to ‘let go of’ and I knew that this was the area where I was more likely to achieve my potential. So here I am, back working in a Child Protection and Welfare setting and my travels are a very distant memory!