Back when I was in undergrad, a few of us social work majors joked that there were three guarantees in social work:
- You would not be appreciated.
- You would be underpaid.
- You would burn out.
Now further into my career, with a bit of experience under my belt, I still think that these guarantees are correct. However, I don’t think that I understood the gravity of them back in college. I knew that they would be hard, but I did not understand or feel how bad they are.
Appreciation: I have to say that it is really tough to not only have really hard work go unnoticed, but it is even more infuriating to be falsely accused of not doing the job, or worse, doing something because of some alternative agenda, where I am just out to get someone. Now I am not someone who needs to be told how great I am and then publicly receive some award, a la the Oscars. But to be told that I am doing the opposite of what I feel that I am setting out to do is frustrating and disheartening. Intellectually, I know that this is usually coming from a place of desperation and frustration, but it cuts deep into my feelings. I can see how this may really start to wear on me.
Compensation: Now I am not under some illusion that we live in a meritocracy, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be frustrated that we aren’t. It is frustrating to be told by people “wow, that is really hard work,” etc. to my face, but then for society as a whole to show the profession disrespect through poor wages. As the economy is shaky and I am swimming in student loan debt, I wonder if I made the right decision in going into social work. I could have easily gone into something less stressful and more lucrative and been both financially and professionally successful.
Burnout: This one is scaring me more and more. Not just because I am feeling it being more inevitable and closer than I thought it would be, but when I think of burn out happening and my having to move on to something else, it makes me concerned that I will have wasted time and energy in building a career that didn’t take me far. And then what? Will I even be left with any skills that can transfer over to anything else?
Writing all of this makes me realize how dismal my state of mind is, but I guess that is where I am at.