by Kareem Whitfield
For many of us social workers, we leave our “comfortable” world of academia and enter the “real world”. More times than not, this reality lends itself many challenges. For many of us, this means seeking professional opportunities, in which we love – if we’re lucky, and many times undesirable opportunities that, at best, affords us a sustainable income to maintain our basic living expenses. Often times these positions come with “minimal salaries”, especially, as compared to other disciplines. The culture of the social work profession has given the facade that social workers are in their line of profession because of the “passion, the love, the people, the policy, the mission,” I can go on and on; nonetheless, I think the culture of our profession ADVOCATING for and implementing solutions that create increase salaries for social work professional is a MUST!
So, should the topic of “extrinsic rewards” like salary be discussed and/or advocated by Social Workers? Many would say, well, they’re in it for the intrinsic rewards. While others may offer opposing views, then there are other social work professionals who are neither happy with the intrinsic rewards (current position) or the extrinsic rewards (income) that comes with it. Should we feel guilty for wanting to make more attractive/lucrative salaries? Does our skillset provide us with the essential skills that can transcend across many businesses and organizations – non-profit, and for-profit alike? We macro social workers should not feel guilty about wanting to land opportunities that afford us an income that aligns with other disciplines, may it be business analysts, human resource directors, or project managers, to name a few. After all, did we not go through the same amount of rigorous education as the other M’s (MBA‘s, MPA’s, MPH’s to name a few)?
To this avail, for many of us who successfully complete the Macro program, we find ourselves with a set of unique challenges. We don’t fit in the realm of clinical social work. This often leaves us with limited opportunities on the social work front, for us to tap. We are often times not viewed as the most appealing candidate to organizations outside of traditional non-profit agencies in which many social workers gain employment (DHHS, HRSA). However, we all know that continuing to do the same old thing – in terms of work locations, will only produce the same old thing – NO CHANGE! Furthermore, this will only continue to give the “perceived notion” that we can only work at “XYZ Organization” and that we are only capable of doing “xyz”. This notion will only change as we forge ahead and break from these traditional realms.
Our skillset is “INVALUABLE” and “ENDLESS” but society will never see our rich skillset outside the traditional realm without trenching into new and/or non-traditional domains.
The video lends some information which discusses some of the points I addressed. Most importantly, as macro social workers, we are trained to do so many things – and we must be ready to embark in new territories, outside of the traditional realm. After all, is that not what our social work pioneers did? We must continue their legacy in a new and exciting way.
Attached you will find a video by the University of Southern California (USC), entitled, Nontraditional Social Work: Is It for Me? I share this with you in hopes that you will find this video enlightening, or at least thought provoking.Please view the video and share your thoughts.
[Contribution by Kareema Whitfield, Adjunct Professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Professor Whitfield obtained her Macro MSW Degree in Management and Community Practice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.]